In the weeks leading up to Halloween, my kids and I spend countless hours designing and creating our costumes. We order “parts” online, scour the local shops for obscure pieces and wring our hands with impatient anticipation for the grand reveal of our masterpieces at the neighborhood Halloween bash. My kids have no idea how lucky they are!

Back in my day, we prepared for Halloween a little differently. About 30 minutes prior to flipping on the front porch light, my mom would open the attic door and begin rummaging through our supply box. The crumpled, plastic witch hats, the tongue-scraping “character” masks and the orange pumpkin buckets would tumble out and line the floor as she excitedly encouraged my brother and me to “take our pick!” Reluctantly, I would bend over, pick up the plastic witch hat and ask if we had anything to go with it.

That question was one I would spend years regretting. Unbeknownst to me, the local newspaper had recently printed an article highlighting cost-saving tips for Halloween, and in it was a recipe for homemade face paint. Always one to pinch pennies, especially on Halloween, my mom dashed to the kitchen, then grabbed a bowl, the food coloring box and a big, blue canister of Crisco from the cupboard under the sink. Being only 4 and completely lacking in culinary prowess, I didn’t fully appreciate the absurdity of this concoction. She hummed her favorite Halloween songs as she gradually added drops of green food coloring to the bright white lard, testing small dabs on the back of her hand like my daughter tests fancy lipsticks at the makeup counter. “Voila! It’s ready!” she excitedly exclaimed as she led me to the coat closet to bundle me up to face the frigid, October night.

Once the puffer coat and boots were on, she slit a hole in the bottom and sides of a trash bag, slipped it over my head and cinched the waist with one of her belts. She sat me down at the kitchen table, and using a spatula, slathered the green-tinted lard on my face. “Perfect!” She popped the plastic witch hat on my head and told me to wait for my brother.

So I sat. In the kitchen. In my puffer coat and moon boots. With lard on my face. And heated up. Then itched my nose. Then heated up some more. Although my chin and neck began feeling weird, I waited patiently. I had no idea that my face was melting.

Then suddenly, from around the corner, in walks my brother: the “pirate”  (in her tan trench coat and belt with a red bandana on his head and in his hand, a kitchen knife wrapped in tin foil. Another Halloween masterpiece!) “What’s wrong with your face?” he asked me. “Isn’t it great?” retorted my mom. “I made face paint!” “Huh. Looks weird to me,” he stated as he grabbed his plastic pumpkin bucket and headed outside. I stood up and followed him. 

“Do I look ok, Mommy?” I asked sheepishly. “You look very scary and witch-y!” she winked as we paused for our picture on the front porch. With visions of the Wicked Witch of the West swirling through my mind, I smiled, the camera flashed and my brother and I cast off (alone) to trick or treat in our homemade creations.

Actually, I take it back…my kids aren’t lucky, they have no idea what they are missing!