Halloween and Popcorn Balls
(inspired by an actual event)
by Christina Fain
Halloween, for most of us, is a time to become someone you are not and sneak candy out of plastic pumpkins. This year, I am walking away with a story to tell.
My mother-in-law passed away a few months ago, and she was always a great fan of Halloween. She threw the best parties for the grandkids, wore costumes, and decorated better than most. It made me wonder what other people her age thought of this holiday, as it has become the beginning of the holiday season. Was my mother-in-law in the minority?
Not long after my mother-in-law passed away, my neighbor’s wife died. I remembered that she had always decorated her yard with hay bales and pumpkins. This year, there were no pumpkins.
On a whim, a few nights ago, I made up the traditional jack-o’-lantern filled with mini, pre-packaged popcorn balls and found myself knocking on my neighbor’s door. I suddenly remembered social distancing rules and wondered if I was doing the right thing. Just as I turned to leave, he opened the door and shouted my way, “Watcha got there?”
I explained, now half-embarrassed and thinking my visit suddenly seemed corny, but I went on to explain that I wanted to be sure he would enjoy some bit of Halloween. I told him I was leaving some popcorn balls on his step.
As I started to turn away, he stopped me. “Miss . . . ,” he stammered. “Did you tell me those were popcorn balls?” I told him yes, that I was passing out something different this year. The color fell from his face, and he became white as a ghost.
I could tell he had something to say, so I waited. He stood there a minute before speaking and began to tell me stories of years gone past. He explained that his wife had always loved Halloween in their younger years. He described costumes they wore to pass out treats and smirked when he said they sometimes hosted wild Halloween parties. He, always the hunchback of Notre Dame, and she, a Queen.
Sadly, their celebrations had tapered as the years grew upon them and their children aged. Still, they had always kept one tradition alive—working together in their kitchen making homemade popcorn balls.
I do not know what made me visit my neighbor that night. Or maybe I do. I was stunned and a little spooked.
But Mr. Jones? Slightly nodding as if he understood, he came down his front steps to accept his gift from his Queen.
Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel (Germany) @marigard
Tina began creative writing at a young age. Professionally, she has written for legal professionals spanning more than 20 years. As an over-thinker, mother of two, she draws her inspiration from her adult son and much younger daughter, as well as her personal experiences trying to navigate life’s beautiful complications. When not writing, she spends her time reading, hiking with her family and planning her next travel adventure.