Thursday, 31 October 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 31, 2013

It's Halloween, 
The lamp is lit, 
And round the fire the children sit 
Telling ghost tales bit by bit, 
“Til sister Jane says, “shush!” 

Who’s that knocking on the kitchen door? 
Who’s that creeping across the bedroom floor? 
Who’s that coughing like his throat is sore? 
It’s a goblin! 

I was taught this song in Grade 4 by a very skillful teacher, Mrs. Price. I recall she dimmed the lights in the classroom and added an unexpected sound effect or two! Perhaps that's why the song is etched so clearly in my memory bank.

In school back then there were no costume parades or parties but there was no shortage of Halloween themed activities, from art and music to reading, writing and yes even arithmetic. A whole week of decorations, singing, stories and math problems featuring ghosts, goblins, witches and jack-o-lanterns. It was fun and a great run up for the big night.

Honestly, I would have been horrified if I had to wear my costume IN THE DAYLIGHT, IN SCHOOL! That would have been enough to bring on a sore tummy on the morning before school for sure. My preferred characters for Trick or Treating were pirates, gypsies and tramps (no thieves - lol), and the outfits were hobbled together from stuff in the house an hour or so before heading out. The one exception was the very special year my parents bought me a pirate costume. Dad made the eye patch. My Mom was not a seamstress, but she did know a thing or two about makeup. There was an awful lot she could do with a burnt cork, baby powder and red lipstick. She also had that big jar of cold cream for getting all the stuff off afterward.

Mom's speciality at Halloween, at any time actually, was conjured up in the kitchen. Beyond the orange and black wrapped candies, apples, peanuts in the shell and packages of sunflower seeds, many of the treats were homemade and every kid knew which house in the neighbourhood had the best ones. For years, our house was #1. Mom made popcorn balls, rounds of white popcorn held together by molasses syrup boiled to the hard crack stage. With buttered hands so the hot syrup didn't stick, Mom quickly assembled the hardball sized treats. The hot syrup always burned her hands no matter how fast she worked.

Gone now are such delectables, even the apples and peanuts are absent from the treat bag; there will be more zombies and vampires out tonight than pirates and tramps and it's been a very long time since I've heard anyone utter my childhood chant, "Shell out! Shell out! The witches are out!", but still it's Halloween. The pumpkins are carved and soon candlelight and darkness will bring the jack-o-lanterns to life. Soon there will be the stomp of feet on the porch and then those magic words:

(with a just as magic 'Thank you' after treats are given)

It's looking to be a dark and stormy night in these parts. Be careful out there.

Our very own Sherlock Holmes is already on the look out
for things that go bump in the night.

©2013 April Hoeller

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