Memories of Halloweens Past and a Wintery Halloween Walk
It’s in the 70s today. Beautiful sun, rusty leaves glowing in the backyard, and I’m walking around with bare feet throwing balls for the dogs and enjoying the “de-stress tonic” that is Fall sunshine.
It reminds me of that John Denver song, Sunshine on My Shoulders Makes Me Happy! It’s easy to forget that just 2 ½ weeks ago, we had 4 inches of snow and were hiking through the stuff on a cold day. And it was Halloween. Yes, we’ve had snow in October before, but I can’t remember the last time we had snow on the ground on the actual day. It’s bad enough we have to wear masks pretty much everywhere, but now we’re hearing about how kids are supposed to wear masks BEHIND their masks.
No one can go door to door to collect candy, and friends had all kinds of creative plans to leave out treat bags for kids to get, but not actually take out of anyone’s hand. How many of those bags do you think got grabbed in a bunch and placed into a box by someone old enough to know better? Ah, Halloween in 2020.
Door to door trick or treating could be scary… and fun!
When I was younger, streets were safer, candy was not something we got regularly, and costumes were either very kitschy store-bought items modeled after the usual superheroes, or princesses, or witches… but very 60s looking. We had hot pink princesses, lime green witches, and masks too small for your head, with holes cut for your eyes and mouth, only JUST big enough to breathe through… definitely not appropriate when you were trying to avoid traffic.
We grew up in a rural section of town. No sidewalks, scattered streetlights, and large sections of street that were basically just access to the forests behind the houses. Remember, behind my house was probably 200 or more acres leading right up against the Ipswich River! In fact, in my childhood home, we had a very long driveway and one spotlight at the back of the house, so a trip to our place for candy on Halloween was a decision that had to be made. It was a scary event. You had to walk past the empty barn with cracked glass in the windows, past a vacant field with perhaps a bat or two flying overhead. And then, depending on how long ago we’re talking, there were ducks, a sheep, and rabbits scattered in different outbuildings on the property.
But kids did come to our house, usually friends from the neighborhood. Once I hit high school, we create a haunted house in one of the barns out back. We escorted kids through it blindfolded, as they were treated to tactile disgustingness like guts (jello cut up and mixed with cooked spaghetti), eyeballs (peeled grapes in ice filled water), and listened to spooky music, howling and banging on the walls of the dark and dusty barn. We also had my sister dressed as a drunken bum (yeah that was a costume in the early 70s!) complete with raggedy pants, a major five o’clock shadow, blacked-out teeth, and a slouchy cap pulled over her dirty face. She was so realistic hanging out in the bus shelter at the end of our driveway that one year someone called the cops!
First time trick or treating alone
I also remember the first time I went with a friend through the neighborhood on our own, with no parents or older siblings in tow. I think I might have been in 4th or 5th grade. I was a belly dancer with a jewel glued to my forehead, and she was a spy in a trench coat. We walked together down the unlit street, through two neighborhoods, and collected a good deal of candy, holding hands in the dark to stay safe. Not that holding hands could protect you from the teenagers carrying pillowcases full of flour that they’d whack you with. If that happened, they’d usually steal your candy, too, so we kept an eye out, and stayed safe.
And we ran into other kids doing the same as us. Collecting candy, and avoiding brothers and sisters so we could feel grown-up out at night on our own. When I got home that night I am certain I ate way more candy than I should have. There were stories on the news about razor blades being put in chocolate bars, and not to eat cookies because there might be drugs in them. Anything that wasn’t wrapped got thrown away. I always felt bad for the random old lady who gave kids cookies she’d spent the afternoon baking. But didn’t she watch the news?
There was no real rule in our house about how much candy you could eat. We shared a bit, hoarded a bit, and traded each other for things we did or didn’t like. I think my mother figured if it was all gone that night, there’d be less to worry about the next day. If we had anything left, we’d bring a few pieces in our lunch to school, but for the most part, the holiday happened on Halloween.
Costumes that are too scary for kids
As I mentioned, my sister’s costume as a drunken vagrant resulted in a visit from the town police. Obviously, someone felt unsafe seeing that one. I also remember one night my mother made me up as a witch. I had a black dress with a black cape, and she covered my face in warts, and green makeup, and blacked out a few teeth. I had a tall pointy, crushed hat popped on top of my snarly reddish-brown hair. When she was finally done, I walked into her bedroom to check out the results in her big mirror and started crying. It was too scary, and I was afraid of my own image. I didn’t want to go anywhere looking like that because it obviously wasn’t me, and a scary horror had taken over my body.
But after a few minutes of convincing me that it really was still just me in there, I wore the costume down to visit some neighbors for photos. I think there’s still one lying around somewhere. I’ll have to dig it up. I was way too young at the time to actually walk around the neighborhood much and collect candy, and my mother had three other kids at home to manage. But it was way back then that I developed a love of dressing up. I had dreams of becoming a makeup artist, but for numerous reasons that didn’t happen.
Halloween in college was a pure celebration. My group of friends always came up with a theme. One year we dressed up as characters from Alice in Wonderland. I was the Queen of Hearts. Another year my friend Kelly and I dressed up as Little Bo Peep and her sheep. Guess who was the sheep! Freshman year my roommate dressed as a little girl and I was her real live Raggedy Ann!
Over the years since there has been a party or two. But more and more it’s a night to relax at home, hand out candy if anyone bothers to stop by, and then eat whatever is left on our own! This year, in the snow, and despite COVID, we decided to take a local hike on Halloween. To enjoy the foliage, a short ride, and location that we know more for being across from the train station I used to go to in Arlington. Who knew we’d discover winter beauty in the city in the snow?
Alewife Brook Reservation – a snowy wonderland
With COVID, everyone is trying to get outside to be healthy. Our hiking habit has happened every Saturday since probably May (except for just one or two weekends we had to cancel due to weather or travel). And we’ve revisited so many places Beth and I had hiked 10 years ago. This week’s hike was one that needed to be local since it was going to be cold, and predictions of 2” – 4” of snow were spot on for the day of our hike. But we had discussed previously our intention of hiking through the winter, so this was our test. Would we get up and hike on Halloween? Well, the answer is yes!
Leaves are no match for snow!
The autumn foliage is gorgeous in New England. But against a mixture of snow and green leaves, you can capture some interesting contrasts. From light green and yellow leaves that were stripped from branches as the wind and heavy snowflakes fell:
To the beautiful reflection of snowy and golden foliage drooping above a blue blue brook.
And with little expectation of snow that would stick this early in the season, seating, tables, and the rest were still out waiting for local business people to take a break midday.
Our visit included wandering through volleyball and soccer fields waiting for the snow to melt.
Past office buildings emptier than usual, since most businesses are still limiting total occupation to <25%.
But even with the heavy snow dragging leaves from the trees, there were plenty that stayed filled with Fall color despite their burden.
As we returned to Alewife Station to head home, we noticed the fact that the garage was having some work done. Yet the blue rental bikes were lined up ready for anyone looking to take a cold, wet, but sunny ride that day.
If you’re in the city and looking for a location to hike, Alewife Brook Reservation is a perfect destination. Just a few blocks up from Alewife Station at the end of the Red line. No fee, but also no parking unless you park at the station. In good weather (when COVID isn’t barking at our heels) there is fishing, hiking, running, walking, and tennis. Plus plenty of spaces to sit at a picnic table or in an Adirondack chair and just meditate on the ponds, the trees, and the many birds that frequent this park.
Almost caught up with my blogging. We’ll be hiking this weekend again, but I have two more in line. Wish me luck!
- Amazing Pastitsio recipe (still to come)
- Hiking DeCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA (last week’s hike!)
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