Gero-Punk Wistfulness: Halloween 2016


Nancy was one of the neighborhood elders. She was close friends with Fred, another old neighbor, who died a few years ago.  They and Theresa two houses down (whose husband died last month) all attended mass at Saint Agatha’s Catholic parish. That’s the church where Fred installed all the marble on the walls. It is also the church where we held his memorial service after he died.

Nancy lived across the street from my daughter Isobel and me. Every year on Halloween, before darkness fell, she would show up on our front stoop with a bag of candy to offer to Isobel. She was a genteel woman, old fashioned in her dress and comportment. When I opened the door, after she greeted me warmly as she held my hands (she’d be wearing white gloves) she’d tell me that while she absolutely did not believe in Halloween, she wanted to be sure she gave Isobel a special treat.

This past summer, Nancy died.  A couple of months before that, John, who lived on the corner one street over (on the way to the park), also died.

I lit the candle in my jack-o-lantern well before dusk. I lit all the candles in my house, too. I’ve been waiting for trick-or-treaters for three hours (the little kids usually arrive before dark) but so far not one kid has shown up on my stoop.

My best friend told me this morning that she was feeling nostalgic for Halloweens past. I asked her about the nature of her nostalgia, as I wasn’t sure I understood. Her kids are younger than my daughter is – her son starts high school next year and her daughter will be in middle school.  She was feeling tender about the Halloweens when they were little and how Halloween will change as they grow older.

Just a moment—the doorbell is ringing.

A bumblebee and a ladybug just showed up!  Hooray!

My friend Ida, who is 3, is going trick-or-treating this year as a bag of groceries. I wish I could see her, but she’s out roaming in a different part of the city.

Oh, three more very tiny girls just came to the door! I think they may be triplets – they share curly blond hair and are dressed like the three little pigs!

There aren’t any old people left in my part of the neighborhood.  A sweet family bought and moved into John’s house.  For Halloween, they’ve hung ghouls in their trees and put tombstones in their raised garden beds.  I hope the little kids come to my house to trick-or-treat.

As for Nancy’s home, a house in which she lived for many decades with her husband (who died many years before she did), tomorrow – November 1, 2016 – her home will be brought tumbling down to the ground.  Evidently a young family wanted to buy and renovate it, but the renovations were cost-prohibitive so they had to back out of the deal. The next taker was a property developer who sees great profit in tearing down a vintage brick home to make way for something new.

I guess I’m feeling nostalgic, too.  Every year, there are fewer trick-or-treaters who come to my door, though I know there are many more little kids living in my neighborhood. I miss the days when I’d have to close operations by 8 p.m. because a pack of semi-costumed teenagers had taken huge handfuls from the bowl and I didn’t have any candy left for the little kids. I miss the years of planning with Isobel what her costume would be and figuring out how to bring it to fruition.

And I miss the old people in the neighborhood, especially Nancy, who understood that she could hold her own beliefs about Halloween and still celebrate with us. And dear Fred, whose house would be our last stop on our trick-or-treating route because he’d be worrying all night until we got home safe-and-sound.




About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Gero-Punk Wistfulness: Halloween 2016

  1. Rebekah Labell says:

    Lovely post, Jennifer. xxxooo

  2. Debbie says:

    Many memories of Halloween past rumbled through my brain yesterday. I saw one great elder in costume and a few kids. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This year, my 11 year old daughter asked me when she’d be too old for trick-or-treating. I guess she’s already feeling nostalgic. Maybe it was in the moon this Halloween. Thank you for this post, Jenny. It reminds me to reach out to our elderly neighbors more often…and to treasure the bags of plums, wooden Christmas ornaments made on the jig saw, rhubarb wine and other treats they bring by our door. Frank and Ethel are folk of sweet kindnesses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s