Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Used To Be Less Tricky

I love this time of year but I have to say that part of the magic of it is stolen by Christmas decorations that now appear in July.  When we were kids didn't Santa hold off long enough to let The Great Pumpkin have his day?  Greedy old man.  Other things have changed too. Halloween decorations are dragged out and the real cobwebs are swept off the fake ones in September.  How is any child supposed to be frightened of plastic tombstones they've been looking at for a month? Oh wait, those pint sized gremlins aren't coming to the door anyway because once again in their zeal to completely sanitize and child proof a perfectly good holiday, modern parents drive their children to officially non scary, candy inspected, "events".

I remember well riding the bus home from school on Halloween DAY and listening to everyone talk about how they were going to decorate. What made it scary when you walked up to a door was that you didn't know what to expect.  Dads who were good sports (like mine) were known to run around in sheets scaring children as they walked to the next house. I don't remember anyone being worried if any of us were going to be emotionally scarred for life by this or if we were inadvertently paying homage to Satan. Wasn't innocence grand?

It was simple too.  There are pictures of me in a store bought costume when I look to be maybe 2 or 3, but for the most part every kid I knew had a costume he'd made himself.  So out we'd go with pillow cases (I'm holding fast to the idea that childhood was at its best when it was low tech) and without adults.  Routes were plotted carefully. A child who could not remember how to add fractions for a test had no problem remembering which house gave out full size candy bars the year before (we call those priorities).  It really did seem as if magic was afoot some years. I remember hitting over a hundred houses one night with a giant harvest moon looking on, beyond trees made suddenly spooky in their bareness.  It was cold, my shoes were wet, and I was overjoyed at the ever increasing weight of my treasure.


Once home the second part of the ritual began. This constituted dumping our our ill gotten gains and comparing with siblings while parents insisted that all their favorites did indeed need to be carefully "inspected" (a great game in which they pretended they were actually going to EAT part of your loot).  The trading began; I hated candy corn and always traded it away. Sometimes there were homemade popcorn balls which we were allowed to eat even if our parents didn't have the social security number of the maker.  Some wise guy dad who was a dentist always gave out fruit (I never understood his business plan) and the really cheap parents always had those terrible peanut butter things in orange and black wax wrappers.


 The next day at school the mischief of the previous evening was recounted and embellished to no end.  The Halloween decorations of the houses were carefully critiqued as were the candy choices of the owners. Costumes were judged posthumously, exaggerations of all kinds were allowed and encouraged.  It was all glorious, simple fun that has for the most part been replaced by something called "Trunk or Treat" and "Fall Fests".  BOO!

* From the Housewife's archives. (2010)

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