halloween was terrifying. one year mom and dad went out on halloween night and told my little brother and i that, should any halloweenies (jewish mom-speak for “trick-or-treat-ers”) ring the bell, we should give them a handful of candy from a bowl by the door.
the sun began to set and sure enough, the doorbell rang and aside from the persistent ringing, there was an eerie silence outside – no sounds of kids talking or laughing, no rustling of candy baskets or heavy witch robes. my little brother and i turned off the tv and crouched together in a corner behind the couch till the ringing stopped.
we didn’t celebrate halloween because we were orthodox jews. our dress-up holiday was purim, during which we also ate lots of sweets, but instead of going out to collect gifts, we delivered them to other people, and we got baskets of goodies in return. i do not recall even one of my purim costumes growing up.
this year for halloween i am thinking of being Hothead Piasan, which would only require that i track down a pair of tight acid-wash jeans and some kind of fake weapon (an axe? grenade? machete?). all the other ingredients to the costume i have: boots, leather jacket, thick belt, bandana, coffee habit, irritated grimace, bad attitude.
halloween was one of those things i was raised to be scared of. like going into the city (New York; what other city *is* there?). halloween, especially Mischief Night, was supposedly very dangerous. if one went out, one could be besieged by rolls of toilet paper or eggs or worse. for trips into the city as a teenager, mom said to take the cell phone, dial 911, and to keep the phone in my pocket with my finger on the send button so that i wouldn’t have the terrible hassle of trying to dial those three numbers should i be attacked. mom told me to practice my “city face” and to wear it at all times, and to hone a “city walk” and use it even if i was desperately lost.
when i first moved to portland, oregon it took several trips to downtown before i realized that it was alright to return the smiles of strangers, to relax my posture and explore without clenching my jaw and stiffening my hips as i walked. portland was not that kind of city. and new york probably wasn’t either.
i like halloween now. and traversing city streets alone.