She sat on the long, concrete driveway, bowl of candy in her lap, dishing out handful after handful as the kids just kept coming. The eerie music, chains and screams blared from the front window through old crackling speakers. To the left in the grey-rocked cactus garden stood life-sized mannequins wearing Halloween garb, scary masks, pumpkins, skulls and black crows. Within the trees hung ghosts and cobwebs. Flickering lights, dry ice smoke and Matilda.
Matilda was a semi-permanent member of our family. Crafted from tree branches covered in baked paper-mache crafted to look like peeling skin. Skeleton face, long white wedding gown splattered with red paint-blood. She sat in an old rocker, skeleton baby in her arms, white flowing hair long and chaotic…
Slowly rocking …creaking, creaking, creaking.
Sidebar: Back in the day of Fuller-Brush men who went door to door selling mops, cleaners and special degreasers, the doorbell rang and he began his sales pitch. As he looked over my mother’s shoulder, he saw Matilda, arms hanging out of the open oven cooking the paper-mache to its skin-peeling perfection. Wide-eyed, he quickly summed up is sales pitch and scurried away.
Back to the story: mom sat on her well scripted, authentic and scary driveway, as a black cat slowly sauntered across the driveway. Lights flickered and the unmistakable croaking of a toad pierced the air. Yep, time to close-up shop and head inside.
All Hallows Eve – the time the veil between this world and the “other” world is lifted. Known as All Saints’ Eve, it is a celebration of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the three-day observance of All Hallowtide, the liturgical time dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs, and all the faithful.
The present-day custom of wearing costumes and trick-or-treating closely relates to the Medieval practices of “mumming” and “going a-souling” on the eves of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).
For mumming you paraded around in costume, chanting, singing, play-acting and making mischief.
Souling involved children and poor beggars going door to door saying prayers and singing psalms and songs for the dead in exchange for treats, particularly soul cakes – a small round cake, like a biscuit, traditionally made for All Souls Day.
Mom embraced All Hallows Eve – Halloween. I think it was the creativity. It began with being that PTA volunteer for the Halloween Carnival. No one stepped up for the haunted house, hence came six or seven years of haunted house construction.
She never did the gore, but she was a master of scare. Of course, you could walk in our garage anytime of the year and find bits and pieces of mannequins, masks, spiders, partitions and random All Hallows splattered everywhere.
When I was maybe 8-years-old, my sister and I sat in the living room a month or so before Halloween. Suddenly mom appeared from the bedroom, wearing a hot pink flowy nightgown, hair teased upright and on-end, eyelids purple and green, face white and pale. She wafted into the room, ghostly noises filled the air.
As my sister and I squealed in glee, we heard from the front of the house the unmistakable sound of steps against the gravel in the long cactus garden. Being a single mom, she leapt into action as any single parent would.
Grabbing her Bonsai sword kept hidden behind the front door, she crept onto the driveway to find a drunken stranger urinating behind the century plant. Unsheathing the sword, waiving it in the air, she charged the driveway roaring “Bonsai, you die.”
Our drunken friend ran down the street at breakneck speed. I suspect he is still running 45 years later. As mom reached the end of the driveway … pink flowing gown, painted face, teased hair and wielding her Bonsai sword…she suddenly remembered the neighbors and crept back into the house, quickly turning off the porch light.
The tales of Halloweens gone by in the Jordan household contain multiple twists and turns, more than a few creepy moments and our share of things still gone unexplained. But mom always kept it interesting.