Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Halloween: Not My Favorite Holiday - Nancy, 79

Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays, especially nowadays when so many people go all out in their decorating. It has become second only to Christmas in the amount of time and money many families spend on it. I didn’t always feel this way about Halloween.

When I was a child, Halloween was mostly a time for a party at school. I walked to my elementary school, so the process was to go home for lunch and return to school in costume for the afternoon party. I do not recall participating in “Trick or Treat,” but we had lots of goodies just the same.

One unforgettable childhood Halloween was the year I was eight years old.

“Nancy, hurry up and put on your costume. We’re going to the parade,” my mother called to me.

“You said we weren’t going to the parade this year,” I replied. “You told me the party at school was our only celebration this year. Besides, I’m just getting to the good part of the book I’m reading. Can’t I just stay home and finish my book?”

Nancy Elaine, get your nose out of that book and put on your Halloween outfit. We are leaving as soon as you are ready. Don’t make us wait!”

Hurriedly, I put down the book I was reading and got out my Little Red Hen costume I had worn to school that afternoon. It was my second year for that costume. Mom usually made our Halloween costumes. This “store-bought” get-up was a hand-me-down from my cousin Dottie Jean. I can still recall struggling to keep the beaked head straight so I could see through the eyeholes. At least this year I had eyeglasses, so the scratchiness of the material didn’t bother me as it had the prior year. My glasses kept the holes away from my eyes.

 Running down the stairs, I saw my brothers Dave and Bill standing by the front door dressed as Dopey and Doc from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, waiting for me along with Mom and Dad.

Together we walked out the door and began the walk of seven blocks to Penn Avenue where the parade was set to begin. I was so excited I had a hard time not running ahead. Going to the Halloween Parade for the first time was really a unique experience. There were even adults in costumes--ghosts, clowns, princesses, witches, gypsies, cowboys and, yes, even Indians. A clown in a convertible was throwing candy to all the children standing at the curb to watch the parade.

Pulling on Daddy’s hand, I told him to hurry so we could find a great spot from which to watch the parade. Suddenly Daddy changed direction and pulled me into the street with Mom and my brothers following us.

“Daddy, what are you doing?” I asked. “We’re going to miss the parade!”

“No, we’re not; we are going to walk in the parade”

“Walk in the parade?” I couldn’t believe that’s what we were doing!  The previous Halloween I had begged to do just that, but last year we hadn’t even come to watch the parade. Now here we were, actually walking in the parade. I was one happy 8-year-old girl that Halloween.
When the procession was over and we began the walk home, I still felt like I was walking on air! Of course by that time, 6-year-old Dave was dragging his feet and 3-year-old Bill was being carried by Daddy. His little feet had had quite enough, thank you!

As we shed our costumes and began our bedtime routine, Mom asked me if I had enjoyed walking in the parade.

“Oh yes! It was fabulous. I will never forget it.”

Mom countered with, “Do you remember why we didn’t go to the parade last year?”

I had forgotten last Halloween until Mom told me the story of the 7-year-old girl who got so excited about going to the Halloween parade that she made herself sick to the point of throwing up. Oh, yes, I remembered.

As she told me goodnight, Mom added “I decided then and there that I would never tell you ahead of time we were planning an exciting outing. That’s why I waited until the last minute.

Looking back at this experience with adult eyes, I realize that was probably one of the last times we were together as a family. Less than two months later, December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. My dad joined the Merchant Marines and went immediately to Brooklyn Navy Yard to begin his training. In 1944 Mom moved Dave, Bill, and me to State College. Within a year my parents were divorced.

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