I spot the hills    
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.
~Carl SandburgI read a story on the internet about children’s Halloween costumes becoming too sexy.  Indeed, when I looked further, there were pictures of scantily clad little girls in costumes that vaguely resembled outfits worn by exotic dancers.  It made me sad.

When I was a little girl, I loved the excitement of Halloween and the prospects of trick-or-treating.  We fashioned costumes from clothing and accessories we already owned- a scarf and a gold hoop earring for a pirate, burnt cork and a shirt from the rag bag for a hobo.  It was the only time of the year we were allowed to wear makeup and I practically trembled as I drew my mother’s red lipstick across my mouth, blotting it on a tissue, and hoping it would not entirely wash off before school the next day.

The naked trees that lined Green Street were draped with toilet paper that drifted in the breeze like silent ghosts. My siblings and I paraded down Green Street, chorusing “Trick-or-treat!” and holding our pillow cases out to catch candy, cookies and apples. It was thrilling to dress in costumes and masks, and become someone else for an evening.  It was thrilling to be out after dark and to sneak peeks at the moon in case a witch flew by on her broom.  It was more thrilling to know there would be a candy bar in my lunch the next day.  I would sift through my goodies, keeping the “good stuff” (AKA chocolate) and throwing out the broken bits of popcorn ball that lay in the bottom of the bag.

When I had children of my own, we prepared for Halloween much as I had as a child.  We made our own costumes- aliens from outer space, princesses, and of course, hippies.  My daughters found the embroidered jeans jacket I wore in college and beads I had “borrowed” from my older sister during the 60s.  All it took was a little face paint to transform them into miniature versions of their mother and aunt.

Like generations before us, we carved pumpkins to make glowing jack-o-lanterns to welcome costumed children who trooped through our housing development to garner as much booty as their bags would hold.  My children would join them, returning with flushed cheeks and excited plans for stashing candy bars in their lunch boxes for school the next day.  They would empty their bags into a large bowl, and for the next week, everyone was allowed to gorge himself on sweets that ruined suppers and brought a gleam to our dentist’s eye.  I consoled myself with the reminder that it was only once a year, and besides, when the kids went to bed, I would snitch a candy bar from their cache.

I can’t figure out if things have changed that much since my kids were young, or if I just didn’t pay attention to the ads in the newspaper flyers.  It does seem that Halloween has become another opportunity for American commercialism to steal our children’s innocent fun.  But as parents, we get to make the rules.  We can sift through the bag and find the good stuff.  It’s all what we put into it- what we decide will matter.  For me, I’ll always cherish the memories of painting faces, sorting candy and lighting jack-o-lanterns.

And I do swear I saw a witch fly across the sky one enchanted Halloween night.

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