Halloween was always a time of excitement for me, despite my general aversion to anything frightening or scary. The 31st of October represented the start of the “Holiday Season” of November and December which featured my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and lots of time off of school.
My family was not the kind to get new costumes every year, but I don’t remember ever really minding because I still had a fairly diverse array of costumes over my Halloween years. I know that in Hawaii, I went as a firefighter one year (I loved firefighters) and got to stand near a real fire truck with my sisters and neighbors at one point. The next year, I believe I recycled my tiger costume that I’d used recently in a school play. I could be wrong on that. In Virginia, I was Peter Pan, then Stitch, then Peter from The Chronicles of Narnia (lots of Peters), Harry Potter, and finally, Spider-Man… a.k.a. Peter Parker, the final Peter.
I liked, but never loved Peter Pan, and wearing his costume was more or less an attempt to match my sisters’ Disney Princess ensembles. Stitch was a step up seeing as I loved the character… but a big part of me resented that the costume represented his “evil” inmate stage instead of his good one (and besides, I always preferred Lilo).
Being King Peter from Narnia was extremely exciting because my sisters and I loved that franchise, and considered ourselves akin to its child protagonists in our imagination and importance in the world. In fact, one day in elementary school we asked our grade’s bully at the time if she would want to be the White Witch and play with us sometime. It genuinely had not sunken in that people rarely see themselves as villains, and suffice to say both us and the girl went away very confused from that confrontation.
(The three of us also spent a fair amount of time acting out scenes from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in our costumes. We felt very majestic and glorious at the time but the surviving video footage is anything but).
I was a huge fan of Harry Potter, and so I enjoyed that costume for a good many years despite my abhorrence of ties. My outfit included a white shirt, black pants, a Gryffindor tie and robe, a wand, and a cauldron to collect candy in. My mother drew the scar on me with a makeup pencil, and told me with much certainty that I looked just like Harry Potter. I never quite believed that but was comforted by the knowledge that my hair was rambunctious and difficult to tame, just like Harry’s in the books.
Spider-Man was my last costume of Elementary School. I was just getting into comics, and adored Spider-Man at the time, and was very excited to don that costume. My enthusiasm was dampened by the mesh-like costume eyes, the cringeworthy padded abs, and the pointing and laughing I received from members of my grade for being someone as childish as Spider-Man at our mature age of 11 and 12. After that Halloween, I hung up the costume, cheeks burning, and never put it on again.
It took me almost a decade to realize that I didn’t actually like most of the candy I’d receive during Halloween… just the quest-like journey of trick-or-treating.
It always seemed like a great adventure, travelling from house to house, seeing lawns that ranged from average to decked out in gloriously complex Halloween decorations. My favorite had several fog machines, a graveyard, a coffin that opened and closed periodically, and if memory serves some sort of pumpkin carriage. My least favorite one was likely the lawn that would scream whenever somebody came near. Neither of these houses were quite as creepy as the cold, dark, dead homes of the neighbors not participating in the holiday.
According to my parents, I was the bravest around Halloween, always the most eager to go up to strange doors and say “Trick or Treat”. I’m not sure if I remember this. What I do remember is I ran out of steam absurdly quickly, and every year my father and sisters would drop me off midway through trick-or-treating so I could bathe and relax until they came back. Sometimes I went to bed, and others I stayed up to start to sort my candy.
When my sisters returned home, the three of us would barter and trade candy like coveted collectibles. We treasured the candy while we had it, because, come December, our mother would throw it all out, telling us it had “gone bad”. We believed her implicitly and, when we saw others consuming candy so far past the holiday, shared sympathetic looks as we knew they risked deadly illness.