My little sister B always had the best costumes. She was David Bowie, Charlie Chaplin, and a horse. The horse was a triumph of engineering. My father carved a life-size, hollow horse’s head from a block of foam and crafted a body out of chicken wire. When she was assembled, B was the size–and unwieldy shape–of a real pony. It rained that year, so we had to drive from house to house and dismantle B every time she got back in the car.
My mother made all of our costumes until we were old enough to make our own. I was a purple dragon long before Barney existed.
I grew up in a colonial farmhouse from 1777. It is at the top of the tallest hill in Mystic, at the end of the longest driveway in the world. Its historical name is Slaughter Hill Farm. We never got trick-or-treaters.
My father always wanted trick-or-treaters. Every year the week before Halloween, he decorated the seven-foot stone posts at the head of our driveway. They were ghosts and goblins and scarecrows and headless horsemen, but my father was particularly proud of his dead skiers. Their arms and legs were wrapped around the stones, their pumpkin heads were thrown back in agony, and their skis had flown off and were sticking out of the grass like grave markers. The kids on my school bus thought I was cool for a whole week.
Despite the stone post monsters, we never did get trick-or-treaters. But my father continued to hope. Every year, he filled the plastic pumpkin bowl with candy and waited at the kitchen table for the littles ones to find their way up the driveway. But no one ever came. He still fills the pumpkin bowl and waits, though I’m pretty sure he no longer expects anyone.
When my mother made my costumes, I was Little Red Riding Hood, a purple dragon, and the Queen of Hearts. When I made my costumes, I was a dead princess, a gypsy, and a robot. Her costumes were definitely better.
We went trick-or-treating in Stonington Borough, an idyllic seaside town with rocky beaches, a lighthouse, and a cannon from the War of 1812. Stonington residents are as old as their houses. We’d unload our bags at the end of the night to find the same “treats” every year: a ziplock bag of pennies, a handmade popcorn ball, a handmade popcorn string, a ziplock bag of popcorn, an apple, and a toothbrush.
When B and I were very little, we were in the Stonigton Borough Halloween parade. We sat in a red wagon and waved to the crowd.
This year, my parents went to the Halloween parade to look at the costumes and reminisce. And then they filled the plastic pumpkin bowl with candy and waited for the trick-or-treaters.