It’s autumn: the time of year when thoughts turn away from summer play to the only autumn celebration worth mentioning before Thanksgiving.

Yup, I’m talkin’ Halloween, the only one of three annual holidays I’ve never missed celebrating in 50+ years.

I know, I know: most hang up their Casper outfit and treat bags when they’re deemed ‘too old’ (by which definition is when ‘cute’ turns – overnight and mysteriously – into ‘greedy’.)

But I never hung up my sheets – I just found new ways to celebrate.

With fondness I recall Halloween trick or treating: the year I decided that all those dark porches with no lights simply meant untapped reserves of candy inside and, later on, the mad mad years of gender-bending cross-dressups in San Francisco’s Castro District during the heyday years of Gay Pride.

Sadly, the Halloween parties of my adulthood more than rival those of my childhood.

The first – and only – Halloween party I can recall ‘way back when’ involved an willing hostess admonished to “invite the entire class or don’t hand out invitations in school”.

‘The entire class’ unfortunately included the terminally shy, vastly unpopular whipping girl moi.

Equally unfortunately for me, Mom – instead of being sympathetic and supportive – apparently saw the spooky invitation as a perfect opportunity for her too-shy tomboy child to actually attend an event and make friends.  Even if said ‘friend’ option involved the girl who was my biggest torturer in school – and who obviously resented adult intervention in making her party a ‘blanket invite’ over selected favorites, literally opening the door for the riffraff to attend.

So, Casper mask newly acquired, I was summarily forced to attend what was advertised as ‘an afternoon of spooky fun’ but in fact turned into a series of creative Halloween Options for Torturing Diane.

First up was the traditional apple bob.  And I’ll be the first to say that there are PLENTY of drowning options in such an event when the victim is blindfolded, hands tied behind her back, and face-forced into a huge tub ‘o water where apples quietly float.

What happened to Adult Supervision, you might ask? Never doubt the Will of the People when only one parental figure is in attendance at a party of 30 budding sadists and a diversion has been plotted by the Torture The Girl Team involving a giant kitchen spill when it was Diane’s turn at Bobbing.

Half-drowned, I retired to a corner to cry, only to be unfairly accused of “antisocial behavior” by a harried mother overseer who returned to find a roomful of angelic devils happily giggling whilst one loner insisted on ruining the festivities by crying over in the corner.

Literally dragged back to the fold, I was ripe fodder for the second fun game: Pin the Sheet on the Ghost.

Everyone knows you need a donkey (or a ghost stand-in) for the pinning action – and the boring one-dimensional candidate on the wall was no match for a three-dimensional Casper with the ability to run around the room screaming in ghostly form, chased by a blindfolded hoard with pins.

Overseer Mom, once more lured away by some diversionary tactic, returned to find antisocial Diane once more sobbing – this time safely ensconced behind a locked bathroom door.

I spent the remainder of the festivities in the loo.

Which, apparently, quickly became an issue in a house overrun with 30 small spooks with smaller bladders.

Mom had to be called and threats issued before the door was unlocked and Casper rode home in utter disgrace, “…the ONLY party pooper in the bunch”, as I later heard Mom complain to Dad.

“My side” wasn’t even solicited in the matter.  After all: what excuse could possibly justify a clear case of antisocial, party-poopin’ behavior?

Apparently Mary’s party was a big hit, I heard later.

After all: with an opportunity to drown an unwelcome loner and a REAL donkey (nee: ghost) to pin one’s sheet on – who wouldn’t consider it a smashing success??

Perhaps that’s why I continue to revere Halloween and celebrate it religiously, even in my 50s: I’ve found better ways to celebrate.

And apple-bobbin’ and Pin the Tail never rear their spooky heads at my adult Halloween revelries!

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