With Halloween right around the corner, memories of my childhood come flooding back. My mother never did any holiday on a small scale, and there is one particular Halloween that brings me a warm, fuzzy feeling, while at the same time, sending chills up my spine.
My parents had very active social lives when I was little. They often went to parties with their friends, on vacation, to play tennis…if it was fun, chances are pretty good they were involved. I was always mystified at the things that could be happening while they were out – I was sure they were having fun, because they always came home smiling, their faces flushed with the excitement of the evening – and I thought of the elegant parties you see in movies…women in fancy dresses and men in suits, a live band playing in the background, couples dancing…that kind of thing.
I think I was somewhere around 6- or 7-years-old at the time, and I was bursting with anticipation because my parents had decided to throw a family-wide Halloween party. I had seen them get dressed up in fancy costumes for adult Halloween parties before, but had never attended one with them, so this was really going to be something big! I was being let in on a little slice of the grown-up fun that I was so enchanted by. I don’t remember what any of us dressed up as that year, but I do remember them going to parties dressed as cave people, and even one year as a plug (dad) and outlet (mum). They were very clever.
I was soon to find out just how very clever they really were.
Our entire family was coming to our house. My mother had decorated inside and out with pumpkins, cornstalks, scarecrows, and all the typical homey fall decor you see in nice neighborhoods. The air outside was damp, with the chill of the upcoming winter on its breath, and we could smell the leaves and the smoke from early-season fires in the air. The house began to fill with aunts, uncles and cousins we always enjoyed spending time with, and the house became crowded…the kind of crowded that warms the heart with thoughts of family, food and fun.
My cousin Erica and I were having fun wandering around the house eavesdropping on adult conversations, when our Space Trolley – which is basically a zip-line with a place to sit while you hang on – went flying through the yard with a shirt on it so it would look ghostly. We laughed, and thought it was fun, and went on flitting from group to group hoping to hear something interesting.
A short while later, a ghostly specter roamed through the yard, sending us screaming and terrified into the only room in the house that had no windows – the basement rec-room. We were girlishly freaking out when one of our youngest uncles came in and suggested we figure out how many people were supposed to be in the house, then count everyone who actually was in the house to figure out if someone was trying to play a trick on us.
He was right. My Uncle Ed had gone outside with a white sheet to scare us.
After breathing a heavy sigh of relief, followed by some nervous laughter about how scared we had been, all returned to normal…although we definitely had our guard up at this point.
After nightfall, a somewhat larger ghostly figure with a pumpkin in place of a head roamed through the yard…it turned out to be my dad…we were on to them! Erica and I started wandering the house trying to find out what ghastly scheme they would try to put over on us next. At least an hour had passed, and no one had gone mysteriously missing, the grown-ups were insisting they had no more tricks up their sleeves, and we had given up. The thrill of trying to catch the grown-ups in the act of attempting to scare us was over.
Then, it started to rain – the water pouring out of the sky came down so fast and hard that it seemed as though a giant was standing over the house with an enormous watering can. We were filled with disappointment. This had been the first night we had been allowed to run loose in our yard after dark without being surrounded by parents, and we were left feeling deflated.
Then, there was a loud bang. It seemed to be coming from outside the house. Erica and I didn’t think anyone would be silly enough to be outside during the downpour, but went around and counted everyone…just to be safe. Wait a second…no one was missing. We went and counted again, and everyone was accounted for.
We approached my Uncle Ed, and explained what was happening. We were trying our hardest not to be scared – we didn’t want them to trick us again – when there was another loud BANG. He assured us that it was nothing more than a branch being blown against the house. I began to protest when there was another…then another bang. They were coming closer together and getting louder. We ran through the house – checking to see if someone was trying to hide and was banging on inside walls just to scare us. The hair on our necks stood on end as we realized there was no one inside who could have been the culprit. There. Was. Something. OUT. THERE.
We ran to my parents – virtually screaming and in tears – when the side door flew open…
And in walked my beloved babysitter and her best friend!