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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Writer's Post: Ghosts of Halloweens Past

Once upon a Halloween, I was a kid who didn't need parents to escort me from door to door, nor did I wear expensive store-bought costumes. After someone brought me a poncho from Mexico, I was a Mexican Hat Dancer for three years. Of course being a hat dancer meant planning a routine because someone would always ask me for a trick. 

Get it? "Trick or Treat." In the St. Louis of the 1960s that expression meant exactly what it said. Kids rang the doorbell, said "Trick or Treat," and gave the homeowner a choice: Give candy immediately or ask for a trick. As a Mexican Hat Dancer, I did a dance. In other years, I wandered the neighborhood with a joke to tell. 

When I mention this tradition around Memphis, people look at me cross-eyed. That's not the only Halloween culture clash from moving 300 miles south. The first time my husband left to take our son trick-or-treating, he came home and asked, "Did you give out a candy?"
My kids: Halloween 1995

I said, "Sure. I gave out lots of candy. One to this kid, another to that."

He said, "But did you give out a candy?"

I hadn't a clue that he was trying to find out whether or not we had candy left. Go figure. We've yet to give out a candy, except for the year that the neighbors threw a huge party with gazillion kids, but didn't tell anyone they were coming.

Another Halloween memory of mine was Mrs. Zimmerman's Donuts. Every year, David's mom made homemade donuts that she'd give to all the children. I never ate one. 

Kids can be quite literal, and that I was when Mom always said, "Never eat anything unwrapped." So year after year I'd skip those sweet smelling snacks that all the kids would go out of their way for. If I could go back in time, I'd eat one of her donuts on Halloween; but, it's not all bad. The memory of skipping donuts inspired my latest novel. I wonder if this manuscript would even exist if I'd eaten a donut. I also wonder if her son, who grew up to be a chef, bakes these donuts on Halloween. If he does, I just might have to go to St. Louis and ring his bell.


Precy Larkins said...

Wouldn't it be fun if people still do the actual "trick or treat" thing? Make the kids work for their candy LOL!

Pretty amazing how a memory can inspire our writing. Thanks for sharing your Halloween memories. :)

Chasing Joy said...

I would not have been allowed to eat the donuts either. Its funny that you say not eating them has inspired your novel. It is really true that it's not always what we do but sometimes what we don't do that makes all the difference.

Rhonda said...

Most houses here in NZ don't do Halloween at all, but the ones that do, often give out unwrapped candy or homemade biscuits (cookies).

Catch My Words said...

Years later my mom said, "Mrs. Zimmerman? You could have eaten donuts from Mrs. Zimmerman!"

Sandee said...

How cute. We all have a different take on Halloween.

Have a terrific day. :)

Anonymous said...

Our town did Halloween the Saturday afternoon closet to Halloween so kids wouldn't be running around after dark. Now they changed it to Halloween evening. Yeah...

And as years go by, I noticed that a lot of kids don't bother dressing up. If I'm giving out candy I'm so tempted NOT to give any out of them...or worse yet, parents who expect to get candy as well.

Actually, truthfully...thanks to all this I actually HATE Halloween.

Catch My Words said...

Thanks for the comments! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year.

unikorna said...

Lovely memories Joyce. I have to admit I never thought you had such big kids..... You have such a young spirit and probably great genes :). Kisses.

Jo said...

Freshly made donuts mmmmmmmmmm. I wouldn't have eaten them either, unless, of course, I knew the maker! lol
My mom used to just have a fit if people gave us homemade stuff and we didn't know them. I'm pretty sure I ate some fudge and some caramel apples that weren't "safe" but they were good!

The Host said...

My daughter is dressing up as a dinosaur. If asked, her "trick" is singing the "I Love You" song from Barney. Is that mean to unsuspecting neighbours who will have that song stuck in their heads for days? Perhaps. But *I* find it amusing.

Jenn said...

When I was a kid--I always hoped they would ask me to do a trick. After awhile, you figured out it was all treats!

Great post!! Jenn.

The Sisters' Hood said...

We just had this conversation while trick or treating - no one says trick!!!
Thank you so much for linking up to Howlerific halloween #BOO, so far behind over here with a week in DC and then a conference that had no internet (yes, a social media conference with no internet lol)
Thank you ...loving trick or treating today with a big bag of candy by my side ;)