The October air was crisp and grey, and it swirled the first few flakes of a building snowfall onto a cavalcade of campaign signs near the DeMers Bridge. In the car, my husband took my hand.
“Don’t be mad,” he twisted my wedding ring. “But think it’s going to be cold on Halloween.”
Outside, the wind began to howl.
“Crap,” I said.
I love Halloween. If it was socially acceptable, I would wear a costume every day to work. I am very friendly and require little to no encouragement to knock on someone’s door. Orange is one of my favorite colors.
Also, I know the value of candy. When I was growing up 15,000 years ago, there weren’t mid-October Trunk-or-Treats or Touch-a-Trucks or any of the host of carnivals and community events that dump candy on my kids on a weekly basis. If you wanted free sugar in Grand Forks, you had two opportunities: the Potato Bowl Parade and Halloween.
These two events were doubly-important to my sister and me, as our mother was a Mommy Health Warrior looong before the word “organic” became a compliment. We were the kids with cabinets full of carob, nature’s punishment. Artificial colors never crossed our doorstep. As a result, we chose our friends based on our chances of getting Kool-Aid and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese during a playdate and actually needed the sugar-high of Halloween to carry us through to the following Fall.
Which brings me to 1991. I was 11, and it was becoming clear that it would be my last year trick-or-treating. Some of my friends had already decided to stay home and hand out candy, and I had used my little sister (“Like, someone has to go with Erica!”) as my excuse for one more sugar-filled hurrah. To make sure it was a night to remember, I decided to go all-in on what I knew to be the perfect costume: a Central High School cheerleader.
I’m pretty sure it would have been faster to become a gymnast, try out for the cheerleading squad, make the cheerleading squad, and then be issued a real uniform than spend the time it took for me to actually put together my costume. There was sewing. There was Rit-dyeing. I’d washed my sneakers. It was a labor of love – a glorious, maroon-and-grey labor of love.
However, for each pom-pom that I carefully glued to my plastic pumpkin, the temperature outside dropped a degree. By October 30th, the newspaper had stopped lamenting unseasonable cold and had started to warn of an autumn blizzard.
And then, on Halloween, it began to snow.
“You may want to think about a different costume,” our mother told us at dinner. “Something warm.”
“How about going as the Marshmallow Man?” our dad suggested.
“Daadd, no, ugh,” I said. “Can’t you just drive us?”
“No,” our dad laughed. “You want the candy, you do the work.”
“Regardless, you absolutely need a coat and snowpants,” our mom stated in her “and-that’s-that” voice.
I threw down my tofu burger. “No one will see my costume!”
Mom was no monster. “Wear what you want,” she sighed, “but you have to have on the equivalent of winter gear.”
After much discussion, I went upstairs and put on the agreed-upon solution: long-johns under sweatpants under my tights under my skirt; long underwear under my sweatshirt under my vest; ear muffs atop my beribboned ponytail; an off-brand scarf; two pairs of socks; mittens; and my uncompromised sneakers. Ol’ dad hadn’t been far off with the Marshmallow Man.
“Are you sure you want to go?” Our mother asked as I attempted to pick up my pumpkin in my mitts. “You can just have some of our candy here.” She gestured to a bowl full of plain Hershey bars. My sister, sensibly dressed in a snowsuit and a Strawberry Shortcake mask and not one for cold, seemed intrigued.
“We have to go,” I was resolute.
We set out into night. Or, what was probably night, as it was snowing so hard that everything was white. Through the driving flakes, the front light of the neighboring house glowed like a beacon of hope. We trudged forward, our father following close behind in our car.
We rang the doorbell. “Trick or treat!” we yelled through our scarves.
Our neighbor dumped most of her candy into our pumpkins. “Good luck, girls,” she said, waving to our dad.
In the end, we went to three houses before our father took pity on us and drove us to our grandparents’, where we ate chocolate chip cookies and drank Cokes with ice before throwing in the Halloween towel and going home. Our mom let us keep the Hershey bars anyway.
Despite the early winter warning, Halloween 2018 was lovely: no snow, no wind, and candy and decorations as far as the eye could see. My own children ran out of room in their plastic pumpkins before they ran out of steam. And tonight, we’ll celebrate with chocolate chip cookies, and maybe one or two plain Hershey bars – and make a little wish for a warm Thanksgiving.
By Amanda Silverman Kosior, (c) 2018