Monday, October 31, 2005

Tradition, Tradition! (You have to sing the title like the song from Fiddler on the Roof...)

As on most holidays, I'm taken back today to my own Halloween experiences as a child. They weren't particularly memorable, except for a few things.

Growing up on the Oregon coast, the end of October was well into the start of the rainy season - so I clearly remember Trick-or-Treating in pouring-down rain, year after year. Our parents used to ride along in the car, warm and dry, as we went from house to house. It always seemed a little creepy to have that car following us with the headlights lighting the way between houses... they would drive really slowly behind us, almost stalker-like. When we were all done, we'd pile back into the car, and the wet-kid smell was almost overwhelming as we drove home to check out all the goodies we'd scored.

I also remember clearly one year that we thought we'd be smart and start a little early... thinking we could double up on some houses and get twice the booty... We went first to Mrs. Larson's house. Now she was a sweet old lady, but she couldn't be fooled. Perhaps it was because we had just gotten off the school bus, and we didn't have our costumes on... whatever, she was too smart to be bamboozled by a bunch of greedy school kids. She simply told us to come back later. That kind of took the wind out of our sails, so we didn't try any more houses. I'll bet, to this day though, if we'd started with Mrs. Olstead, we'd have gotten some candy.

Then were the houses you avoided all together, like the green one up the road with the stained glass windows. They never had their porch light on, and the house was a bit menacing even in daylight. We never dared go near it. Dow Road legend had it that the old man who lived there owned almost all the property where we used to play... the woods, both ponds, the ivy covered places we had our forts... we figured it was best to show a quiet respect for whoever lived there, just in case. Then there were the two white houses at the bottom of the hill. They were owned by the same family - in one there lived a woman who had to be at least a hundred years old, and next door lived her granddaughters. Seems to me like we tried the old lady's house a couple of times but nobody ever answered the door. Down the hill from that was another little white house where they gave out nickels. A whole nickel. Even back then, when candy bars were a quarter, they seemed cheap. And lastly, after several years of getting homemade cupcakes all smooshed up in a plastic baggy from Mrs. Nielsen, we stopped ringing the doorbell there as well. Nobody wants homemade treats - we wanted candy, and lots of it!

I hardly remember any of my costumes. I think one year I was a skeleton. I have pictures of the year I decided to be a gypsy - my Mom let me wear make-up with that costume, which I obviously applied myself. Can you say garish?

It's fascinating to think on what my children will remember about Halloweens at the Goins' house... Will it be the years we went to the "Fall Fesitval" at the ex-church? Or the trick-or-treating around the block with our friends? Or the costumes so lovingly made for them by their mother? (NOT!) Maybe it will be something I'm not even really aware of... some little thing we've done each year that isn't really on my radar, but that will stand out to them as they look back on their childhoods. Whatever it is, I hope it is with fondness, and their own cavity-less teeth that they remember Halloween... and all our holidays spent together as a family.

I think the reason I remember so few specifics about Halloween (or my whole childhood, for that matter) is because it was so much the same, year after year. We always lived in the same house. We trick-or-treated with the same neighbors, on the same two roads. We got roughly the same candy, or cupcakes, or nickels. With little or no distinction between the years, I cannot differentiate one Halloween from the next. And that's okay with me. I tell people all the time that I have very few specific memories of my childhood, because to me, it all feels like it was one really long, perfect summer day. And all my Halloweens, and Thanksgivings and Christmases run together in the same way. We did the same thing, annually marking the passage of time by going to the same houses, sitting in the same seats, opening the presents or eating the turkey or saying the same things... there was very little change from year to year. And that's what I hope for my kids as well. That each holiday would become a blur of custom and habit and ritual... Li'l Smokies every Halloween and pumpkin pie and popcorn for dinner on Christmas eve. New Christmas ornaments every year for the kids. A chocolate orange and wool socks in Asia's stocking each year and a new Yankee Candle in mine. Neighborhood easter egg hunts, Grandma Young's whipped green jello for Thanksgiving, and little gifts for advent each day in December.

Good stuff. Really good stuff that makes my heart swell and my eyes tear up.

I'm a sucker for traditions...


  1. loved this entry! seriously... i may just have to go blog about my own childhood Halloween memories... thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I think you have a remarkable memory for your childhood halloweens. The only one I remember in any detail at all is when I was seven or so, dressed as Penelope Pitstop, dragging my brother through my Great Aunt Clara's neighborhood, which I was strange to me. We got lost and I had to knock on somebody's door for help, but all I knew was my aunt's first name. Thank God, we made it home safe. After that, I think I dressed as a gypsy every year, probably for good luck... =o) I love gypsies... Great post, Cath. xo

  3. Cathy, I've now read this post three times. I've gotta tell you - it is one of my all-time favorite ever posts on your blog. I loved the spirit and love that I felt as I've read about your traditions. The phrase that keeps coming to mind is peaceful contentment. Gotta give thanks for that!

  4. Kel - so was that the only time you went trick-or-treating? Or the only time you remember? Getting lost would be scary... We always stayed close to home and there was always that stalking car behind us, so getting lost was not an option.

    Kelly E. - I read the post repeatedly myself - it made me happy. I'm so thankful for my childhood - my parents' commitment to tradition was unwavering - and I was a lucky little girl to grow up that way.

  5. Oh no, that was only the most memorable time. I trick-or-treated until I was 23. =o)


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