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©October 2000

Carol Jane Remsburg




Knowing Jack




Halloween, more correctly noted, as All Hallows Eve is the day before All Saints Day.  How much do we know about it?  We celebrate it with all the gusto that Americans can and own is as our own invention.  We Americans never question a good reason to party.   We just revel in it and will save the argument of tedium for later.  That's just how we are.


It's the Irish we can thank for our festivities of Halloween.  The Irish have long belonged to the notion that the little people and the spirits of the night have earned respect and give it accordingly. 


The tale of the Jack 'O Lantern is one of lore.  Famous Jack, the drinker Jack fooled the devil himself and later found himself lost betwixt heaven and hell.  Only the Devil himself provided a fire from hell to light his way of wander. 


It was the Irish that believed and feared that spirits would leave their graves and seek their old homes.  The Jack 'O Lantern, that fire from hell that Jack himself carried, became a symbol for the ghosts and goblins to avoid.  Thus the folk were spared the visitation from unwanted guests.  They also dressed in outlandish costumes to frighten away those from the land of beyond.  They also left treats upon the doorstep for the spirits to accept and move on.


As with all Irish folk along with their American descendents and millions who aren't, candles are lighted and placed in their hollowed out pumpkins in late October.  They just don't know the real reason why.  The Irish used turnips but turnips in America are small and hard to find.  Pumpkins are generous and plentiful and useful for this sort of work. 


For the whole story you can find it at:


Back to Americana and the wonder of rural life.  Kids spend months and months deciding upon how they will dress.  They will choose, rescind, and begin their quest all over again.


Daughter 'O Mine, has chosen and rejected more than a dozen ideas over the last twelve months before settling upon a rather ordinary choice.  Each year she chooses, but she sticks close to the basics.  Why be a Barbie® at Halloween for God's sake?  Halloween is for ghostie and ghoulie stuff! 


Last year I made her an awesome black cat costume and braided her a wicked tail of black yarn for her to play with.  She had all the accessories to make it perfect along with all the makeup at my disposal—real "people" makeup and not that dime-store horror stuff.  Luckily, the night was warm and she could bound about the neighborhood without fear of catching pneumonia.  The previous year she was Dracula—kept warm with layers of dark clothing beneath her fiendish red-lined taffeta cloak.  It was the face-paint that year that caused problems.  The school nurse two days later swore the kid had the Chicken Pox.  We don't do face paint anymore.


This year she's going as a ghost.  As I mentioned before, she keeps close to the basics—(when she was little, she went three straight years as a witch and enjoyed it immensely every time).  Two months ago, I began checking out the prices of flat, white sheets for purchase and later augmenting upon her frame.  I found that I'd need pillowcases and some simple white cords to finish it off.  Those simple items outside of my time would run about $22.50.  On a trip to the venerable Toys R Us for a gift to another child, there hung a "ghost" outfit complete, discounted, for $14.99.  What's not to love here?  She wanted it and I put her off.


I thought about it and went back the next week to buy it and save myself the headache.  I still recall the hours and hours of labor over her Bumblebee wings.  It was an awesome costume.  Just think of the enormous needlepoint plastic sheets which were hard to find and cost the earth, sheer light yellow netting, the cutting, the stitching, the outlining—this doesn't even address the alterations to the yellow shirt, the strips of black felt and how I attached the movable wings to the base.  The kid was four years old.  Somebody kill me and shoot me now.  I spent days on that outfit.  I still have it and you'll never find one like it—it's the original showstopper and Momma went over-the-top on it.  So a slip-on of white nylon with some ragged hanging strips and a hood with eye slits are nothing.  So what's $14.99?  It's a lot less aggravation. 


Still, like Christmas, Halloween is revered in my family.  There are the pumpkins, the racks and stacks of straw for the stuffed goblin on the front steps that invariably wears my aging apparel, the vampire music that has blared throughout the house since early September, and the costume. 


With Halloween just two days away, all is ready save the candy.  My neighborhood doesn't trick or treat but my old home neighborhood does.  My sister lives in the old homestead so I bring as much chocolate and the old wagon can haul—about $40-$50 bucks worth of Snickers®, M&Ms®, Milkduds®, Butterfingers®, Hershey's® and the like.  I don't opt for the nasty cheap stuff.  I buy what I wanna eat—no Smarties® or even candy corn, and certainly no Good 'N Plenty's.  I figure Erin brings home about $20 worth—it's an even trade in my eyes.  She's happy.  I'm happy. The event is done a thorough justice. 


Today I carved a pumpkin for the very first time.  I've watched it done a few times but not for a very long time.  I did outline a simple, but fierce face on the pumpkin and set to work on it with my deceased brother-in-law's filet knife.  It was the sharpest thing in the house.  The carving took no time at all.  I know wish I had another to play with—but ya gotta be careful with those filet knives—they bite back when you aren't looking.  Lucky for me, I was careful.


So now the circle of All Hallows Eve is nearly complete.  The costume is at the ready, the grinning foam pumpkin leers out the window while the real thing flickers on the front step, and all I have to buy are the treats to dole out while my little one rakes them in.  Now we watch the clock.  In the dark and in the quiet, it can be an eerie thing.  Tick tock, tick tock.  I still think that I do know Jack.  He might not be jake, but simply being Jack is enough.  That's enough for any of us.


Enjoy the rapture!  Celebrate each day as if it were a holiday!


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