However you want to say and/or spell it—Halloween, Hallowe’en, All Hallows Eve, All Hallow Even, Candy from Strangers Night—October 31 is indisputably the corporate-mandated spookiest time of year. With that in mind, I present 31 Days of Devil’s Night lists, of my own and of my literary brethren both near and far.
Tonight’s special guest lister: Chuck Bowie.
October 6, 2017
Chuck Bowie’s Favourite Halloween Memories
Ah, lists. Our inestimable writer—and yes, I could make a list of his attributes—Corey Redekop has placed a few judicious invitations to blog a Hallowe’en list, and I thought I’d accept.
The child’s Hallowe’en Melody: Muahahaaa!
‘Black and gold, black and gold
Nothing in between,
When the sky is black and gold
Then it’s Hallowe’en.’
I was in Grade 4 when I was obliged by my teacher to learn this minor-chord ditty. I was, how shall I put it? not too sweet but plenty loud. Mrs. Masson, bless her, chose to not sidle up to me and ask me to lip synch the melody. I sing better now, hardly anyone runs away from my singing with that Edvard Munch look…
Hallowe’en Book: Scary Not Scary
At the tender age of ten—hey! Same banner year as List Item #1!—I found my sister’s Trixie Beldon book. Having just dusted off the entire L. Frank Baum Oz series, I was desperate to read something, and it was just lying there…anyway, the plot, vague after all these years, concerned the Mexican Day of the Dead, and I associated it with Hallowe’en. It was the first instance I experienced, of a book ‘promising’ death, danger and destruction, and yielding at the end…nothing but a misunderstanding. As a ten-year-old, I didn’t know whether to tip my hat to the author, or feel cheated. I moved on.
I’m an Air Force Brat…
This means a) that home was a nebulous concept for my first 19 years, and b) that I could never guess how Hallowe’en would unfold. At age 13, for example, my father brought home seven German sailors that night. After Trick or Treat and supper, I got to stay up at the top of the stairs and watch 7 unilingual Germans, and two unilingual Parents employ beer to suss out a lingua franca. It transpired that playing and singing music became the common bond: My dad was a fine musician and could find the music for some of the German folk songs. There were the beer songs—Eins, Zwei, gSuffa, the German translations to what we thought of as English pop songs: Lily Marlene, and later, when they’d run out of ideas, I suppose: Oh, Tannenbaum, because: Why not? Most of the Germans…kids, really, were crying at this point, being homesick and in their cups.
Although…they’d cease being maudlin when teens rang the door for Trick or Treat; they could laugh at how poorly the efforts of the teens were, in comparison to the ‘Tweens a few hours earlier.
Traditional Hallowe’en Food
When my boys were kids, they were signed up for everything: gymnastics, square dancing—they’ll deny that one—soccer, baseball, hockey, music, you get the picture. They were trying to find themselves, and I was trying to be everywhere at all times. Something usually has to give; often it is a nutritious, delicious meal. One Hallowe’en, I was up against it, time-wise, and prepared and almost literally threw food at them, to get them out Trick-or-Treating on time. Somehow, food happened that night and I sank into a chair by the door, sucking on those molasses candies that refuse to go away.
Fast-forward one year, less 6 hours:
“Dad, are you going to make the traditional Hallowe’en dinner?”
“Umm, what might that be?”
“You know; the one you make every year.”
“Can you give me a hint?”
“Come on, Dad, you know: deep-fried potato medallions, chocolate milk and creamed tuna on toast. And can you make it like last year? That was the best one.”
Well, to my memory, it was the only one, but okay. Traditional Hallowe’en dinner it is. Even if it never was.
I lived in Northern Quebec as a ‘Tween…
In my first year there I dressed up as a cowboy, grabbed a pillow case (making sure there were no holes in the corner to spill my loot, took my 7-year-old brother in tow—he was dressed as a bed sheet ghost—and off we went, off the Air Base, to Trick or Treat the town of Bagotville, in Quebec.
The first door we knocked at, the father called his entire family out to view my brother and I. My brother was quite proud of his costume, raising himself up on his toes to look bigger and scarier. After three ‘Trick or Treats’, they said something polite to me and closed the door.
A misunderstanding, I concluded.
By the third Trick or Treat, somewhat muted by now, I confess, I was beginning to understand that, culturally, we weren’t on the same page. And it wasn’t a linguistic issue. That third particular house belonged to a just-retired Montreal Canadien, a player of note. What I noted, however, was that he wasn’t happy to have a couple of English-speaking kids ringing his doorbell for no good reason.
Dejected, we trod home, empty pillow cases dragging, and our mom filled our sacks with the candies none of the other townspeople came begging for. All’s well that ends well.
After my teen years, I took Hallowe’en as a chance to socialize with my peers, have a beverage, and at times check out the weird people I usually surround myself with. In other words, the typical weekend. But when the sky turns black and gold, I do seem to glance over my shoulder, just a bit more often.