Senior Voice -

By Maraley McMichael
For Senior Voice 

A lifetime of Halloween birthday parties

 

October 1, 2018

Maraley McMichael photo

Maraley Clayton McMichael blowing out candles at her fourth birthday party. Note the Halloween theme.

As all people who have birthdays on holidays know, there are good points as well as drawbacks. Through out my life, my birthday has always had an air of anticipation, excitement, and no lack of parties and candy – October 31.

I'm sure my mother had her hands full trying to squeeze in both a birthday party and trick-or-treating. When my children were little, it was a challenge getting them ready for trick-or-treating and answering phone calls from family. Five long distance greetings were not unusual. However, over the years the evening has grown less hectic, to the point where nowadays it can be downright quiet, especially since we turn off the porch light to discourage trick-or-treaters.

A family friend in Cooper Landing carved my first Halloween jack-o-lantern, a large hollowed out, homegrown turnip. He put a candle in it, took it outside, and "walked" it along the window ledge for my enjoyment, or so I have been told.

Before we had children, my husband, Gary, always made sure I had a carved Halloween pumpkin. Afterward he helped me cut them up, steam, smash and freeze them for pumpkin pies. We toasted the seeds, too. When our son got old enough, he delighted in taking over the carving process. Sometimes he created whole families of jack-o-lanterns.

When I was in first grade in Seward, my mom finally allowed me to go trick-or-treating with my friends. I had such great fun dressed as a princess and arrived back home with an over flowing bag of candy. Mom and Dad were giving out homemade treats that year and they underestimated the number of children who would knock on our door. I was asked to share my abundance, which I did. Having to give away some of the candy I had just received made a lasting impression on me. Even after sharing, though, I still had enough to eat one piece a day for over two months.

More than 30 years ago when my kids were young, the Halloween celebrations varied slightly from year to year, but always involved candy and parties and dressing up in costume. There were community club parties, school carnivals, door-to-door trick-or-treating with friends, and even walking the length of the Cottonwood Creek Mall in Wasilla, receiving candy from the businesses.

Over the years, I have put up with the usual jokes about being a "witch". As an adult, someone once seriously asked me if I would consider officially changing my birthday to October 30 or November 1 because they thought October 31 was such a horrible day on which to be born. On the other hand, I have a friend I've known since second grade who frequently sends me a Halloween themed birthday card. I have quite a collection.

The year I turned 40, my 19-year-old son planned a special birthday celebration at a restaurant in Wasilla for our family of four as well as my dad and mom, who were in town for the birth of a grandchild. I still have the little RIP tombstone markers he used for name placards and decorations. It is the thought that counts, I told myself.

I had a hard time turning 40 - my husband teases that I don't know how to "grow old gracefully". But an exceptional gift that year eased my distress. My brother and his wife were expecting a child. As Halloween drew nearer we speculated on the arrival date of this new addition. Sure enough, we got a call the morning of the 31st informing us that I now had a little niece to share my day with. When she turned six, we had a conversation about our ages. She announced that when she is 100 years old, I will be 140. That'll be the day!

During our early years living in Slana, I worked as an aide at the Slana School and in 2000 the staff and students threw a surprise party for me. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" and then we shared a cake that one of the students had made. What a special feeling to have so many people singing in my honor. The Slana School Halloween Carnival was a much-anticipated tradition. Each year Gary determinedly participated in the cakewalk until he won a cake for me – fresh, homemade with no baking or decorating necessary.

Maraley McMichael photo

Maraley Clayton McMichael on left with her sisters Shirley and Jeanette. Halloween 1960.

When I turned 50, I shared a wonderful lunch at the Homer Senior Center with my dad – in a decorated, party atmosphere, of course. During Gary's and my "snowbird" years, I enjoyed one celebration in Missouri with friends and another with our kids and grandson in Colorado before he was old enough to understand trick-or-treating. No matter where the location, we easily found a party atmosphere on that date.

Now living back in Palmer, radio stations and newspapers are full of announcements the whole month of October about pumpkin carving contests, haunted houses, costume contests, harvest parties, and carnivals at churches, schools, fire halls and various other Mat-Su Valley locations. I usually skip all that and accept Gary's offer to take me to lunch anywhere I wish.

This year, however, I'll be in Colorado celebrating and enjoying activities with my grandchildren. No matter my circumstances, I won't forget to send a Halloween birthday greeting to a certain young woman who turns 23.

Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan now residing in Palmer.

 
 

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