Never too old to celebrate

We all have fond memories of growing up with family around us. As we age, family members pass on, but our memories stay strong – often we find ourselves reminiscing around the holidays. Halloween is one of those holidays that we never grow too old to celebrate!

I grew up in a large neighborhood from the time I was two years old until I graduated from high school. There were always kids around to play with – in fact, I’m still great friends with those same kids! Like most neighborhoods in Massachusetts at that time, we always had a place to go trick-or-treating that was safe and close-by. We had the house playing creepy music, the house that gave out king-size candy bars (my Dad worked for Nestle!), and even a neighbor who would hide in his front bushes to jump out and scare us at the right moment. There was one neighbor who carved a very large pumpkin with a scary face, inserted a microphone, and talked to us as we approached his front door. It was great growing up in a neighborhood where I could ride my bike, play in the woods, and not have a care in the world!

Halloween is one of those holidays that we never grow too old to celebrate!

Throughout my childhood, my mom always made our Halloween costumes. I dressed up as a Care Bear, a clown, a cheerleader, a doll, and more often than not a witch. But when I was eight years old, my parents went on vacation and left my sister and me in the care of our grandparents, Ada and Arthur Hebert.

I’ve written about my Hebert grandparents before because they are a strong part of my childhood memories.  My grandparents lived close-by: just a short drive to Rhode Island from where I lived in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Gram and Papa would come over for cookouts, swim in our pool on hot days, play pinochle with my mom, and even take care of us when my parents were away.

During the Halloween of 1990, my parents went to France for the week and my grandma was strictly told to have me rest (I had a bad cold) and not get excited by the Halloween go-ers. But as you know, grandmas will do anything for their grandchildren – so she let me dress up and go trick-or-treating in the cul-de-sac where we lived. At eight years old, I hated to miss the fun. In previous years of trick-or-treating, I had roamed through the neighborhood with friends and parents, so going by myself was strange. My grandmother could sense the anxiety I was feeling, so she decided to dress up, too.

We walked around the cul-de-sac and a few small treats were received; even at the age of 8, I could tell my grandma was having the time of her life! We visited three houses that evening, and each neighbor asked where my “sister got her costume” – but it wasn’t my sister, it was my grandma! The laughter between us was loud when we got back to my house to share the story with my grandfather. Even today, more than 25 years later, I always think of the night I went trick-or-treating with my grandma.

It’s strange how memories pop into your head: when a song comes on the radio, when you see a person on the street who resembles a family member, the smell of chicken pot pie, or even a holiday like Halloween. For many years, my mom brought my sister and me to my grandparents’ house on Halloween to show off our costumes. And my grandma would often answer the door in Halloween garb – dressed in a housecoat, an oversized hat, and, always, messy lipstick!

About Sarah Dery

Sarah Dery, who lives in Concord, is the Research and Library Manager at American Ancestors/NEHGS; she has been with the Society since 2017. She supports the researchers and genealogists on the Research and Library teams, managing correspondence with constituents, organizing research information, and applying her genealogical knowledge in assisting our clients – both in-person and digitally. Sarah is a graduate of Rhode Island College in Providence and has a B.A. in anthropology and English Literature. Her interest in anthropology stems from her participation in a week-long archaeology dig at James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia. Her family ancestry and expertise include Rhode Island, Connecticut, and French-Canada.

5 thoughts on “Never too old to celebrate

  1. A wonderful story! I remember the one house where all the lights were off at the front of the house but on in the back. A little old lady may not have wanted to answer the door but it was kind of spooky. Also, there was a big old house (Gothic architecture, no less) that gave us the chills. When my daughters were growing up, one of the neighbors made himself look like a scarecrow, sitting in a chair outside the house – motionless. You couldn’t tell he was alive. It was so surprising when he stood up and greeted the kids!!!

  2. Thanks for the memories! We moved to Newport from Pawtucket when I was 4 and lived in a neighborhood like you described. I don’t remember any parents going Trick or treating with the kids. The older kids (11 or 12 yrs. old) took the younger ones with them. I think we mostly bought those cheap costumes with the plastic masks. It didn’t really matter. Many times it was cold or snow on the ground and we had to wear our hats, coats and boots. Some adults would ask us to open our coats so they could see our costumes and they would make us feel we had the best ones they had ever seen. Like you, we road our bikes and played games in the street without any adult overseers. We had a 5 acre wood behind our house where we pretended we were in a deep forest. Lots of good berry picking in the summer with our little pails.

    I also went to RIC for 2 years before I moved to California. Two classroom buildings, the gym, cafeteria, offices and the theater, and the first dormitory. No interesting classes like Anthropology back then, but we did have Margaret Mead come and give a lecture during Monday “chapel”. I am sure it has changed!

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