We so enjoyed Elizabeth Hemmerdinger’s piece last year about Halloween with the grandkids that we couldn’t resist bringing it back for an encore. For everyone hitting the T or T trail with kids and grandkids, or answering the doorbell with treats in hand: Happy Halloween!   –Ed. 

Halloween 2010 was a beautiful, crisp day that we’d been planning for since September. Who would our five grandchildren–known collectively as the Grands–be this year? And who would we be? Well, that’s a big question, isn’t it ? To be answered when the children aren’t listening. My husband wears a beloved blue wool cape and allows that he’ll be whoever the children want him to be. This year, he was a Vampire (who ditched his fangs after ten minutes). I’m less accommodating.

I want to be somebody different every time. You know, layer on a particular outfit and embody the character. It can depend on what the others are wearing/being, and in what place the year itself has put me. Among others, I’ve been Grambo (so named by one of the twin girls after she saw me trying to rid the house of some pest that I wanted out, but not dead—or maybe I was just trying to stop Grand Mayhem). I’ve been an Indian chief. A police officer. By the way, I was SHOCKED to find that costume shops sell porn versions of these standards – and more shocked last year when a kid who was a few years older than my oldest grandson led me right to the smarmy lot. And okay, sorta delighted.

Five years ago, our son and his family moved to a rather utopian community just outside Manhattan. And among the community’s Big Moments is Halloween, where packs of friends of all generations troop in and out of friendly homes, passing similar groups going in opposite directions, and where generous people dressed for the occasion dole out candy and comfort and love. You’ve never seen so much good will and creativity and generosity of spirit. Oh yes, something new was added this year: a particularly popular friend brought up the rear of the groups with The Wagon – full of spirits, imbibed in high spirits. In the dark of last year’s winter, I came upon a Carmen Miranda-ish turban-cum-fruit-and-feathers. I’d kept it wrapped in tissue in a closet corner, looking forward to the Big Moment. I shopped online for the rest of the outfit. And I wouldn’t tell them who I was going to be, though I sang the Chiquita Banana jingle all summer long. On October 31, it suddenly turned cold, so I needed an appropriate wrap, and found in another closet recess a thing I’d bought second-hand on a whim years ago—proving that some mistakes are worth making. We all gathered at our son’s house for delicious soup and chili—and birthday cake, because Halloween happens to be the Vampire’s birthday, too. Then, in different areas of the house, we all got into our costumes. Our family joined the larger group as Mary Poppins and her friend Bert, the Chimney Sweep (right); Juliette, the American Girl Doll, and her father (left); Plex from Yo-Gaba Gaba; a SWAT team officer; an Aviator; a Snowflake; the Vampire; Chiquita Banana (Chiquita, that is, not the Banana); and The Grim Reaper.

Because The Grim Reaper’s plastic skeleton gloves made carrying his trick-or-treat bag difficult, Chiquita also assumed the role of Sherpa. (Which the Snowflake felt was far too indulgent, but Chiquita didn’t take the reprimand seriously.) This was reinvention maxed out and playful beyond measure. We had all chosen who we would be, and how others would see us for an hour or two. We took delight in how it felt to be seen as different from ourselves, and to stretch our boundaries. But most important, I was reminded, watching the frenzy of greed and grace, that there’s nothing more special than taking the time to play, to dress up, to let go of the Who-I-Am, and venture into unexplored territory. Because our group was mostly young ones with early bedtimes, we came home to count the candy, trade it around, and then give most of it away to the older kids who came by as it grew dark. Because if you give all but a little of your candy away, the Switchwitch comes at night with a gift more long-lasting. But for Grambo and the Vampire, the memories are more than enough.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • b. elliott November 5, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    What fun! I had never heard of the SwitchWitch and will borrow that idea.