I grew up in a very Baptist household. My Nana used to list off all the preachers in our family, and my mom used to drag my tail out of bed every Sunday morning for church.
We stayed for “big church” every week no matter how loud my stomach grumbled, and there was never once a question of my mother’s dedication to the Lord. But that woman loves Halloween more than Freddy Kruger and Jason could ever hope.
It was strange to me the first time someone suggested that Halloween was the devil’s holiday. My mom wouldn’t even let us watch The Simpsons, let alone participate in some Satanic ritual.
But for us Halloween was absolutely magical.
Costumes were always a priority on Halloween, and more often than not mine were homemade. The only devil’s work I remember is the year Mom made me a Little Miss Muffet dress. There were more ruffles in that petticoat than I had hairs on my head. And the pictures of me scowling in my pale yellow bonnet are pulled out during the holidays ad nauseam.
October 1 was just the kickoff to a month full of treats and surprises. Mom always had a knack for details, and once fall hit, she’d surprise us almost every day with things like caramel apple dips, skeleton finger sandwiches and witch’s brew potions.
Then on Halloween night all bets were off. My full-grown mother always dressed up. Not the typical cat ears and eyeliner whiskers, but she’d go full costume every time. And she did not care a lick about what anyone thought.
One year it was Marilyn Monroe with actual platinum dyed hair, another year she was the board game Twister. And she never restricted our candy intake on Halloween. It was the one night a year we could just run amok and eat ourselves into a sugar-induced coma.
Maybe she never restricted me because I didn’t even like candy as a child. Surely I suffered some sort of trauma with a gummy bear or something, but just a bite of a Snickers was enough to hold me over for the year.
So my little brother and I would roam the neighborhood dragging our pillow cases full of goodies. But when we got home I’d trade him my good stuff for cold hard cash. I’d still rather crunch on a cucumber than pull out a filling with a Milk Dud. I’ll probably seek professional help soon.
Pumpkin carving was the absolute best, and really still is. One of my earliest memories with my dad is crawling up on the kitchen table while he helped me scoop the guts into a bowl.
Just this weekend I took my own children to the pumpkin patch to select the most perfect of gourds. We got home, traced our patterns, and cut the tops off to reveal the pulpy innards. I still love to squish the guts through my fingers. Again, that professional help might come in handy.
My husband was never really into Halloween, although he knew what he was getting into when he married me. If he’s not out of town for work, he knows he’ll be required to participate in a group costume. Most years our family has at least two to three options for the multiple Halloween festivities I drag them to.
One year we were the Rugrats because I saw a Reptar shirt at Target, and I needed an excuse to buy it. We won costume contest for that one.
Two years ago our kids had their own costume ideas, so I forced my husband to play the role of Luke in my Gilmore Girls fantasy. I’ve noticed he’s had work trips in October since then.
Over the years my kids have grown to love the holiday as much as me.
They start planning their costumes in July, and it’s tough to wait until Oct. 1 to kick off the season with our official screening of Hocus Pocus. I think decking the halls with spiderwebs, black cats and jack-o-lanterns is right up there with trimming the tree at Christmas in our house.
And somehow, no matter where we live, my mom makes it a point to join us. She shows up in her big oversized purple witch hat, with some sort of special Halloween surprise in her bag. And it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy in my little pumpkin guts.