Where has all the magic gone for Halloween?

The spirit of Halloween is alive and well in the Stroebel family.

I’m not the one carrying the torch, though. This year, that honor belongs to Sarah and Katy.

They’re determined to light a fire under the whole family. Now that October is upon us, they’re in full-fledged Halloween mode. After all, as far as they’re concerned, Oct. 1 marks the first day of 31 Days of Halloween.

There’s no dodging their persistent question: “Aunt Julie, what are you going to be for Halloween?”

It’s a question I used to take seriously. And they’ve known me to dress up in the past. The husband and I joined them for trick-or-treating one year dressed as Alice and the Mad Hatter. A year before, I was darting around my retail job dressed as Batgirl.

My answer this year is, “I don’t know. Maybe I won’t dress up.”

Where has all the magic gone? This year especially, I’m struggling to find enthusiasm for fall and its holidays. I haven’t found the energy yet to haul the autumn decorations up from the basement. Not a single bag of Halloween candy has come home in a grocery bag. I even talked myself out of buying pumpkins and mums — why invest the money when squirrels and frost will bring about their early demise?

Bah humbug.

I haven’t always been a Halloween curmudgeon. Even last year, I bought Halloween-themed stickers, candy, pencils, and erasers to make 70 treat bags. Eight trick-or-treaters later, the other 62 bags are still in my basement.

(Minus the candy … I plundered that to console my disappointment over the lack of costumed kids coming to my door.)

Rewinding way back, I was as far opposite a curmudgeon as you could get. By Aug. 1 each year, I was pulling “Hocus Pocus” off the movie shelf and watching it daily. I was plotting my Halloween costume, changing my mind almost daily. I would open my Halloween drawer (yes, I had a drawer devoted exclusively to Halloween) to pull out decorations, carefully preserved trick-or-treating bags, and craft supplies.

Halloween was my favorite holiday in childhood. For one night each year, I didn’t have to imagine I was a princess or a witch or a pirate or a superhero. I became a princess or a witch or a pirate or a superhero. I looked the part.

And boy, did I ever play the part. Halloween was a daylong imagination extravaganza!

The magic of the season stayed alive through high school. Our drama club hosted an annual Halloween costume contest, and I reveled in the opportunity to escape into another identity for a day. As a junior, I spent a glamorous day whisking around the halls as Cinderella. As a senior, I tapped into my superpowers to be Rogue from X-Men.

The holiday fun fizzled a little in college, though. As a freshman, I rolled out of bed on Oct. 31 and dressed in a devil costume in honor of being a Eureka College Red Devil. I donned a bright red dress (complete with a pointy tail), a sparkling red wig, a devil-horned headband, bright red lipstick, and topped off the look with a pitchfork. My love for Halloween merged with my pride of being a college student.

By the end of my first class of the morning, my face was as red as my wig. On a campus of 500+ students, I was the only person in costume. And there wasn’t time to return to my dorm and change into jeans and a hoodie. I spent the entire day sticking out like …

Well, like the only girl on campus in a bright red devil costume.

I’ve only dressed up twice since then (as Batgirl and Alice), and both were Halloweens I spent with Sarah and Katy.

I’ll try to muster up some magic this year and reignite my love of a holiday tailor-made for imagination and play.

And worst case scenario, if I can’t put my heart into a costume, I’ll tell Sarah and Katy I’m dressed as a character from literature …

I’ll wear my usual clothes and just say I’m Aunt Julie from “Sarah & Katy and the Imagination Blankets.”

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