Rural Living


Scary reflections on a less-than-hallowed holiday

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

I’ve been writing this column for 10 years now. Every October, I am stumped. The editor always reminds me my column was due “yesterday.” I always respond that I have no idea, and ask if there’s a “theme.” There never is.

But it’s October. There IS a theme, and it’s Halloween. I can’t believe I’ve never rambled on about Halloween.

It’s my least favorite holiday. That’s because, as a kid, I never got to be what I wanted at Halloween: a princess or a fairy. My mother thought a clown or a hobo was more appropriate. In retrospect, Mom was right. I am far more suited to a clown or hobo. I sometimes laughingly refer to myself as a “goddess,” but a princess? No.

Thank heavens I no longer have to “dress up” for Halloween. I do not like costumes, unless I’m wearing one on a stage. I recently attended a “Tacky Tourist” party. I wore my regular clothes, and fit right in with guests who spent hours putting their costumes together.

I really do delight at seeing little kids in costumes. Adults? Not so much. I spent too many years in Key West and San Francisco to be impressed or surprised. I have seen a man painted completely silver, on roller skates, calling himself “Mercury.” I have seen a guy on stilts, portraying Daryl Hannah in Attack of the 50-foot Woman. I think I may well have seen it all.

A few weeks ago, I did a feature story on a “womanless beauty pageant.” It was a hometown, country-boy version of what I’d seen in Fire Island and Provincetown. If I never see another fellow in an evening gown, it will be too soon.

It’s time to buy candy for trick-or-treaters. I do this now, although I haven’t had a goblin at my door in at least 10 years.

I have handed out apples, oranges, anything I could grab from the fridge or pantry, including an avocado. I won’t forget that child’s face as he peered into his basket. Talk about surprised.

In the past, I found myself surprised to discover it was Halloween. I didn’t realize it until my doorbell rang, and then it was too late. I had just moved into my San Francisco flat one Oct. 31. I was busy unpacking and had no idea it was a holiday. That night, I discovered I had a doorbell with a loudly alarming sound. I have heard fire sirens that were less jarring.

I opened the door to find a porch full of kids. None were wearing costumes, but all were holding brown paper grocery bags, and shouting “Trick or treat!” They were accompanied by hulking, scary-looking escorts. I was frightened, sure, but it wasn’t a happy, Halloween-type of feeling.

I gulped. I had absolutely nothing to give them. And they weren’t leaving until I did. Thinking fast, I spied a giant jar of change my housemate collected. So, I dropped a handful into each kid’s bag.

Word spread quickly that the crazy new neighbor lady was giving away money. The cursed doorbell was still ringing at 4 a.m.

There are few “neighborhoods” in rural locales. Houses are far-flung. Trick-or-treaters are few. We have one populous neighborhood in Bath: Bacova. It is a legendary haunt for Halloween visitors. I have heard that busloads from West Virginia have arrived to unleash sugar-crazed goblins on the place.

I was surprised again by Halloween when I lived in Millboro. The little village is also a populous place, albeit more spread out than Bacova.

When the first knock on the door came that Halloween night, I had to scramble yet again. This time, I was handing out cans of soup and jars of peanut butter.

Before long, a crowd of perhaps 40 adults and kids had gathered on my sidewalk. This time, I couldn’t hide behind the anonymity of San Francisco. These people knew very well who I was, and if I didn’t come through, well, there could be consequences.

“Let me run to the store!” I shouted to the throngs.

I hastened to the nearby Millboro General Store. I bought up every bag of candy I could find. When I returned, the crowd had swelled. I couldn’t even get into my driveway.

I exhausted my candy supply, and myself, that night. Since then, I’ve vowed to be prepared. How about a nice hard-boiled egg? You love ‘em at Easter; why not on Halloween?


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