Keeping the Ween in Halloween
Most times, being in Target just made me feel really gross. But I have one memory of shopping there that I absolutely cherish.
I’ve always loved Halloween, so I was super excited to learn that my baby was due on Halloween. One of the many things I naively assumed about my pregnancy was that the baby would certainly be born on her awesome due date. She was not. She was late.
When she was turning five, my daughter wanted to have a Halloween party for her birthday. To me, a week past Halloween seemed like a great time to throw a Halloween party. Most kids would still have their costumes hanging around and would love a last chance to wear them. Plus, Halloween stuff would be on deep discount.
A few days before the party, we went to Target. We headed straight to the Halloween closeout section and loaded up our shopping cart with round orange treat buckets bearing jack-o-lantern grins, which we planned to use as party favors. We headed towards the checkout with pumpkin buckets piled gloriously high in the cart, in our arms, and on the cart’s lower rack and built-in child seat. Our progress through the aisles was slow because some of the pumpkins kept rolling off the cart but we were carrying too many more and laughing too hard to chase them effectively. Shoppers and employees stared. Maybe they all thought we were crazy but at the time I thought they were just jealous, out buying shampoo and dog food while we clearly had the most fun Target cart contents EVER.
When we finally reached the register, I was so elated to be spending just eight dollars on thirty-two pumpkin buckets that I couldn’t even be serious when the cashier wondered how the hell she was supposed to bag them. We tossed the loose pumpkin buckets into the Subaru and just barely got the hatchback closed. The pumpkins seemed to laugh with us all the way home, their grinning faces pressed tightly against the window glass.
Some of those pumpkin buckets are still hanging around our house, but I don’t feel the same way about them as I do other miscellaneous crap from Target. They always look cheerful and are actually utilitarian containers. We hosted another Halloween party this past weekend, and were able to use them for kids’ candy once more.
Americans now spend seven billion dollars annually on Halloween. I know I’ve certainly spent my share of that over the years. It’s my favorite holiday and I tend to celebrate it in grand fashion. Once in the late Nineties I spent all my rent money on Halloween but gladly waitressed almost nonstop the first week in November to keep my check from bouncing. Exhausting, but totally worth it.
Looking back over a lifetime of awesome Halloweens, I think something has changed about the way we spend money and celebrate the day. The thing I love most about Halloween is that it’s an equal opportunity holiday when anyone can be anything they want, when we embrace our inner demons and beg for candy in the streets. It’s the one day of the year when everyone gets to be creative in ways daily life doesn’t offer most of us, from carving faces into pumpkins to executing a clever costume idea and then acting the part.
I’ve always enjoyed and excelled at Halloween, for I’ve always been a drama queen addicted to the thrift store and the sewing machine. I didn’t have much money growing up, but Halloween was the one day that leveled the playing field. I didn’t have any resources or finances or common sense when I was in my 20’s, but my Halloween extravagances were legendary and I still don’t regret them. Always knowing I can conjure up a memorable Halloween is just part of who I am. Jobless in recently-post-9-11 DC, I was able to pay my bills for a brief season by improvising self-employment as a “Halloween Consultant”.
These days my daughter, when I attempt to engage her in a dialogue about costume possibilities, asks to be taken to “the Halloween Store”, a recent retail phenomenon wherein a temporary emporium of Halloween-specific merchandise pops up in an ailing strip mall for a couple months each year.
There’s always much ado about the commercialism of Christmas, keeping Christ in Christmas, remembering the Reason for the Season, etc. in December, but for the thinly veiled paganism and hedonism of All Hallows’ Eve, I think it is more appropriate to honor my hometown heroes of long ago by “Keeping the Ween in Halloween”. Do it yourself, even if no one gets it but you. If someone offers you a record deal, a Sega Genesis, and an apartment in Trenton, all in the same day you better thank your lucky stars and Sassy Magazine for letting you keep it real even if you are not that cute in real life.
Just the other day I realized that the town of Homestead, PA where I now do business is the perfect place for Halloween shopping, well-planned or last-minute. There’s an old-school candy store next door to a bar that purports to be “Your Pumpkin Beer HQ”. There is an Adult Novelty store, where all those “SEXY Insert Non-PC Archetype Here” lingerie-style costumes are available year round, a wig shop, and plenty of hipster thrift.
So in the few minutes that are left in this Halloween, please join me in paying homage to the true spirit of the season. Raise a glass of Weyerbacher pumpkin ale to Aaron and Mickey, aka Gene and Dean. Life outside the basement is OK, if you love chocolate and cheese.