“There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have the feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well.” ― Nicholas Sparks, A Walk to Remember
Fifty years ago, when I was nine (going on 10) years old, I lived in a house that at the time was roughly as old as I was; 1001 SW 102nd Avenue was built sometime in 1963, the same year when I was born. My mom, Beatriz Diaz-Granados, was its second owner, having purchased it in the late summer of 1972, and it would be “home” for our small family – which at the time consisted of Mom, my older half-sister Vicky, and me – for exactly five years.
In late October of 1972, just as now, the start of the autumn/winter holiday season was approaching. Halloween fell on a Tuesday that year – it falls on a Monday (tomorrow!) this year – and if my experiences from later years that my memory is clearer on are any indication, the hot topic among my fellow third-grade students in Ms. Cynthia Turtletaub’s classroom at Coral Park Elementary was “What are you going as for Halloween?”
“The worst memories stick with us, while the nice ones always seem to slip through our fingers.” ― Rachel Vincent, My Soul to Save
I wish I could tell you, Dear Reader, what costume I wore for Halloween 1972, if I wore it to school on All Hallows’ Eve for a Halloween party, or what my first “back in the States” Halloween was like.
The truth is, sadly, that although I remember that Mom bought me a costume with a mask of some kind and that I went trick-or-treating with a group of friends from my block on SW 102nd Avenue (shepherded by Sheila Blanchard, the self-appointed Queen Mom of the neighborhood) early in the evening of October 31, my mind draws a blank when I try to summon memories with concrete details.
I suppose the passage of time, combined with the fragility of memories, has sandblasted those specific details away from my repository of memories and trivia. I was still trying to “become more American” and assimilate into the mainstream culture of my native country after living abroad for nearly six years. My mom was not an avid photographer or keeper of a diary, so I don’t have either photos or a contemporaneous written record from that period in my life to jog my memories.
The only thing I can say for sure about Halloween 1972 is that this was the first time that I had to have an adult inspect my modest haul of Halloween candy for such things as cough drops and other nasty surprises that unkind adults might put in our bags. (As I recall, no one got the dreaded “apples with a razor blade,” which Mrs. Blanchard warned us kids about, but I did see a handful of Halls™ cough drops mixed with the usual trove of Sweet Tarts, Milk Duds, mini versions of Snickers, Almond Joy, Mounds, Kit-Kats, and good old Hershey Bars.)
Oh, and it was around this time of year that we started having to wear either light sweaters or light jackets to school because in late October and early November the temperatures start to drop, even in the subtropical zone of the Southeastern U.S. Days would gradually get shorter – especially once we changed the clock from Daylight Savings Time back to Standard – and the temperature dropped to the mid-to-low 60s at night. Sometimes, if a particularly strong cold front made it all the way to South Florida, it would get, as I used to say, “Bogota-cold,” starting after sunset and lasting well into the morning hours.
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan – Billy Joel, “We Didn’t Start the Fire”
I do have memories, albeit vague ones, of later Halloweens, such as sitting in front of my mom’s Zenith TV set – or later, my smaller black-and-white GE TV in my room – and waiting with anticipation to see old horror films (mostly the ones made by Universal back in the 1930s and ‘40s) on the then indie WCIX TV station’s Creature Features Halloween broadcasts, or trading my boxes of candy corn for Sweet Tart with my small gang of friends from the neighborhood.
But of Halloween 1972, I’m afraid that what you see in this post is all that I can recall. It wasn’t a particularly sad time for me, as I was over my “homesickness” for Colombia – which was remarkably short lived – and was more focused on learning English and my budding crush on a certain auburn-haired girl named Cheryl T.
“Memories, even bittersweet ones, are better than nothing.”― Jennifer L. Armentrout, Onyx
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