Just because your kids leave for college doesn’t mean you have to stop celebrating Halloween. You can still put a pumpkin outside and decorate your door with cottony spider-webs or a cardboard skeleton. Greeting trick-or-treaters can still be fun long after your own children have outgrown dressing up to collect candy. When my twins were young enough for Henry and me to accompany them door to door in our apartment building, I always enjoyed seeing other adorable kids in costume and the delight on their faces as they grabbed as much candy as their parents would allow. For me, it was always interesting to see my neighbor’s kids grow and change. What costume would they choose this year? Was it home-made or store bought? Cute or silly, scary or sexy, I wondered how each child (or parent) selected a costume.
Of course, welcoming trick-or-treaters means buying those big, Halloween-sized bags of candy and paying a higher grocery bill. Hmm…I wonder how much I’ll need this year. What should I buy: Tootsie Pops, Milky Ways, Snickers, M & Ms or Skittles? I find myself choosing my twins’ favorites—Milky Ways for Max and Skittles for Sarah. At the last minute, I throw Tootsie Pops (one of my own childhood favorites) into my shopping cart. Was I buying too much? Now that my children are no longer at home to happily gobble leftovers, maybe I was going overboard. Like many other calorie-counting moms who LOVE chocolate, I didn’t want a bowl full of sweets left over for ME to consume during November. It’s bad enough (and fun enough) that I’ll probably nibble one of those Milky Ways on Halloween night. (Don’t we all?) But after that, no post-menopausal woman in her right mind wants to be tempted to snack on candy, especially if she wants to fit into her skinny jeans. According to my arthritic knee, I already take more than enough dance classes at Equinox.
Speaking of dance classes, our lovable instructor Matthew Johnson incorporated Halloween into the music and choreography of his class this past week. Much to the delight of his students, (many of us empty nesters), we danced to the Adams Family Theme and songs from the Rocky Horror Show, including: “Toucha Toucha Touch Me,” “Monster Mash” and “Time Warp.” As a baby boomer, listening to the music from that cult movie brought back happy memories of dressing up in black make-up and getting wasted in the movie theatre during my college years. Dancing “the monster mash” as a 50-something the week before Halloween has been almost as much fun as the old Rocky Horror days. Best of all was Matthew’s Halloween class finale. As “Thriller” played, our dance teacher slipped on a pair of dark sunglasses and a silver sequined glove— transforming himself into a convincing Michael Jackson, moonwalk and all! So much FUN.
Halloween brings back so many memories. As a seven year old, I remember dressing up as Morticia Addams from the Addams Family (easy to do with my naturally, ghost-white skin and dark hair). (Maybe you were Uncle Fester or Gomez)? When I got a little older, my parents dressed me as a flamenco dancer in a red and white polka dotted outfit, holding a fan, with my hair piled into a bun. (My mom still has that black and white Halloween picture inher long-empty nest). I also remember creating what I believed would be the winning Halloween costume for a contest in my elementary school. After hours of meticulously cutting, pasting and stapling construction paper and tinfoil onto oak tag, I became an Ever Ready battery. The logo with the nine came out perfectly! Unfortunately, I didn’t win the contest and don’t remember who did, but I was very proud of myself for that costume.
If you’re a recent empty nester and Halloween makes you sad, just forget about it. Lock the door and go out for a sushi dinner with your spouse or partner. If you’re a pet lover, another alternative is to dress up with your pooch in matching outfits. A middle-aged woman I know is planning to dress her Maltese in a “bad girl” costume to match her own. But beware, cat owners! No self-respecting feline will submit to a Halloween costume without biting and trying to scratch your eyes out before you can say “meow.” I tried to slip a costume on Pumpkin once, (my childhood calico kitty), and ended up with a bloody arm.
Living without pets and children on Halloween isn’t so bad. It’s true that the days of cute costumes –and snapping adorable pictures of my children wearing them—are over. But so too are the heated arguments with my twins over how much candy can be eaten in a single evening. No more waiting for our slow, overcrowded elevators on Halloween night, or sweating on stairways because we’re in too big a hurry. If you don’t believe me, just check out my essay, “Halloween Hell,” published this week on-line at Halloween Hell | Wild Violet online literary magazine and you’ll see why being an empty nester on this holiday can be a pleasure. Although I will always miss Sparky (our Norwich Terrier who died earlier this year), I have fond memories of helping Max dress him as Wonder Dog one Halloween. This year I will enjoy the steady parade of children and parents ringing my doorbell without worrying that Sparky might nose his way into a closet or cabinet to devour toxic amounts of chocolate and end up at an Animal Hospital (which happened twice). I’m curious to see how many boys in my building are dressed as Ninjas and how many girls chose to be Elsa from “Frozen.” According to Ricky’s on East 75th Street near me, these were the best-selling Halloween costumes in 2014. (No, the Hazmat suits were not big hits, despite the arrival of Ebola in the Big Apple.) Tonight I’m hoping to empty my candy container in less than two hours. If I’m too tired to answer the door after that, I’ll just abandon the bowl outside, knowing that the contents will magically disappear by morning.