Halloween Haunts: Back In My Day… by Armand Rosamilia
I’ll be 45 in November but some days I feel much older. I find myself talking about the Good Old Days and when I was a kid and saying things like you damn kids, get off my lawn.
Halloween was a magical day when I was a child, and even into my teens. OK, late teens. I can remember all of the cheesy costumes my mom would dress me in: Ronald McDonald, a cowboy, Gene Simmons… but never as Darth Vader.
I always wanted to be Darth Vader.
My parents were great people but we didn’t have extra money to buy store-bought costumes for my brother and me most years. We made due with what we had, and so did everyone else on the block. You wanted to go as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle? Here, put on this green t-shirt and draw on it with green makeup on your face.
But there was no way to go as Darth Vader without the mask. Mom even toyed with using a black sheet as the cape but the mask was the costume. In the end I think she dressed me as a girl. At nine years old it was probably traumatic, but I’ve blocked it out.
We also never bought fancy plastic pumpkins to carry the loot in. Who needed or wanted something that small? We used old pillowcases. And we filled them, some years twice over. There was nothing better than running all the way home from across town to dump the candy (and the worthless pennies and anything you couldn’t eat) into the big bowl on the kitchen table and run back out with an empty sack waiting to be filled again.
I have no idea why we never noticed, by the time we returned with the second pillowcase full, the candy bowl had gotten a bit emptier and my dad, watching TV, wouldn’t make eye contact with us.
The real excitement began once it got dark. Especially when October 31st was a cold day and it usually was in the Northeast. Despite freezing, you refused to put a jacket on and cover up your cool costume. You’d rather be sick the first week in November than miss out on someone noticing what you were wearing.
At dusk the bigger kids came out, and when we were small we’d stick close to home once the sun went down for fear we’d be ripped apart and eaten. Or our candy eaten. As we got older we became the jerks we’d be bullied by, a vicious circle of Halloween.
Growing up in New Jersey, we also had Mischief Night, which was the night before. I’m not sure anywhere else it was done or if they still do it or if I’m delusional. We’d do goofy things like toilet paper someone’s trees or the old flaming bag of dog crap or shoot off AK-47’s wearing Scream masks and… ok, that last one never really happened. I swear.
I have three kids. They’re getting older now, so none of them dress up anymore. When they did it just wasn’t that big of a deal to them, anyway. The handful of candy they received wasn’t worth all the walking. They would rather sit home and text and watch Netflix and eat my secret stash of M&M’s rather than actually earn candy. How barbaric.
When I’d explain a pillowcase of candy they’d look at me like I was nuts. Who needs that much candy? It didn’t seem worth the trouble. It made me sad.
I’d written off Halloween for a number of years. Yeah, yeah, as a horror writer I guess you have to be happy about October 31st. I wasn’t. No kids came to the door. No roaming bands of kids knocked and said trick or treat. One year I had six kids begging for candy and I ate the rest.
Then, last year happened… we moved into a new neighborhood. Most of the houses had been up for less than a year, and it is a huge development. My fiancé was excited. She’d lived in an apartment and gotten a few kids. But she is the eternal optimist.
I just wanted to make sure there were enough chocolate bars so when we didn’t get trick or treaters I could feast. She filled five bowls with candy and I scoffed at her. Not openly, I’m not insane. But I was going to enjoy eating candy well into November.
And guess what? The line from the door, across the lawn and to the sidewalk was steady for most of the late day and into the night. I smiled and handed out candy to ghosts and princesses and vampires (most of them sparkly) and watched my Snickers and Twix bars disappear.
They kept coming until we were out of candy and had to turn off the porch light and hide in a darkened living room so they’d stop ringing the doorbell. This year we’ll go with at least seven huge bowls of candy, but I’m holding onto as many Kit Kats as I can.
And if you’re dressed as Darth Vader I’ll double whatever I give out. Just do me a favor and live the dream I had as a kid…
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Armand is offering a signed copy of his novel, Chelsea Avenue.
ARMAND ROSAMILIA will be dressed as a grumpy old man handing out candy, sitting on a lawn chair in his open garage and listening to Slayer. Not because he wants to play spooky music, but because he likes listening to Slayer.