As a fractured, rebuilt and blended family with lots of blood kin and non-blood kin who enjoy each other’s company, we’ve nearly set the woods on fire on Independence Day, eaten a lot of spaghetti on Thanksgiving (a tradition arising from someone’s inexplicable dislike of turkey) and traded Dirty Santa gifts on Christmas (often testing the goodwill of the season while doing so).
But we owned Halloween.
It was our special holiday. Baby Jesus with a turkey leg in one hand and a bottle rocket in the other would have had a blast at our Halloween celebrations. We delighted many, scared some, and welcomed all.
I write this seven days after the latest Halloween, three years after the death my mother and a day or two short of a month after the passing of her beloved husband, my stepfather.
I didn’t call him my stepfather much because they married when I was an adult and having a stepfather at the time seemed like an odd concept. I never lived under his roof and I knew him more as a good friend, fellow roustabout and beer-joint conspirator.
Plus, we were all glad to have lawyer in the family due to a propensity for speeding tickets.
The seeds for those remarkable Halloween celebrations were sown over the course of a few decades as we, the kids and step-kids, in-laws and outlaws, transitioned from our own trick or treating to teen-age parties featuring questionable shenanigans and then to young families with our own kids going door-to-door demanding candy.
The headquarters were Mom and Tony’s house in the middle of town, at a corner that drew good Halloween traffic. At first, we handed out candy, surrounded by modest decorations and offered nice smiles to the youngsters in their best superhero/princess/pirate garb. There was nothing much special about it.
But somewhere along the way, we began to amp it up. The decorations grew more intense and so did the crowd. My brother put together a realistic Michael Myers’ costume from the “Halloween” movie series and began patrolling the yard near the sidewalk with a plastic knife.
It only took a couple of celebrations before squealing teenagers were daring each other to have their photos made with him, as well as a long line of 30-something-year-old moms who remembered the original film and wanted to hug up on ol’ Michael.
When a fellow Halloween lover on the other side of town retired and got rid of her elaborate decorations, we acquired, among other things, a huge, wooden replica of an electric chair, complete with a dummy strapped in, that lit up and shook violently when an operator on the porch discreetly hit a switch. It sent more than one trick or treater running in terror.
We had beer and pizza and candy and bats and ghouls and the screams of children forever scarred by a stalking psycho killer in a mask and a condemned man frying right before their very eyes – all in good fun of course.
We carried on half-heartedly after my mother’s death and had stopped altogether by the time Tony got sick. His passing a few weeks before this Halloween hit us hard. None of us did much of anything on Oct. 31. The electric chair was silent.
I got this message from my youngest brother a few days after: “Let’s start up Halloween again next year. I got so depressed Wednesday. I knew Halloween last year would be hard with all the crap but this year I felt the same. We need to figure out something for my favorite holiday.”
I think we can. We’re a fractured, rebuilt and blended family with lots of blood kin and non-blood kin who enjoy each other’s company, so anything is possible.
We’ll talk about it over spaghetti on Thanksgiving.
Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.