Halloween has some special memories of my youth.
February 28, 2021
Halloween has some special memories of my youth. As a youngster, “store bought” costumes were always what the other kids wore. My mother always made something out of what was hanging around the house. An old set of long Johns, a cardboard box, kitchen pots and pans and my sister’s skirts were some of her creative supplies. I remember wearing my sister’s school uniform skirt one year and getting a slap because I told her if I could borrow her face as well, it would be a super scary costume.
We would start the evening with a hardy bowl of lentil soup. “It’s gonna be cold out” mom would warn. “This will take away the night chill.”
In the Hill section of New Haven (when I grew up), few people gave out Halloween candy. But I remember going down Washington Avenue and hitting the merchants. There would be a miniature pastry from Marzullo’s Bakery, a fresh out of the oven hard roll from the Marchegiano Bakery, an apple from Baldino’s (the fruit and vegetable store) and a can of soda from the package store. These were all items we would consume on the ride to Uncle Rudy and Aunt Tess’s house. We would go to the “country” for our door to door treats. We would go to Foxon. I never knew until years later that the reasons for these traditions were because we were “financially challenged” and just because Foxon didn’t have sidewalks, it wasn’t the country.
The cleverly designed costumes were not made to make us special. They were made because we didn’t have money. The lentils while tasty and warm were because my mother could feed a family of five plus my nonne for just $1.00, and the trip to the country was because the people in our neighborhood had no money to spare for treats for the neighbors
After we filled our pillow cases with pounds of candy from the Foxon neighborhoods, the ride home was exciting, knowing that we did not have school the next day.
Another reason for the homemade costumes was because my mom and dad would pinch pennies so they can send us to Catholic School. They insisted we get what they thought was the best education and at the time, St. Anthony’s was one of the best around.
November 1 was All Saints Day (A Holy Day of Obligation). That meant Catholic schools had no school and we had the day off for worship. We went to early Mass to start the day and then went home to separate our treats from the previous night.
we broke down the candy into separate piles with the favorites of dad, mom, nonne and big brother Anthony. Once we broke down their preferred items, we got what was left. The Gospels, that month were all about giving and mom made sure our stuff was shared. Besides we didn’t have dental so that was her way of not giving us to much candy to rot our teeth.
Those are some fond memories. But the best part of those memories, was that as a child, I didn’t know we were poor. There was food on the table, clothes on our backs, love in our home and most of the time heat in the winter. We were proud of our differences, and proud to be part of a family with a loving mother and very hard working father. Maybe we weren’t so poor after all.