The Best Halloween

The Chatham Memoir Writing Group prompt for today was “My Favorite/Best Halloween”. It was real easy to write to. My story follows.

My Best Halloween – A Memoir

I remember so many fun Halloween’s from when I was a kid.  Parties in school, parties at either my house or my friend’s houses, costume parades, followed by Trick or Treating itself on Halloween night.  We lived in one of those densely populated boroughs in northeastern New Jersey and given that it was also the era of the post-war baby boom, it always seemed there hundreds of kids scrambling about on Halloween night.   There were so many houses to visit in our immediate area, we would sometimes stop back at home two or three times to empty our sacks.  It was more like Freight Night than Fright Night.  I remember the caramel apples we would get when we stopped at the home of the town‘s police chief.  At Mr. & Mrs. Georgi’s house, we would be asked to  sing a song before receiving our treats.  Mr. Janus was a department manager at Wonder Bread, so we would get a small bag of popcorn as well as a small loaf of white bread – helps build strong bodies 12 ways – Wonder Bread.  The last stop on my Halloween night of largesse, the turning point for me to head home was my classmate Billy Stewart’s house.  I could have gone one more house, but after an unfortunate incident rocketing through the front yard of that house at breakneck speed while a passenger on my brother’s bicycle, leaving the homeowners swearing and shaking their fists in our wake, I was fearful of being recognized. So I wouldn’t go there.  But I digress. From Billy Stewart’s house, I would trudge up the hill know to the locals as Cherry Hill.  From the crest of Cherry Hill, I would always pause for a moment to gaze in awe of the clear view I would have of the New York City skyline, all those sparkling lights less than 20 miles away.  The Empire State Building standing the tallest, pre World Trade Center.  I also remember, just before Halloween, our school teachers handing out these pint size milk cartons with a UNICEF label.  Taking the with us in Halloween night, we would shout “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” when we knocked on a door.  In addition to a treat, the family would drop a few pennies into the milk carton.  Then there was the Halloween I missed because I was laid low with mono.  Those were all fun times, but the best was yet to come.

Pint milk container used to collect for UNICEF
New York City Skyline – Circa 1961

Halloween Day, 1984, was a beautiful fall day.  The morning air was crisp with only a few clouds in the sky.  My wife and I were up and out of the house early, we had had an appointment with destiny.  Our son was displaying a reluctance to being born so now, two weeks late, the good doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital were going to invite him out into this world.  Once we were settled into the birthing room, the drugs were administered and we began to count down the time until delivery.  The bright sun filled the room and we passed that the time playing Trivial Pursuit.  This activity drew the attention of the nurses and doctors working on the floor and several joined us to play while they were on break.  It being Halloween, our game playing was interrupted from time to time by howling and other spooky sounds coming from the rooms that surrounded us.  These were not sounds coming from trick or treaters mind you, no they were the sounds of women giving birth.  However, with all the babies being born around us, their first cries didn’t seem to resound with our son as he still was displaying a reluctance to meet us.

That reluctance continued through what would prove to be a really long day for my wife.  As the sunlight faded to gray and darkness descended on the day, I would take occasional glances out the window of the birthing room and see kids in their costumes, visiting houses outside the perimeter of the hospital.  With our son still displaying great reticence to meet his parents, the decision was made to perform a C-section, and we were soon being transported to the OR.  It had been my great desir ge that our son arrive in the world to the comforting accompaniment of classical music, so I made a tape of favorite pieces.  My wife’s doctor popped the tape into a player that was in an observation room looking into the OR.  During the procedure, I sat behind my wife’s head and could see a steady progression of medical people stepping into the observation room to listen to the music.  Despite the fact a surgery was underway, there was an almost party-like atmosphere.

At approximately 7:45 PM on October 31, 1984, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin announced we had a little cone head, we named him Geoff.  Coincidentally, the at the moment Geoff was delivered, the “The Ode To Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony from my tape was playing over the ER speakers. It was the best treat anyone could ever hope to get.  It was the best Halloween ever.  At this point in my story, I need to circle back to the series of Trivial Pursuit games that were played that day.  My wife was in labor while we played, I did the unkind thing of winning every game.  The medical staff looked upon me with a raised eyebrow.  On each of the subsequent Halloween’s since 1984, my miscreant behavior is recalled.

Ode To Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Ernie Stricsek

The Chatham Memoir Group


5 thoughts on “The Best Halloween

  1. Hi Ernie, When I saw the prompt, I knew it could only be Halloween 1984. I enjoyed seeing your perspective on that momentous occasion. Your Trivial Pursuit winning streak is a legend. I hope that was part of your labor room etiquette advice to your sons. You and Barbara produced an amazing son that night. And a second amazing son 20 months later. Nancy


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