February 22, 2018

Halloween (Then and Now) By Lillian Sanderson

I love Halloween!  I love the make-believe, dress up silliness of it all.  I love candy.  I love pumpkin carving and eating baked pumpkin seeds!  I think the holiday has become a big business and that’s ok, but I sort of wonder how most of today’s families plan for Halloween.


Can your children dress up as anything or person that they choose for Halloween?

Do you steer them toward an idea that you have in mind?

Do you purchase costumes of well known characters?

Do you buy face paint and provide a bin of old clothes to “make up” a costume?


I have a feeling that the last choice made most young moms frown and think “WHAT?”


When I was a child….in the stone age….I don’t think there was such a thing as costumes that were bought.  If they existed, I was not aware of them.  We had a box of old stuff in the attic that had coats, hats, belts, a cape, a long white satin dress, a sailor outfit, some fur pieces, a long black skirt, a long velvet robe, and odds and ends from creations over the years.  I did my version of this when my children were small; keeping funny ties, old hats, face paint, wigs, and the occasional bought accessory like jewelry or  a rubber mask.


My children and I did great original costumes every year.  Clowns were a hit because the face makeup and a pair of suspenders with old man’s pants were all that was needed!  Gypsies could be created with lots of rouge and bright lipstick, gaudy jewelry and a scarf tied around the head to complete the effect!  Sometimes silly characters would be invented.   Angels wore wings made from coat hangers and halos of aluminum foil.  Hippies were fun for my kids, as were flappers; choosing their mom and grandma’s eras to act out and try to dance the dances of that time…. Twist and Charleston!


One year I obeyed my young son’s request to make him “the Count.”  He wanted to be “very scary,” he told me.  So, I got out the fake blood and the white greasepaint and made his eyebrows dark and sinister.  He was only four and facing me sitting on the bathroom counter, giving me directions step by step.   Once I was done, it was a masterpiece, if I don’t say so myself; but I guess I did too good a job.   He excitedly turned to see himself,  and, after an almost inaudible gulp, burst into tears and begged, “Make it go away!”   Needless to say, the goop quickly came off his face and we just stuck with the cape!  He was then no more frightening than Sesame Street’s Count and was a happy boy!

My stash of old stuff for Halloween is pretty small now…I have kept a few things …just in case.  My mom’s box is long gone, sadly.  I learned that a lot of history was in those old outfits in that box in the attic.  The long satin gown had been my mother’s wedding gown.  The sailor outfit was worn by my maternal grandfather.  The long black skirt was a turn of the century wardrobe basic, belonging to my great grandmother!  And the long velvet robe?  I became a silent film star once wearing it along with a lot of eye makeup; but, it was originally a romantic wedding gift to my mother from my father.


I love these Halloween memories and I am glad that the children in my area still go door to door for treats while their parents wait at the sidewalk and wave, smile, and remember.


Lillian is a midwestern mother of 5 grown children and a grandmother of 10.



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