Early in our relationship, Ziggy became part of the Halloween shenanigans at the Tivy household. He dutifully played along, but I know he also took pleasure in picking out a creepy mask or scheming up a new way to entertain trick-or-treaters.
We have a pretty good sized tree in our yard and it drops a lot of leaves. Just about every year, we would rake leaves into giant piles and both Rylie and Tanner took create delight in jumping in the piles. Rylie would sit in a pile of leaves and just throw them up in the air, letting them fall around her like confetti. Then she’d jump out of the pile and ask us to rake them up again.
As the kids got older, they became a source of leaf raking labor, but both of them still couldn’t resist the call of the leaf pile. They’d run, jump and screech with delight. The confetti leaves were still tossed and the pile would be raked up again.
One of the more recent years, we hadn’t really developed a plan for our Halloween set up and the day was drawing near. Usually we leave the leaves until after trick-or-treating because I think it’s more festive, but for whatever reason that year the kids and I headed out pre-Halloween to rake / jump in the leaves.
As we raked an idea was born. That year, I’d purchased a cute scarecrow to stand guard along our side walk. We raked multiple piles of leaves that year and one ended up in front of the scarecrow. It was kind of adorable, although I knew the wind would kick up at some point and the leaves would scatter, but still… What if we created a yard of scarecrows and most of them not so cute?!?
And so, we went about making our own scarecrows and setting them up in the piles of leaves. Ziggy was recruited to help with the engineering of our scarecrows, creating a t shaped stake for us to use. We gathered old clothes, some landscaping stakes, and some zip ties. We staked one leg of the pants and zip tied the bottoms. The kids began stuffing pants with leaves. Then we threaded the ‘arms’ of our stake through the shirt and zip tied the arms and bottom. Leaves were stuffed in to give some shape to our scarecrows. Hats, old masks, hockey helmets, and such were added to finish off the look.
Later that night, as we rehashed our brilliant use of dried up leaves, someone decided that our Halloween theme that year could be scarecrows. It was decided that we could all dress up as scarecrows and stand in piles of leaves, just like our fake ones. Then when trick-or-treaters least expected it, we’d jump out, move and / or chase them.
Ziggy has a really horrible mask that he loves to bring out on Halloween. It’s been a feature at almost every Halloween soiree and often is pulled out randomly in the year to startle me. It definitely made its appearance during the scarecrow Halloween!
Zig wore an old pair of jeans and a flannel. He threaded a hockey stick through the arms of the flannel so that he looked just like our scarecrows in the yard and donned his mask. He stood for hours in piles of leaves. Sometimes he’d move. Sometimes he’d just make noise. Sometimes he’d move from pile to pile as kids walked up and down the street.
Unless you stared at the yard for hours, you really couldn’t tell which scarecrow was a person and which was stuffed with leaves. A grown adult neighbor across the street had been watching and heard the surprised screams of passersby when Ziggy would move just enough to catch their attention or say something to them, but he couldn’t quite figure out which scarecrow Ziggy was. Toward the end of the night, he came over, thinking he’d figured it out.
Ziggy tricked him, scaring a high-pitched squeal out of him. There was laughter and an awkward high-five that comes when one’s arms are “staked”. The neighbor headed back to his house and came back across a few minutes later with a beer. The two stood, sharing a beer and talking about the way people reacted that night to Ziggy’s creepy mask and stealthy movements.
It’s moments like these that make me a firm believer that Halloween is not just for kids. It’s a chance for everyone to let their guard down and let their imagination run wild!
At our house, we’ve always loved getting into the Halloween spirit. Rylie would often decorate the house with those crazy cotton spiderwebs that seem to attach themselves to both nothing and everything at the same time. Ziggy and the kids took great joy in purchasing a giant, hairy spider that hangs from the door and makes creepy noises, causing me to avoid using the front door for about a month. I prefer decorating in the brilliant reds and oranges of fall and carving a pumpkin.
In my younger years, my parents also enjoyed decorating and even more so creating an experience for trick-or-treaters. It always involved some basic Halloween decorations and spooky music playing, initially on a tape, and graduating to a CD. Dad usually rigged some contraption that could be operated somewhat remotely. Most of the time, Mom was his accomplice, often creating the illusion of answering the door on a spookily decorated porch like all the other moms on the street. That’s when Dad would “come alive” or launch his contraption(s) - completely startling the unsuspecting guests.
Still, to this day, I can’t help but smile thinking of the wild things that we’d do. It was a special time of bonding and one that I wanted to continue. So, once Rylie and Tanner got a little bit older, we resurrected the tradition, even including my parents and other friends in our escapades.
As Halloween approached, our dinner time conversations often revolved around what kind of experience we’d create for unsuspecting visitors. At first it was more about the adults. My parents, Ziggy and I got to channel our inner kid and play pretend again. Then Rylie got in on the action. There were several years when she decided she’d rather be part of our haunted missions than trick-or-treat herself!
Each year, we’d pick a theme. The kids always had a role in that, whether they stuck around for the show or chose to collect Reeses Cups and Twizzlers instead.
One year the theme was a Haunted Pirate Ship. I wish I could remember whose idea was what, but I think it started with the fact that Rylie had an old pirate costume. In a way that’s kind of the magic of this whole ordeal - it was about our group of us, not any individual. Each of us would contribute ideas and somehow it all came together. It was just about imagination, experience, and fun.
For our haunted pirate ship, we each had to assemble some sort of pirate attire. A giant cardboard ship was crafted and place in front of our porch. A teeter-totter bike ramp that Zig had created for the kids became “the plank” and our trick-or-treaters had to walk the plank in order to get their candy. Pirates of the Caribbean music played in the background and as kids approached, our pirate selves would come to life harassing them with pirate speak and threats to throw them overboard. I can still hear Rylie’s giggles as she watched her always-serious mom and prim and proper grandparents turn into scallywags!
Another year we set up a Haunted Gold Mine. This one definitely started with Rylie! As I look back on this memory, I think it also highlighted one of the traits that Rylie possessed, but I didn’t always appreciate at the time.
Rylie loved bringing people together. She sought out ways to connect with others over common ground. For her, rocks were a way to connect with Grampy (my dad). My dad is a geologist by trade and somehow his love of rocks transferred to her. She was enamored with rocks and loved to collect them, look at them and even asked to go to an old gold mine for her birthday once!
So when Rylie proposed a haunted gold mine as our next theme that got Grampy’s wheels turning. Together, Rylie and Grampy, with the help of the rest of us determined that trick-or-treaters would have to pan for gold in order to get their candy.
My mind doesn’t work like this, but there was a wheelbarrow, a hose, a chute of some sort and a lot of rocks involved. Rylie LOVED it. We all dressed in scary masks and old clothes and took on the role of dead miners come back to haunt the mine.
In the last two years, it’s been much harder for all of us to get into the spirit. As much as we all enjoyed the process of bringing an idea to life, decorating, and creating a spooky experience for both kids and their parents, it’s just not the same without Rylie’s contagious laughter and spirit for the mischievous.
With the passage of time, I know it will get easier to channel her love for the season. I’m almost ready to dust off the kitchen table and gather the troops around for a planning session. It won’t be the same, but I know that bringing back togetherness, imagination and fun is a wonderful way to honor, not only Rylie, but the true spirit of Halloween - the magic of letting go and playing pretend.