RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: Halloween arrived in July, finally left

By Rheta Grimsley Johnson

FISHTRAP HOLLOW – My Louisiana buddy Greg Guirard, who doesn’t phone often, called all excited one day to tell me he’d learned a trick.
Now this is a man who has lived more than seven decades, made a living from the Atchafalaya Swamp, traveled the world at various times and expertly photographs things that he loves. I tend to listen.
Get a straw broom, he said, relatively new, and with patience place your palm on the top of the wooden handle. Oh, so carefully, balance the broom on the floor. The broom eventually will stand by itself, he said, and remain standing for as long as nobody runs into it.
Greg was going for the record.
A few months later I visited Greg, and, sure enough, his Fantasia broom was there in the cabin corner, upright and steady.
I’m not sure if he broke any standing broom records, but Greg had created a monster. Me. I stood a broom on my own porch, hoping to startle visitors. I left a standing broom in a friend’s kitchen where I knew he would find it. He did and briefly was convinced his house had a ghost.
I wasted lots of time making brooms independent.
Halloween ought to have more standing brooms and less bought ready-made junk. How have we turned a perfectly good holiday into another mad consumer rush?
As early as July there were Halloween doodads in the stores, with candles shaped like candy corn and jack o’ lanterns made of everything from plastic to velvet. I recently went to a store in New Orleans’ French Quarter where you could have spent a life’s savings on Halloween paraphernalia, including $125 witch hats and $50 glittery signs that said “Boo!” I bought nothing. When I can’t write “Boo!” on a board and sprinkle glitter, bury me.
The Internet “news” has been full of inappropriate costumes children sport for Halloween. Especially disturbing were the come-hither poses the child models struck on the packaging. There were Size 4 girls tricked up like Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. Mermaids were vamping on beds. They even rendered the endangered Big Bird “sexy.”
As children, we made our own costumes, appropriate or not. I alternated between princess and hobo. The hobo costume was more comfortable and required a bandana on a stick. Being a princess meant wearing a hand-me-down evening gown that only fit well the first year.
The problem with childhood these days is adult involvement. There is too much of it. My mother might have hunted up an old hole-y sheet for ghost purposes, or loaned us her red lipstick for making monster blood, but she sure never shopped or sewed or agonized for hours.
The other kids also were ghosts, hobos or witches, none of whom had store-bought hats.
Despite the overkill, I still love Halloween. I wanted to stand the broom on the porch again this year, but its bristles are old and uneven. It seemed silly to go buy a new one.
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852. To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.