Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Few Favorite Halloween Memories in 1963 Oklahoma & Alaska from 1996 to 2002

     Halloween has been always one of my very favorite holidays. When else can one go to someone’s door that they don’t know, knock on it and hope it opens and to be given something for nothing, just to make you go away? Granted one does have the obligation to dress for the occasion, either by making an investment in time and or money to create a costume. However, if a trick or treating soul plays their cards right, the initial investment will more than pay off in pounds and pounds of candy and goodies for their efforts and the candy can last well into the Christmas season and longer.

      My first memorable Halloween was when I was 14 in 1963 in Chelsea, Oklahoma. I was living for the third extended time with my grandparents. After six years bouncing from place to place between Missouri and California with my parents and four younger siblings, two years of which were in a foster home in Artesia, a suburb of Los Angeles where I attended 7th and 8th grade, I was more than ready to be “home” again. That fall Grandma Alta who was almost 60 and myself in 9th grade decided to go “trick or treating”! I never gave a thought that perhaps we were both too old. Maybe because I always liked getting free stuff and being genetically related Grandma must of too. I dressed as a gypsy and Grandma a pirate with a black eye patch. We made our costumes and headed out, going door to door in the small NE Oklahoma town of 1,600. Most people had no idea who we were until at one house they asked if they could see Grandma Alta‘s, the pirate’s hands. Grandma had vitiligo, a common autoimmune skin disorder in which white spots appear on the skin usually occurring on both sides of the body in the same location. The disease has been around for thousands of years and occurs in 1-2% of the population. Unfortunately, for my Cherokee Grandmother with dark skin, these white patches were a dead give away who she was, once her hands and arms were revealed. Nonetheless, we had a great time, got lots of freebies, fooled many folks and I learned that one is never too old to go door to door begging on Halloween as long as you can still get up and go.

Our niece, Ariana in her witch's costume - Halloween 1996
     It would be 30 plus years before I would continue this tradition in Alaska. In 1996 my brother Abe’s children, a niece and nephew came to live with my husband Joe and I for the year so their Mother could return to school in Oklahoma to study to be a nurse. She had enough of my brother’s laziness and living off the government and divorced him a year or two earlier. Joe and I took the two, Ariana and Ben, door to door on Halloween in the old established part of Anchorage, Turnagain.. The two siblings did well and gathered about 5 pounds of candy each. That year we learned where to go for the best treats and who to avoid.

 Ariana, Ben &
Mt. Mckinley, Talkeetna, AK
October 1996
Ben, Aunt Mary & Ariana - Halloween 1996

Uncle Joe & Ariana with their carved pumpkin
     Half way through the year my poor fragile niece decided she had enough of my rules and regulations. She was depressed and although we tried to get her the psychological help she needed, it wasn’t enough. She returned half way through 7th grade to Oklahoma to live with my younger sister and that didn‘t work either. Ben, my nephew was another story. He lasted the year, made straight As in sixth grade at Turnagain Elementary and was a true joy. After Ben left in the summer of 1997 we decided to give another shot at adopting an older child. It would turn out to be pretty much a nightmare with a few good memories and consequences intermingled. It did keep the Halloween tradition of old folks trick or treating with the young alive, especially for my husband Joe that brought in 7 pounds with our adopted son John when he was in sixth grade. That was the year, 2000, when we had the “haunted bookshop” during the Turnagain School Carnival with many of the leftover books donated from our former bookstore, the Alaskan Renaissance.

     We met John in Aberdeen, Washington September 16, 1998 and within a week he returned to Anchorage with us. He was 9 years old and living in foster care for a couple of years in multiple foster homes. John was artistic but he couldn‘t read or count to more than 10 on his hands. We fixed this problem and he was on the honor roll eventually while with us, but the emotional damage he suffered we couldn‘t fix or anyone else including a multitude of psychologists and therapists.

     He, his brother and two sisters were taken away from the biological father and his girlfriend after his Mother left them with him. John came from a long line of petty criminals and was an example of ignorance breeding ignorance. His Mom decided to take back the two girls and give John and his younger brother up for adoption because she wasn‘t up to raising boys. Guess she should have thought of that before she had them, but ignorance is bliss. On the other hand I knew from the start John and I just didn‘t click. We tried and I knew what my Grandparents had done for me and I wanted to pass it on. Little did I realize that I had bonded with them as an infant living there my first two years and again in first and second grade. However, once a child is nine years old it is next to impossible to bond with them, especially if the parents are still alive as in John‘s case.

     Now if there is ever one thing that will help a person bond with a child, it is probably candy and its retrieval. John had not been here much longer than a month when Joe, John, Moonshine and I went on our first Halloween trick or treating event. John wore my nephew’s costume from 2 years earlier the first year. He collected enough candy that he was happy temporarily. The next year we continued the tradition and John entered a Monster drawing contest at Great Harvest Bread Company and won free cookies for his entire 5th grade class at Turnagain. John however wasn’t too comfortable being a success, but he was from time to time whether he liked it or not. After that, Great Harvest Bread Co. became part of our Halloween tradition up until John was in 8th grade and he outgrew it and us as well.

     These days we still frequent Great Harvest. There is a one cookie per Halloween drawing entry now, no mega winners like in 1999 when the bakery was still a newbie in Anchorage. Great Harvest is an exceptionally generous business, giving out huge slices of bread to all visitors since their inception, no purchase required. They even try to return your money and give you a new loaf of bread if you aren‘t satisfied with a selection. That is over the top for even tight wad me and where I draw the line on something for nothing.

Memoir - Mary Alta Buckingham - October 29, 2012

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