In 1980, four years after moving into our new home behind the cemetery, I was visited by my first trick-or-treaters. A brave (foolhardy?) father accompanied by a ghost, a pirate and a princess arrived to my door.
Back then, I had a clutch of Great Danes (two? three? five? hard to remember). When Dad knocked, I jumped 10 or 12 feet into the air off the couch. When you live at the end of a half-mile twisty and turny dirt drive guarded by dogs large enough to pass for gamboling antelope, you don’t get many surprise visitors – at least those who survive long enough to knock.
Huh? Wha? Oh, yeah, Halloween. The kids’ Dad explained that he thought coming down my drive would be an adventure, so he kept plowing forward even though he wasn’t sure there would be a house at the end.
Good thing I happened to have a bag of candy corn lying on the counter that I had been gnawing on the night before. I put some of the treats into baggies and dropped them into their plastic jack o’ lanterns. (I knew Dad might not balk at loose candy. Mothers always remain on high alert for poisoned goodies and razor blades in the apples.)
As they were leaving, Dad assured me, “We will be back next year! We wouldn’t want you to go without having some trick-or-treaters.” Gee, thanks.
For the next couple years, I made sure to lay in a supply of Halloween candy just in case. And each year, I would put on a few pounds when nobody showed and I ended up eating all the treats myself.
But then a few years later, on a blustery Halloween night when I had totally forgotten about Dad’s promise (threat?), there they were again. The kids were a little bigger, but I recognized Dad. And me with no candy.
When he knocked, I ran into the kitchen hoping to find something suitable. No candy. No cookies. Apples? No. Maybe a banana or an orange? Uh-uh.
Money! I ran to my purse. No dollars. Not even any quarters, dimes or nickels. Could I stretch two pennies to cover three kids? Would they take a check?
The knocking got louder. Tuna sandwiches? Damn, no mayo.
I opened the door, as Dad said, “We told you we would be back!”
I had to admit that I had zip, nada, nothing. He was kind but the kids looked disappointed. They have never come back again, though I have made sure to stock up on treats every year since, as my expanding backside attests.
My worst Halloween ever? Not by a long shot.
On Halloween night 1985, I was home alone using ZipStrip to remove paint from a long powerstrip mounted next to my sink. A good friend planned to hold his wedding reception at our house two days’ later, so I was doing some much-needed fix-ups. I had polyurethaned our wood floors the day before. Unfortunately, with no sense of smell, I was not aware that the poly fumes were not only poisoning me but they were hovering near the ceiling.
I never thought to turn off the power, so when I used a piece of steel wool on the metal strip, I learned why you should always pay the extra $2 a gallon for the non-flammable kind. Jellied paint remover is basically napalm, and the powerstrip exploded like a bomb.
By the time I reached the far wall where I had mounted a fire extinguisher, I turned around to see my blender melting into the counter. Then fireballs started zinging across the ceiling.
Time to grab the pets, the bulky portable phone and head for the door. First I dialed O for Operator (no 911 back then) to put me in touch with the fire department. Then I called my then-husband who was still at work.
How to break the news that our home was well on its way to becoming a giant charcoal briquette?
No problem since Hubby took that opportunity to say, “I have been wanting to figure out a way to tell you this. But I have fallen in love with my boss and want a divorce. So maybe I shouldn’t come home tonight anyhow.”
I didn’t have much time to ponder the news because I had to guide the fire trucks who had mistakenly taken the wrong driveway. We all experienced a jolt when a skeleton emerged from the woods and ran through my yard. It was Halloween and the neighbor’s son came in costume to watch the flames.
So there it was – a clean sweep. The fire was unrelentingly consuming my home and my career as it burned through all of my possessions, including a half-dozen freelance articles and two years’ research on a book. And now my husband was gone as well? What could I do to look forward to a better future?
I remembered that you get a free name change with a divorce, since many women want to return to their maiden name. But why not just pick a new name instead – one that I would stick with forever?
A short while later I saw the cult favorite Buckaroo Banzai. Bonnie Buckaroo! What a great name!
Fortunately, a friend in DC persuaded me to put a French spelling on it – B-U-C-Q-U-E-R-O-U-X. And I have been a happy Buckaroo ever since.
Now you understand why I hope for a quiet and peaceful Halloween back here in the woods.