Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Confessions of a Siam Princess

Happy Halloween to one and all! I'm cheating this year by reposting something I wrote way back in 2005 as a newbie blogger about how I felt about Halloween as a child. Reading it again brought back wonderful memories, so I'm plagiarizing myself with 'nary a qualm. The pictures, by the way, aren't of me. To my knowledge, we don't have any Halloween costume pictures from the 50's or 60s. Sad. Anyway, welcome to my memories:

When I was a little girl, I could never get to sleep the night before Halloween. It was a couple of notches down from the keyed-up restlessness of Christmas Eve - after all, I didn't have to listen for reindeer on the roof or a big ol' red-suited elf falling down the chimney into my living room - but the butterflies-in-stomach excitement was there all the same.

What kept me awake, I wonder? Was candy such a big deal? Was dressing up as someone or something else worth losing sleep over? I really can't remember what had me in such a dither the night before Halloween.

My mother - my Southern Baptist, right-of-Attila-the-Hun mother - loved Halloween. (This is how I know that all the anti-Halloween right-wing stuff is pure crap.) She dangled the shiny idea of "tricks-and-treats" over our heads the entire month of October. She enjoyed helping us with our costumes and had fun giving out candy to the kids who came to the door. My costume was usually homemade - seems like I was always a gypsy - except for when I was 8 and 9 years old.

One year for some reason Daddy sprung for a Siam Princess costume from the dime store. I think it cost a whopping $2.98, and I remember choosing it. Siam Princess? I liked the mask and the shiny yellow and bright pink coverall with some sort of intricate (to an 8-year-old) sparkly design. Notice I chose a princess who could wear pants, not a fluffy skirt. I got two Halloweens'-worth of wear out of it, so when you amortorize the cost, well - practically free. (Yes, it was a little big the first year and a little small the second.)

The mask was one of those molded plastic jobs with the thin elastic strap to keep it over my face. And I'm sure if anyone had struck a match within 20 yards of me, I would have gone up in a flash. But nobody worried about such things then. (Which make ya' wonder how all of us made it through such dangerous childhoods to a place where folks have their diapers in a wad wondering how they'll take care of us in our old age. Well, just dress me as a Siam Princess and set me on fire, I say!)

I think one thing that kept me awake was the anticipation of being allowed to go door to door, never knowing who'd give you what, trying to set a goal of how many houses you could get to or how big a paper sack you'd be able to fill. We always took paper bags to collect candy - no plastic pumpkins or trendy little totes - except for the big kids (and you really weren't supposed to trick-or-treat over the age of 12 - but some boys pushed it to 14), who carried pillowcases. The idea of collecting candy, or whatever - because you were just as likely to get apples or homemade cookies - was exciting. That stuff just wasn't as readily available to us on a day to day basis. Candy, cookies, Coca-Cola - those were all for special occasions. Like Halloween.

I don't remember getting much chocolate; it was mostly hard candy or wax lips or bubble gum. I well remember the excitement of getting home and dumping it all in the middle of the floor, pooling our resources, trading this or that, with big brother David coming in at the end with a bulging pillowcase (or two) to add to the loot.

As we got too old for trick-or-treating, there were usually parties or the coming-of-age thrill of getting to answer the door and hand out candy.

I tried to provide the same good Halloween memories for Kate when she was growing up, and I think I did. Her costumes were more elaborate, though we did have several rag-bag homemade ones, and the decorations grew well beyond a simple carved pumpkin, though not to the level of many houses today. I don't know whether or not Kate could sleep the night before Halloween - I'll have to ask her.

And tonight? Well, I think I'll sleep tonight without difficulty. The jack o'lantern's carved, the house decorated inside and out, the treats are over-flowing the special Halloween tray. I won't dress up tomorrow night - I have done on occasion, but I will love seeing the little cuties come to the door - some in awe of the whole thing, standing there dumb-founded, some shouting "trick or treat!" so loud they blow out all the candles in the house, the princesses and the clowns and the Batmen and the Harry Potters.

Still, if I lie in bed tonight and try to dredge up the feeling of being an 8-year-old Siam Princess again, who knows? Maybe I won't get much sleep after all.

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