Why I Hate Halloween–and other stories

Originally published on Maine Crime Writers, October 31, 2011

Barb here. I’m afraid it’s true. I’m one of those people who hates Halloween.

Me, as a horse (back-end), fourth grade

It wasn’t always so. Though my mother didn’t sew, she was always able to execute whatever crazy costume idea I came up with. In fourth grade, my friend Virginia convinced me to go in with her on a horse costume. She was horse-crazy, and could do a perfect human imitation of a trot and a canter, so she felt strongly that she should be the front-end, whereas my talents lay — to the rear. Her mother invited my mother over to “discuss the girls’ costume,” and served tea from a silver service. My mother said at that moment she knew she’d be making the entire thing. That Halloween I learned that walking the whole neighborhood bent over is a pain. Even worse are the homeowners who don’t see that second candy bag sticking out of the back-end of the horse. Nonetheless, I had a lovely Halloween that year and for several more.

Our son, Halloween, 1982

But by the time I was a parent, I hated Halloween. For one thing, my husband worked in politics and election day being when it is, in the even-numbered years by Halloween I’d been doing what I called my “single parent imitation” for months and was strung out and exhausted. Plus we lived on a busy street where we didn’t know all our neighbors, which only bothered me one day a year—on Halloween when my children would look at me with their big eyes and expect that perfect neighborhood, trick-or-treating evening. Oh, the pressure to fulfill their little person expectations!

In 1986, I was feeling that pressure acutely late Halloween afternoon when a sister-in-law called to say that my husband’s brother, Carl, age 23, was eloping that evening. My sister-in-law thought my husband needed to call Carl to try to talk him out of it. My husband is the oldest of six, and before we all learned that nobody in the family can convince anyone else of anything, these types of requests were frequent. Carl and his girlfriend Julie had been together since high school and were living together down the Cape, so while marriage had never been discussed, it wasn’t all that surprising.

Halloween 1986

So, I said (remember all that pressure), “If this is their idea of a joke, terrific.  But Bill won’t be calling anyone when he gets home. He’s taking the kids trick-or-treating. It’s Halloween and we have little kids.” And I slammed down the phone.

I immediately felt terrible, as one does after an outburst like that. So I called another sister-in-law to check in. “Apparently Carl’s getting married,” I said. Here’s how the conversation went from there.

SiL: “Really. Who’s he marrying?”
Me: “What?”

SiL: “He broke up with Julie.”
Me: “What!”

SiL: “He’s been seeing someone new for a few weeks.”
Me: “What!

SiL: “I hear she’s South American or something.”
Me: “What!”

SiL: “And she doesn’t speak any English.”
Me: “WHAT!”

Halloween 1993

And so on. When my husband walked through the front door an hour later, bug-eyed, he immediately headed to the den to call Carl and try to persuade him to wait. I shuffled the kids around the neighborhood, thinking–Unbelievable, the lengths the universe will go to to stick me with this awful job.

My husband was ultimately unsuccessful. Carl and Eliana were married that Halloween night. I like to think of them in the Justice of the Peace’s living room, the ceremony constantly interrupted by the ringing doorbell and gangs of small trick-or-treaters.

Carl did tell me that the next day, feeling a little overwhelmed by what they’d done, he and Eliana were back at work at the old Wursthaus in Hyannis. When a customer complained that the tongue on his sandwich was sliced too thick, Carl replied, “The tongue’s too thick? The tongue is too thick? You think that’s a problem? I just married that woman over there, (dramatically pointing toward Eliana) and I don’t even know her middle name!”

Halloween 1997

That would be the end of the story, except, against odds probably too astronomical to calculate, the marriage has endured. Today is Carl and Eliana’s 25th wedding anniversary.

They’ve raised two fantastic children. They run a business together and have a beautiful home. Eliana does speak English and Carl now speaks something that sounds to me like fluent Portuguese, though I sometimes catch his Brazilian friends nudging each other and giggling while he’s holding forth.

So congratulations, Carl and Eliana. I hope you go out tonight and party hardy.

Me, I’ll be hiding in my living room with all the lights off, because, have I mentioned? I hate Halloween.

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