I am a big fan of Halloween. From the other side of the door, I witnessed childhood in its full regalia: Eerie monsters demanding treats; a flapper swinging a boa; a Barbie doll, her blonde hair concealing the redheaded girl beneath, bobbing unsteadily in a pair of Barbie's signature shoes. I handed out candy to ferocious lions and make-believe tigers flanking a mini-Spiderman, who asked if he could snag not one, but two Reese's Peanut Butter cups. I trembled appropriately, and honored his request. You don't want to mess with Spiderman.
I feigned fear when a boy in a cop costume flashed his badge and scanned my inventory of treats, or the ominous-looking gun moll with her gangster cohort, who meant business, pawing at the chocolate bars and making me an offer I couldn't refuse.
During my daughter Lizzie's early years, I was the mother who went Trick-or-Treating with the kids -- the one night of the year when my fantasies were realized, and I, the willing participant, could dress up and pretend I was someone other than "mom," and got to eat candy in the process.
Together, we headed out into the crisp October night adorned in our costumes of choice. We scoured the neighborhood, I, dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, my shiny red shoes sparkling in the autumn moonlight. Another Halloween, I was the quintessential Superwoman; the alpha-female ready to take on whatever predators lurked on the streets of our little town.
One election year, I emerged as Bill Clinton, asking everyone to vote Democratic. An ornery Republican threw one Hershey kiss into my bag, narrowly missing my foot as the door closed sharply behind us.
Halloween rendered me brazen and relentless. And because I was hidden behind a mask, my true identity was never revealed. I was in the protective custody of whatever character I represented.
As she matured, Lizzie suddenly found my behavior startling and embarrassing. Her friends thought I was "cool" -- one of the gang -- as we gathered en masse repeating the age-old refrain, "Trick or Treat," not budging until the treats were offered.
Then, the kids grew up, and Halloween lost its allure. My gaggle of girls abandoned their posts. Halloween romps came to screeching halt, and I had nothing to look forward to. I was relegated to the other side of the door -- the giver, not the receiver -- handing out treats to a brand new sea of unfamiliar faces.
I hold tightly to those ritualistic Halloween nights when snarly black cats prowled the neighborhood, and the streets bustled in a flurry of festivity as the kids dressed up, enjoying their temporary fictitious personas. The rest of the year, these same youngsters navigated through their childhoods suffering the usual torments of the maturation process when, finally, they outgrew their costumes, having evolved to nobler pursuits en route to new adventures.
Halloweens come and go, but never entirely disappear. Children grow up, and are replaced by a younger generation of Trick-or-Treaters including my own grandchildren, who now, as teenagers, find other outlets for their amusements.
Every Oct. 31, Halloween remains the grand diversion from the normal pace of life. For a few cherished hours, gears get switched, and witches, goblins and iconic fairy tale characters come to life. Ghosts created out of white sheets with holes for eyes, are neatly formed into foreboding apparitions by devoted, enthusiastic moms wielding scissors.
For me, the magic lingers. I am still hopelessly haunted recalling my own daughter dressing up as a clown, a ballerina or the Little Mermaid, her fishy tail flapping against damp, green lawns, only a few of the costumes that punctuated the Halloweens of her childhood.
Once again, as is the norm, I will pass out treats, and watch as tiny hands dip greedily into a bowl of candy, reminding me with bittersweet fondness of other times when life was momentarily put on hold, and imaginations soared.
I pay homage now to my own childhood, when my friends and I trekked the neighborhood. Those deliciously dangerous nights when I stood tall in a pair of my mother's high heels, a gaudy rhinestone pendant adorning my neck, a mink stole wrapped around an over-sized black sequin-covered dress, as I acted out my role as a Hollywood starlet. I felt so grownup with my red-painted lips and nails, a wavy black wig cascading down my ten-year-old shoulders.
I belted out in my best throaty and seductive voice: "Trick or Treat," while the person on the other side of the door allowed us the glorious satisfaction of taking it all so seriously.
Judith Marks-White is a Westport writer, and her column appears every other Friday in the Westport News, sister publication of the Norwalk Citizen.