31 October

Halloween, 1975.
I am five years old, and my mother has made me a Pocahontas costume. My skin ispale enough that her Clinique makeup makes me look the part. I have rawhide cords woven through my braids, and breathe in the scent of the makeup on my skin. That scent is one of three that define my mother.

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Halloween, 1976
My first Halloween in Georgetown, CO. My mother turns me into Laura Ingalls Wilder, because our teacher told us any costumes worn to school had to be characters from books. This inspires her to sell handmade sunbonnets in her store. They’re popular.

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Halloween, 1978
Georgetown, again. This time I am BatGirl, with black satin ears. I’m excited about wearing the costume again, the next February, for KinderFasching, but we’re not in Georgetown, then.
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Halloween, 1980
It’s cold enough that I had to argue with my mother about wearing a jacket under my costume. I think I’m a witch. I don’t remember. It’s the first Halloween that my friends and I go trick-or-treating without supervision.

Halloween, 1986.
It is Friday Night, and also a time change. At least it’s that way in my head. I could be combining similar memories, though.

I’ve spent the evening with a bunch of my friends, drama geeks all of us. We played “Freeze” at the party, and Becky (Snow White’s stepmother) and I (a geisha) end up taking home prizes. Mine is a coke-bottle radio. It even works. After the party, I stay up to watch the clocks change, watching the 1982 Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I have a spiral notebook and my favorite pen, and I scribble stories and poems while the television provides company and accompaniment.

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Halloween, 1991.
I am getting ready to take the train to San Francisco to hang out in the Castro with J. Our costumes are lame: she is a bumblebee, and I am a mime, and all around us the costume of the moment (at least among USF students) is pregnant teenagers, or pregnant cheerleaders.

We pay a dollar to the guy running the airport shuttle, who is giving rides across town. When we’ve had our fill of the engergy and spectacle, we walk down Market street, stopping at Safeway to buy cupcakes with orange frosting. Halloween is not complete without those. It is a rule.

Earlier that day, under some compulsion, I spent half an hour talking with my grandfather, by phone. It was to be the last time I ever spoke to him, alive, for he died a week later.

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Halloween, 1992.
I wake from a dream in which I was speaking with my grandfather, to find I’m holding the phone, which has no dial tone. I hang it up, pick it up again, and the dial tone has returned. I remain convinced that the phone call was real.

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Halloween, 1995
We choose not to wear costumes to work, but Gateway buys cupcakes with orange Frosting for everyone.

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Halloween, 1998
We hang out with my mother and grandmother, passing out candy to the little kids. When the door is closed, we mock the children with store-bought costumes, which consist of plastic masks and smocks or pinafores with a picture of the character the costume is supposed to represent.

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Halloween, 1999
The pumpkins we carve are from the vine that took over our back yard. We write a note to ourselves: Never plant pumpkins or narcissus in anything but a very controlled space.

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Halloween, 2002
We celebrate by opening the doors of our brand new house to the neighborhood, and later by making sure all the kids know we give out good candy.

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Halloween, 2003
This year the festivities go on for half a month, it seems, or at least all week. Our friends graciously invite a bunch of us to carve pumpkins on their light-colored carpet, after which we take a flashlight tour of the Winchester Mystery House. Other friends are involved in an improv performance that week. On the actual day, we host a small gathering and watch Harry Potter (even though we’ve all seen it) because it’s on, after the trick-or-treaters disperse.

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Halloween, 2004
New house, new town, new state.
We have pumpkin lights, but this year I haven’t felt the urge to carve a pumpkin, I think because my house is still all in boxes. Does the NaNo kickoff party count as a Halloween event? To me it does.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 31 October by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.