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Sixty-Something: Halloween Memories

T.J. Clemente

A festively decorated house. (Photo: TJ Clemente)

I truly do remember my first Halloween. I was in pre-K, I was a pirate, and I used a pillowcase to collect my treats. I did not go out with my parents, unheard of in those days, but with the Sullivan triplets whose dad was a fireman. The four of us filled the pillowcases before dark, starting about noon! I still remember separating the candy and giving my mom the apples some folks gave me. The big deal for me back then were the Babe Ruth bars!

Fast forward to my own children. I had to tag along and the girls wore costumes bought at Toys"R"Us. I forget which daughter was the Ninja Turtle. Our house was directly across from the grammar school. 500 kids would ring our bell, 100 would need to use our toilet, mostly kids our girls knew. When it became dark, you could see flashlights up and down the blocks.

Before I moved to the Hamptons, I lived in Manhattan while I finalized my divorce. Perhaps still becoming reoriented, I went to a few grown up Halloween costume parties. The one that stands out was the one organized by Broadway actors. They dressed up in amazing costumes and gave out candy to inner-city youth, actually bused in to a West 60 Street block of townhouses whose owners volunteered to participate every year. The party afterwards was beyond belief with dancing and singing you can only see on Broadway stages. Someone was actually wearing her Cats outfit. Yet, the real thrill that night was manning a door of one of the townhouses that was decorated and watching the kids eyes wide open go through the rooms and then smile when I gave them the candy. I teared up a few times, it was very moving, kids rich or poor are always just kids at five or six-years-old. Liam Neeson and the late Natasha Richardson showed up with their then young sons.

When I arrived in the Hamptons, I eventually (2003) lived in the center of East Hampton Village for a year. Therefore, I attended the Rowdy Hall Halloween party. I knew almost everyone there and danced with the folks who worked the shops, restaurants, and other local spots. It was that night I knew I would stay out east forever. The folks there were that genuinely cool. I still remember dancing and not feeling alone, as if I had a new family.

When I eventually landed in Montauk, at the end of Deforest Road, we bought treats for the kids who might come, but only two or three kids ever showed up over four or five years.

Then I married my wife Cindi and moved a touch up-island to East Patchogue. Our neighborhood has many small homes with young kids. The decorations are over the top with big air-filled decorations, spiderwebs and mummies, goons, and even temporary makeshift graveyards on the front lawns. The young kids ring our doorbell and it's a full circle.

You see I remember going to the homes of the old folks when I was a young kid. They were thrilled to see our costumes and always were nice and gave us extra candy. Now I am the grey oldster at the door. It all went so fast.

Just to add to the circle of it all my daughter and her husband live in Wimbledon, England. On a recent Zoom call, she told me, "Dad, remember when we lived across from the school and all the kids came to our house? Well, in England, it's very laid back. They don't celebrate Halloween like Americans do, but we really decorate for the kids and everyone brings their kids on Halloween just to see our house. We counted over 700 kids last year." This year there will be a plus one, her new daughter Juniper.

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