Halloween is my favorite holiday. And when I say favorite, I don’t mean, it’s the most fun to shop for, or the best holiday to spend with friends and family, or the holiday with the best food or the best decorations or the best gifts. I mean it’s all of those things and more.
I genuinely have more fond childhood memories of Halloween than any other holiday. Perhaps all the others combined. And the central refrain that runs through these mental tunes? What is everlasting in my memories about Halloween is being That House. You know, the house in your neighborhood that goes Ape Shit Crazy over this holiday.
If you aren’t sure which house in your neighborhood is the Ape Shit Crazy Halloween House, then I have news for you. It’s your house, dumbass.
I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids, which meant non-stop doorbell ringing for adults and an endless supply of candy from houses within walking distance for kids. Everyone participated. Houses who didn’t participate made this choice with the understanding and expectation of being egged, possibly rolled.* People who went out of town and left “take one” baskets were robbed of all their candy by dusk and then usually egged later on for good measure.
As I grew older, I began to understand the greater implications of being That House. We (read: Hurricane) took macramé baskets holders and slung carved, lit pumpkins in the them, letting them swing menacingly from the trees that lined the sidewalk to the front door. Fire hazards be damned. We opened the windows, where dad had wired stereo speakers to sit and broadcast spooky soundtrack music from horror films to the entire neighborhood. Noise ordinances? In the 70s and 80s I’m not sure these existed. Our parents dressed in full costume as witches, warlocks, and vampires in order to scare neighborhood kids and were never accused of reading and/or enjoying YA fiction novels or of being in any way deviants for indulging in this behavior.
One year, Hurricane (always in charge of make-up and pumpkin carving and Life in general, of course) took Mack’s widow’s peak and colored it black, bringing it down into a perfect v-shape for a Dracula make-up job that would have made Coppola proud. Like most men, my dad bitched about Halloween but really loved it. And this year? It was the year of Mackula.
Mack-Ula wore an old tuxedo and a custom cape (Hurricane began planning and sewing as soon as Labor Day was over) and was to answer the front door, which conveniently creaked loudly when it opened. ** Mackula embraced his character this year by eating his early dinner of spaghetti in the dining room. Alone. In the dark.
Hurricane snuck in and took a photo of this, and the resulting picture was marvelous. The white grease paint shimmered under the flash, the red lining of the cape collar she’d made him, starched up perfectly, his man-scara highlighting those playful eyes. And the spaghetti sauce around his lips would have made him look sinister, were it not for the twirl of noodles on the fork hovering on its way to his mouth, and the hint of the fangs he’d removed, there on the corner of his napkin. When I remember my Daddy, the Light and Rock of my life, this is always my first mental image of him. He is forever frozen in time as this Mackula, blown up to an 8×10 glossy and framed, taking its place of honor on the wall of family portraits and other horrific Olan Mills moments that lined our back stairwell.
Mackula was answering the door while Hurricane baked five thousand zucchini bread mini loaves for some-bake-sale-fundraiser-or-another, and it was the first year I was allowed to go trick-or-treating unchaperoned. with my friends.
This is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of all parents. UNCHAPERONED. Quite frankly, some of us should never be this. Ever. Hubby will shudder a little, visibly even, when it is applicable to me for more than 48 hours. And I am a grown-ass adult. ***
So you can imagine that my parents, while willing to let me go with 2 or 3 buds, promising to be safe, stick to the streets (no driveway alleys or cutting through yards) and be home when one pillowcase became heavy with bounty, were still nervous. No curfew was needed. There was an understood moment in trick-or-treating when those seeking candy knew to be done, so that those seeking to vandalize would not cross their paths. ****
It’s one of those conversations that in retrospect you wish you’d been allowed to hear, as the results from it became so very interesting. Or maybe he just snuck away from his duties, but the result was my friend Raleigh poking my shoulder and saying, “Do you see this coming?”
I turn, and what do my wondering eyes should appear?
In fact, the streets and sidewalks, brimming with kids in costumes, all momentarily stop and stare at the vision of Mackula, in his tuxedo, hair slicked, eyes slightly squinting and fangs slightly bared, red satin-line cape flapping in the wind as he barreled slightly out of control down the hill on my brother’s ten speed.
Flashlights are being aimed at him, and he is weirdly highlighted as he gains speed, with no need to pedal, and as he passes us, and for a slow motion moment we lock eyes and he smiles. Oh my God he smiles at me. Then he turns to hiss dramatically at some kid with a flashlight in his face, and swerves dangerously, almost crashing into Ms. Feldings azaleas. And then he is gone.
Pure Joy and Pure Preteen Terror. All at once.
“Some people are so weird,” my friend Raleigh says with rolled eyes, having no clue that was an actual relation. Pure joy in me wanted to claim him, but the pre-teen terror part of me won over, as I agreed with her and simply proceeded to the next door bell.
Mackula and I never spoke of it. There was no need. He was showing me, in our special way, how much he missed being out there with me, and that he wanted to see with his own night vision eyes that I was safe and having fun. And I’ve never felt so loved.
Hubby and I don’t get trick-or-treaters, and we don’t have kids, but every year I decorate for Halloween. It’s an addiction, and it’s sometimes not easy to explain. Some years, there will literally be decorations in every room in the house. I’m sure they will develop some type of Holiday Intervention reality show for people like me. We have Costumes and Cocktails every other year to get our Halloween on. (I’m not allowed to do it every year, as Hubby is convinced that this strict rotation schedule is the only thing keeping us from having an Aadams Family Home year round.) Some years the house pushes the state fire code and guests overflow into the back drive & patio to late night cigars; some years, like this year, we have only about 25 people or so and drink enough to belly laugh to a 6’3” penguin dancing to “All the Single Ladies” in the study.
But the guest who is always there? That no one sees? Mackula. Complete with cape and make-up, smiling, doing that single dad-clap thing he does when he starts to laugh really hard, and having a moment of Pure Joy.
*ROLLED, as in with toilet paper in the trees. Collecting enough TP to do this well took effort and coordination among friends. Now I think it just takes a Costco membership.
**Like most homes in our ‘hood, the front door was reserved primarily for formal visitors, such as relative you didn’t like, or formal visits, like visitation after a death or selling school fundraiser fruit. Halloween saw the most use it got all year.
***With access to a bit of cash who is not afraid of flying to Vegas. How am I still married again?
**** Golden Boy & his buds were fully prepped and heavily armed.