Halloween is a BIG deal in our family, but not for the reasons you might think. Of course it is the one night of the year we get to dress up and take on the persona of someone or “something” else. It is also the one night of the year we can eat ourselves sick with chocolate and caramel, Milk Duds and Tootsie Rolls, candied apples and popcorn balls.
But for our family, Halloween is a big deal because it is also my mother’s birthday! Yes, growing up in a home with a mother who shares a birthday with this spooktacular holiday added fuel to a teenager’s fire when my brother, my sisters and I butted heads with our mother. The “I always knew you were a witch” jokes/rebuttals were plentiful. Then there was the family joke when our grandmother would share my mother’s birth story and say, “I was never sure if your mother was a ‘trick’ or a ‘treat’!” Every year in October our home was transformed into a sea of black and orange. We even had a “Halloween Tree” with little black cat and yellow moon ornaments. A collection of various witches and broomsticks adorned every nook and cranny, and of course ghosts and goblins, along with silky spiderwebs, would hang from each doorway.
Although it was my mother’s “special” day, she has never taken the spotlight from her children or now her grandchildren. A holiday geared more towards youngsters, she is certain to make the holiday special for them. Growing up, my mother always handmade our costumes: ladybugs, cheerleaders, GI Joe, Ghostbusters, Wonder Woman, bunches of grapes, witches, pumpkins, and Peter Pan. My brother, my sisters and I always had the best. Walking door to door, my mother would take us “trick or treating,” making certain that our bags were full of goodies. I will never forget the Halloween after our youngest sister Brendan had been diagnosed with diabetes. Mother was reduced to tears when almost every single neighbor provided Brendan with a special non-sugar snack or small toy!
Perhaps our most favorite part of our mother’s special day is the grand feast she would prepare and still does to this day. Each year on Halloween my mother will cook up her famous vegetable beef stew, served in bread bowls. Sugar cookies, cupcakes, even a delicious cheesecake served up in celebration of the incredible woman my mother is. Friends and family from all over come by with a “Happy Birthday/Happy Halloween.” There are literally hundreds of people, including both present and former students of hers often with their own children now, a testament to the love and friendship my mother so treasures with others.
When my brother was alive, he and I would have a (healthy) competition to see which one of us could give the best birthday gift. Of course my brother was always the winner (he was mother’s favorite…a “between us” joke we had), but four years ago I won the competition with a black and white photo of my grandparent’s (my mother’s parents) clothing store from 1934. I had gone to the Missouri Archives to research the photo, printed it out and had it made into a large copy and had it framed.
One year, when my brother was a sophomore in high school, he told a group of his friends that we were “wiccan” because my mother’s birthday was on Halloween (Ha! I’m laughing out loud at this memory! Oh, my brother was the funniest)! And because we joked about my mother being “Joan Crawford” we used to tell her that for her birthday we would“clean out all the wire hangers” in the closets.
Halloween, such a fun and creative holiday, but also such a special day for our family. Although we tease our mother a lot (and she is such a good sport about it!) we truly love her for giving up her special day so that we may all enjoy the tricks and treats! We celebrate our “witchy” woman, a mother who truly is the “black cat’s meow!”