Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Wild Long-Ago Halloween

I don't celebrate Halloween, and never have.  Too dark and evil and full of death for my taste.  I can't even handle a costumed Grim Reaper with a plastic scythe wandering around Costco like I saw today.

However, there was that one Halloween many years ago. . .

I think it was the year I was back home after teaching in Oregon.  My little sister Margaret was probably 14, and I had determined to make it a fun year for her, hopefully undoing some of the damage I inflicted in earlier years [don't ask.]  So we had lots of crazy adventures, like going to see "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" at the college I attended and dragging Mom to "The Sound of Music" at Atwater High School for the one and only musical of her life.

One fall day we were all eating supper together and suddenly realized it was Halloween.  Hey!  one of us said, We should do something!

Margaret and I pondered this.  A prank?  A joke of some kind?  Certainly dressing up.  We loved to dress up in costume.  And surprising someone.  Maybe Marcus and Anna, our brother and his wife, who lived just up the road.

Yes, definitely Marcus and Anna.

We thought some more and then at the same time we looked at each other and said, "AMISH!!"

Instantly we were buzzing with plans while Mom chuckled in spite of herself and said, "Ach, girls."

After supper we raided Mom and Dad's closet for the Old Order outfits they kept on hand to wear to Amish funerals.

Margaret dressed up in Mom's Amish dress and her schatz and hals-duch, a mass of pins and polyester.  She wore jet-black hose and Mom's black shoes and bonnet and as I recall an old pair of cat-eye glasses.  She even found an ancient black purse.

She looked an absolute sight.

I wore Dad's white Sunday shirt and his gray mutza suit and his black church shoes and his black hat.  I was also an absolute sight.

Except I looked too girlish.

So I smeared Vaseline all over my jaw and Margaret helped me press coffee grounds onto it and suddenly I was transformed into a young Amishman with a good start on his beard.

Mom was amazed.  "Du gooksht vee's Chonnys' boova," she said.  "You look like Johnny's boys."  Our cousins.

She also said, "Margaret, don't you hold Lenny on your lap, with all those pins."

We drove down the road to Marcus and Anna's and knocked at the door.  Anna opened it.

Margaret in her big black bonnet opened the big black purse, held it out, and said, "Trick or treat!"

Anna made an exclamation of some kind and then she started laughing.  She laughed and laughed and bent over and laughed some more.  Marcus came up behind her to see what was going on and he simply howled.

They managed to invite us inside, where we sat primly on the couch while Marcus and Anna collapsed into chairs and laughed and laughed like I've never seen them laugh before or since.

Marcus played along and asked us questions and we pretended to be an old married couple with eight children.  Margaret said our oldest son just got a job in town, and I hung my head and said, Dad-like, "Ya, mir gleiches net,"  [Yeah, we don't like it...] and Marcus laughed so hard he nearly passed out.

Little Annette stood around looking bewildered and Lenny sat on someone's lap--not Margaret's--and couldn't figure out what was going on.

We rode this horse as far as it could take us, all with straight faces on our part, and then when Marcus and Anna were exhausted from laughing we got up to go home.

Anna offered to find some candy to put in our black purse.

We went home and even Mom and Dad had to laugh at us, and then we carefully returned our clothes to Mom and Dad's closet and washed the beard off my chin.

Every Halloween, we remember.

This morning I got a text from Margaret: Shall we dress up Amish 2nite?
I responded: Ha ha I was just thinking about that!
She said: And I wd love 2 see u in a coffee beard.

When I was in Minnesota in September I got to see one of "Chonny's boova," Truman, who is a bit older than me.  He was a visiting speaker at the church there and came to see Mom.  I'll let you judge whether or not we still look alike.  These days his beard is more ashes than coffee grounds.

A crazy sister memory is worth more than a sackful of Halloween candy any day.


  1. Do you have a picture to post of you two when u dressed up Amish?

  2. I really enjoyed your story!

  3. That was a great story. I can so picture it!

  4. I love that last line."A crazy sister memory is worth more than a sackful of Halloween candy any day."
    Since I don't have a sister, I asked my mom (who had 3) and she smiled and agreed

  5. Anonymous--I think there's a picture somewhere, at least I have a vague memory of one. But...where? I have no idea.

  6. Love it!! LOL!