When I was growing up, our holidays were nothing short of amazing, over-the-top events. With my childlike Mother?s creative genius and the collective efforts of my brothers and sisters (some more than others of course), our parties made a huge splash. Halloween probably topped them all and not just for us but for everyone who came to celebrate.
Even on cold, rainy school nights, those Halloweens were so happy and carefree. Our home was an open door to countless trick or treaters and their grownups. Some we knew well and others not at all but everyone was always welcome. Our warm bright kitchen was filled with happy conversation made by partygoers in fun, fabulous costumes. Every year, Halloween dinner was the same ? hot cider, my Mom?s sloppy joes and homemade brownies, all served from restaurant-sized pots and pans because so many came to share this always great dinner. However, the real big event and showstopper of those nights was our treats – cotton candy made from an authentic carnival-size machine, carefully spun one at a time by my Dad, the clown.
The tradition started one year, early in September, when we were all quite young.? My Mom, who loved the holidays, was inspired to buy a cotton candy machine, specifically with Halloween in mind. It was clear, when she made this decision, she already had a designated cotton candy maker chosen. As soon as her just-for-fun purchase was made, she had a clown costume underway for Dad. His costume, made from yards of bright pink and white striped cotton, was trimmed with big purple ruffles around the collar and cuffs, and topped off with a very tall cone hat.? She also had a second suit made, in miniature, for my little brother.
From that first year, and for many more that followed, my lanky, 6?4? father, a prominent businessman and community leader, dressed up in his clown suit for Halloween.? And, usually just before the first trick or treater arrived, one of us kids completed the funny picture by adding big red lipstick circles to his cheeks, along with a big red and white happy smile. Having a clown face painted on may not have been the best moment of those nights for my Dad but he never complained.
With assistance from his little sidekick, Dad played his role for hours, spinning enormous pink fluffy ovals on white paper cones for countless trick or treaters. Throughout the evening, they filled the candlelit courtyard, fragrant with warm, sweet vanilla and sugar, and watched our Dad, with his own brand of showmanship, spin their special treat. This was the stuff legends are made of, at least in the trick or treat world of Kansas City.
On those fun, fun nights it always looked as if Dad had a smile going behind his painted?on one. I think he loved the attention, the smiles and countless thanks you coming back to him from all of the kids. It might have seemed Dad was out of his element in this loud get-up. But this happy-go-lucky side was really one part of who he was. I loved that about my Dad.
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