So the spooky season is here again, and as with many holidays steeped in tradition, nostalgia is a drug we all love to share. Not only was I fortunate to grow up in a house surrounded by creepy wooded scenes straight out of a Tim Burton movie, but I was also lucky enough to have a family who was just as bat-shit-crazy for all things horrific as I was.
As the hallowed day approached, my father was always in charge of the outdoor decor. I can still picture him knee deep in brush cutting down old branches from the back yard, which he would then attach to the front entrance of the house for an element of formidable atmosphere. The branches combined with cauldrons, fog machines, and even assigning roles to my brothers and sisters were always at the top of Dad’s mischief list. At one point he removed the chain from his chainsaw, and instructed my brother to pop out of the bushes wielding the oil burning Craftsman towards the kids at the door. This always got a good scream, with the accompanying parents to either cringe in disgust, or wave with laughter from the road.
Inside, my mother was all about the costumes and cooking. Whether it was Batman or Ghostbusters, growing up in the 80s and 90s was prime time for her to capitalize on the home-made costume craze. I’ll never forget using bits of an old shop vacuum to assemble my Ghostbusters proton-pack. Or the time I had to attend a school Halloween dance without a costume idea. She quickly threw together some of my Dad’s old clothes, burned the end of a cork, rubbed it all over my face, and called me an old Hobo. Whatever the horrific task was, she was always there to make the most out of such macabre memories.
Dinner was also an important Halloween tradition in our family, and it was always my mom’s homemade Mac & Cheese casserole. There were about seventy five different kinds of cheese, give or take, and the whole thing was topped with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven. Freshly baked buttered bread must be eaten with it too, and your Halloween was not official until you devoured both of these things before the nightly festivities began.
Trick or treating was more memorable as a kid, only because I remember how pissed off my brother and sisters got, being so much older than me and witnessing how spoiled I was by our parents’ friends in the neighborhood. “Oh it’s Daniel!” they’d say, as they quickly rushed off to grab a “special” bag from behind the door. This could have been anything from full sized candy bars to cold hard cash, and whatever it was always made my siblings roll their eyes in disbelief of their spoiled little bastard of a brother.
Capping off a Halloween in our house was a completely different beast than something like Christmas. There was no post-holiday depression, and we all genuinely had good vibes that would carry us long into the dreaded dirge of November. They are memories I will forever cherish in my black little heart, and hopefully pass on to my own son one day when he’s old enough to understand why that’s not strawberry jelly all over Leatherface’s chainsaw.