All right, we have been officially initiated as full-fledged year-rounders in Vineyard Haven. We participated in Halloween. What a scene. What a kick!
We have been hearing about this holiday classic for years and missed it last year. It would have been our first Halloween in Vineyard Haven but we were called off-Island to a wedding. When we returned, all our neighborly friends informed us that we had missed an incredible tradition, a fantastic three-hour piece of Americana in which Norman Rockwell meets Grand Guignol. Approximately between 5 and 8 p.m., mild marauders between the ages of a few months and a few too many come from all over the Island and descend on the gentle, generous folks of Vineyard Haven.
And Oct. 31 this year was no exception. Between storms, they came in clever costumes, in subtle disguise, in something they threw on or something that was thrown on them. They were drawn like moths, trying out their hind legs, to the flames — cheerful zombies ambling to the homes fronted by marvelously carved pumpkins all aglow. These gourds served as symbols for households in on the holiday, i.e. households filled with candy.
By 8 p.m., most of the hoopla subsided. Years ago (six to be exact) when we turned off daylight savings time and fell back an hour before Halloween, everyone had another hour of daylight at twilight. A shame it’s gone.
We were lucky enough to be invited this year to a prime location, a safe haven on the treasure map. We signed on for taking turns at the door. Just inside the foyer were several baskets and bowls of all sorts of chocolates designed to fit snugly in a single hand. We reinforced ourselves with a suitable holiday beverage in anticipation of the onslaught of all those sprightly characters who have no idea they are participating in some ritual that slides right into All Saints Day, an occasion of religious solemnity. Our reward for taking on this labor was a joyful potluck supper, supervised by our hosts immediately following the culmination of said ritual — the last knock on the door.
There must have been a thousand trick-or-treaters in three hours. And every one of them was coming up the stairs to our door. They kept coming, as if they were contestants on Let’s Make a Deal. Given some of the outlandish outfits, we had to shake the image that we were witnessing some strange disorder, an unusual plague that was obviously quite confectious.
Out on the streets, the flow seemed endless. Then there was gridlock. And a traffic cop magically appeared. He re-routed and detoured to help the kids, and all was right with the world again until it felt as if there were no more children left in Massachusetts.
If you’re young enough, Halloween offers a chance to be more than yourself, under the covers of darkness and disguise. It’s an excuse, if you’re a girl, to act like glamour prancing along the celebrity red carpet, or if you’re a boy, to act like a prankster who has his day of wishful menace, sidling up to the welcoming dens for the sugar-addicted. Do I hear a haiku?
Hallowed, weaned rascals:
Trick or treating Tinker Bells
And Eddie Haskells
Then there were the costumes. As the parade of little angels and little deaths proudly showed off their wings and cut the night air with their scythes, a few really stood out in our doorway. My personal favorite was the boy with the large fabricated horseshoe around his neck. Attached to the horseshoe were several little Easter peeps. “What are you supposed to be?,” I asked. Wide-eyed, he replied: “I’m a chick magnet!”
There was the little kid with a toilet plunger strapped askew to the top of his head. A unicorn? A robot? “No, I’m an on-and-off switch. You know, a toggle!”
There was the smarty-pants in full Patagonia attire, jacket and trousers. Huh? “I’m a Patagonia model.”
“Are you supposed to be Gumby?,” I asked the guy in the head-to-toe striped casing. He was standing with a girl whose whole body was made to look like a fried egg, sunny-side up. “No,” he said, “She’s the egg and I’m the bacon.”
And there was the sister and brother team: She was costumed like an impish phantom and he was dressed like a turkey. “I’m a goblin and he’s a gobbler,” she said, beaming. He stood there with that dyspeptic look Ralphie had in A Christmas Story when they made him put on the bunny pajama suit. The Halloween kid’s expression seemed to indicate he had put his underwear on over his clothes. Not a happy camper.
Finally, there was this one young man who tried to pull a fast one. First he showed up dressed as a businessman. A few minutes later, he returned cleverly disguised as a politician. Then an hour later he came back yet again costumed in an unbelievable structure — a revolving door. “What are you supposed to be with all these get-ups?,” I yelled as he spun himself out of our doorway into the street. He looked back glumly: “Mitt Romney!”
Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.