Enjoy Halloween on the Square

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 30, 2002

It was Halloween night and the town turned out for a celebration on the square. Super heroes and fairy princesses stood in line with their parents. The mayor, councilmen, a sprinkling of commissioners, along with a few other assorted politicians, shook hands with the crowd.

Offices facing the white-columned court house sported orange and black crepe-paper decorations. Ghosts flew across the windows of buildings where lawyers and insurance adjusters conducted their business.

Secretaries from those offices were now witches and clowns, holding baskets of candy purchased with donations from business people and the city government.

Children inched around the square collecting bags of treats. A mini Bob the Builder shifted his hard-hat and inspected the goodies a witch put in his bag.

On the square people set up chairs and watched the trick-or-treat parade. Giggling teenagers, paying more attention to each other than to their customers, sold $1.50 candy apples.

The crowd swelled into the hundreds, then the thousands. A band set up in the middle of all the goings-on and started to play. The beat was rock with a touch of country. People congregated at the edge of the music, heads nodding, feet tapping, hands clapping in time with the music.

The band ended a song and started one with a Jimmy Buffet-beat. From the back of the audience, a child not quite four feet tall stepped onto the grass and commenced wiggling in what he surely called a dance. Wearing a rainbow-colored wig and a 1960s tie-dyed shirt, he looked like lollipop kid meets the Grateful Dead.

His head bobbed up and down as his mother laughed and urged him on.

People pointed at the child and smiled. Soon a cowboy, not much taller than the hippie, joined in followed by pint-sized clown. They twirled and twisted, their giggles setting everyone around them to laughing.

As the beat intensified, adults tapped their feet harder and clapped their hands more often. The kids kept moving. Not stopping when one song ended, they shifted their moves to fit the new tune and danced on.

As "Proud Mary" echoed over the square, she moved out of the crowd to a spot in front of the lead singer. The woman was not exactly young, not exactly old and a bit more than "pleasingly plump."

Her costume wasn't fancy. In fact it looked a bit like a well-worn pair of pajamas. She smiled at the guitar player and then began to rotate her hips in time to the music.

"Proud Mary keeps on rolling," he sang.

And roll she did. Every part of her in motion and ever inch of her face smiling. People around the square watched, a few laughed. Then from outside the circle of light, somewhere near the courthouse steps – low at first, then growing – a chant started.

"Go Mary. Go Mary."

It grew louder and louder until it was almost a part of the song.

"Go Mary. Go Mary."

The woman, inspired, threw it into high gear, moving her feet and clapping her hands.

"Go Mary. Go Mary," the rain-bow-haired child yelled.

"Go Mary. Go Mary," the cowboy repeated.

From the woman's right, a skinny man walked into the mix and started dancing, matching her move for move.

Now the crowd applauded and cheered. The entire square rocked to the beat of "Proud Mary" as another woman, and then another man joined in the dancing.

Grandmothers leaned forward to get a better look, while grandfathers sat back laughing and shaking their heads.

Standing at the front of the crowd, I watched, feeling the rhythm of the music reach into my soul.

What fun it would be to give in to that rhythm. To melt into the music alongside Proud Mary and her troupe of dancers. I could hold the hand of the hippie child and spin until we were dizzy. Or twirl the cowboy round and round under the big harvest moon.

"Go Mary. Go Mary."

The song ended and the band went straight into another number. Proud Mary held her ground shifting her body into a different gear as the singer wailed a country song.

I inched my way through the people who were fitting their chant to match the new song's beat.

"Go Mary. Go Mary," they screamed.

I looked back to see Mary toss her head from side to side as she bent over and shook. I envied her ability to cut loose and boogie, not caring who watched, what they thought or how she might be talked about tomorrow when the world went back to its serious business.

I could do it too, I thought.

I could say "pooh" on what people think. I could dance like something wild and free. I knew I could do it, but I didn't.

Instead I sang, "Go Mary. Go Mary," all the way to my car.