I don’t have many amazing Halloween memories. We weren’t the kind of family that spent months brainstorming and weeks sewing elaborate costumes. One Halloween when I was about nine years old, my mother asked some friends if they had any old makeup lying around (Mom wore none herself, not even lipstick), explaining that “Jenny wants to be a cocktail waitress for Halloween.”

I took the lipsticks they proffered and used them to draw peace signs on my cheeks, which didn’t come off when I washed my face that night. (Who am I kidding? I most certainly didn’t wash my face that night and probably didn’t brush my teeth either.) The next day at school my teacher drew attention to me and my pink-stained cheeks (in a way that I think teachers really shouldn’t) by pointing out to the class that “it looks like someone still has her Halloween makeup on!”

I suppose the free candy made up for the inevitable embarrassment.

The first Halloween I can really remember was second grade. We were living in a small apartment that faced an alleyway behind a restaurant on 15th Ave on Capitol Hill. I have no idea what we dressed up as—it must’ve involved scarves or cobbled together gypsy wear—but I do remember walking up onto front porches to trick or treat and then asking for an extra piece for my little brother—Jesse—who stayed on the sidewalk with mom, perhaps in a stroller. Because we weren’t given much sugar back then, the sheer bounty of our collective haul was amazing. I say “collective” because mom made us pool our candy into a large metal bowl. She let us eat some reasonable amount that evening then hid the bowl in the oven for safekeeping. In the morning she turned on the oven, perhaps to heat the apartment, but forgot to remove the bowl first so the candy melted together into a disgusting and inedible mess. This injustice still ranks high on the list of truly terrible things that happened in my childhood.

For me, dressing up on Halloween usually involved throwing together an outfit that I had lying around—I’m a soccer player!—which is where the inevitable embarrassment came in. My lack of imagination coupled with my great height—“Aren’t you too old to be trick-or-treating?”—certainly contributed to my ambivalence about the holiday.

Then I became a mother. And not just a mother, but mother to the kind of kid who asks, on November 1st, “What do you think I should ‘be’ next year?”


Arlo has been a troll, complete with a heavy stick she pounded on the ground; Medusa, with plastic snakes braided into her hair; a zombie clown, long before the whole zombie thing hit; and the Black Swan, with beautiful dark eye makeup. Each year she has an elaborate plan and I just try to help her make it happen.

Offering: A bowl of Halloween candy



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