ImageSince Halloween "hit" the stores in August, I have had plenty of time to check out the costumes available for this year's trick-or-treating. There are some mighty fancy, pricey costumes on the shelves! My days of buying over-priced costumes, or sewing something together last minute, are behind me. My kids are teenagers now, and prefer to make their own costumes. Last year, my oldest son dressed as Indiana Jones. I supplied the hat; he found his own whip, snake, and rope in the dollar store. My youngest dressed as Flavor Flav, and wore a Viking hat purchased at the party store, and lots of fake "bling." After I gave each son an empty pillow case with which to collect candy, and instructed them to save all the tootsie rolls for me, my work was done.

When I was a kid, Halloween was a lot easier than it is today. First of all, it didn't start until October. There were no craft or party stores rushing the season, selling autumn decorations at summer's end. Costumes were either home made, or purchased in boxes that included a plastic garment, with matching mask. My mother bought my sister and I masks – a princess (not nearly as attractive as today's Disney princesses), and Atom Ant, a cartoon character as goofy as it sounds. We wore the same masks year after year. My sister, the oldest, got to pick her mask first. Naturally, she picked the princess. Therefore, I was Atom Ant. I hated that Atom Ant mask, and how, after a while, my breath made the inside of the mask wet and sticky. Once I collected enough Hershey bars to please my sweet tooth, I was done.

My favorite part of Halloween was preparing the little bags of candy my mother gave out to trick-or-treaters. Mom dumped all the candy on the kitchen table, and instructed my sister and I to put just so many candy kisses, and milky ways, and orange slices, into each plastic baggie. Then she put all the baggies in a basin by the front door, and let my sister and I hand out the candy. I thought it was great fun; now that I am a mom myself, my mother's tactics have become clear. Mom used my sister and me…just as I now use my own kids…to answer the door – over and over and over again!

That's pretty much all Halloween is to me now. Answering the door. Last year, I got so tired of doing it that I put a bucket of candy on the front porch, as countless neighbors do. Within an hour, the bucket disappeared. So much for taking the easy way out. When my kids were little, I complained about searching for the right costume in the right size, spending so much money on candy, baking cupcakes or cookies or supplying crafts for the school parties, or going to the Halloween parade, trying to squeeze in between other moms, and dads, and grandparents, to get a photo of my kids. I don't miss any of that.

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Jackson Pines and Cranston Dean in residency at Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park
Jackson Pines and Cranston Dean at Langosta

But I do miss hayrides with my kids, watching them search for the right pumpkin, and helping them paint spooky faces on their big, orange treasures. I miss helping the boys make ghosts out of white trash bags, and seeing my husband lift them up so they could hang their ghost in the trees. I miss baking Halloween cookies and cakes with my kids, watching their faces light up as they licked the icing off the spoon. I miss the joy of their anticipation of Halloween, and that little hurry-up-gotta-get-to-the-next-house-right-now skip in their step as they raced each other down the block. Heck, I even miss my goofy Atom Ant mask.

I never realized how valuable it was.

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...