“Maybe in some other cities or towns Halloween was a holiday for children only, but Georgetowners of every age costumed themselves and walked up and down the M street thoroughfare. A great many folks, big and little, smeared charcoal or talcum on their faces and stuck their heads through holes in old sheets. Lester Gorson stood on his regular shoe-shine corner with the battered silk top hat he wore every year. Across his mouth, he wore a red bandana.
“The rich people’s Halloween was a night of fancy parties and carriages down by horses with plumed headdresses. The Chesters up on R street were throwing their usual big Colonial costume ball and had hired Snow Simpson to wear a white powdered wig, a silk jacket, and knickers of robin’s-egg blue. He stood on the portico bowing the guests through the house’s grand columns and into the vestibule. Knots of costumed colored children paused on the south side of the street and peeped through the doors and windows to glimpse guests and the massive gold and crystal chandelier in the foyer. Jonnie Mae and the others in her group laughed at Snow from across the street on their way to the cemetery. Duck Dudley lobbed crab apples at Snow’s wig. The first crab apple hit the center of the oak door, but the second caught Snow upside his head and knocked the powdered wig sideways. The group ran off laughing at Snow trying to settle the thing back on his coal black head.
“It had been the tradition from as far back as any of the families could remember that on Halloween the costumed children trooped up to the Mount Zion cemetery to tempt fate by running and hollering like banshees among the oldest headstones.
“Press Parker stood ith his back against a tree that had been propping people up since before the Flood. He watched as he did every Halloween to see that none of the headstones got toppled in all the chasing and hoo–rawing. He kept an eye on the torches and the littles ones so that no one crawled into a crypt playing hide-and-seek and got suffocated like the little Henderson baby had back in ’09.
“Press was sure the bones didn’t mind some company one day a year, They hadn’t heard the sound of children’s feet slapping on top of their heads since last Halloween.”
from “River, Cross My Heart” by Breena Clarke
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