We grumble about change. Who likes it? But damn, I miss the glory days of Halloween in our neighborhood – which takes me right back to being a kid, and what the great spooky candy-fest was all about back then. WE never had store bought costumes, except maybe for those horrible hard masks with the cheap elastic on the back – who cared though? Our mom would haul out black shirts, and tights, and rip up sheets and voila – the five of us would be a rag tag team of cats, witches, hobos and ghosts. My folks never followed us into the dark scary night – they kept the youngest inside and let the rest loose, but Holy Cow Batman, we weren’t ever alone. We tore through hedges and across lawns following a band of trick-or-treaters hooting and hollering through the night, stomping our feet on door steps where someone’s dad was insisting we sing before he would drop caramels or suckers or candy corn into our pillow cases. Yep pillow cases, always pillow cases.
Halloween got more la dee da for my four kids. I bought them big plastic orange pumpkins for their loot (pillow cases held more). l encouraged them to fashion their own costumes but was a sucker for buying green make-up and shiny witches hats. And admittedly, for as long as they’d let me I tried to keep up to their scampering feet, but not for safety, more for camaraderie with the neighbors and because – Dang it! – I delighted in the excitement of Halloween. I shared the thrill of the kids running through the dark, costumed as something they imagined as scary or comic, trying to decide should they go this way or that, amid rumors of haunted houses and neighbors giving out unheard of amounts of loot.
My kids have grown up and buy elaborate costumes at ‘Halloween Stores’ to wear to parties on the Saturday before the 31st. The kids have grown and flown but a lot of us parents in this community have stayed put. It gets referred to as ‘an old neighborhood’ especially the day after Halloween when we lament the small number of trick or treaters, and talk about all the leftover teeny-weeny chocolate bars we have to eat ourselves. The afternoon of the 31st I was in a local mall and as dusk descended parents were bringing their tiny kids, dressed as mice and princesses, to the brightly lit shops to get free candy. Okay, it was cold and raining – I’ll give those moms and dads that, but parading through the malls just isn’t the spirit of trick or treating outside after dark, with pumpkins all aglow. It galls me to think that while Halloween gets steadily more commercialized the old-fashioned fun of it is being destroyed by overly anxious bubble- wrapping parents, though friends assure me that out in the new neighborhoods, stacked with children, you can still experience throngs of trick-or-treaters.
Part of our Halloween gig is for me to pick up my costumed granddaughters (this year they’re Batgirl and Gotham’s Harley Quinn) and whip them over to their great-grandparent’s house – even at age eighty-seven my mom would never dream of turning out the lights and hiding when there were ghosts and goblins outside looking for treats. On the way we stop to stare and shiver at one of those houses that go all out – bearing witness to the most devoted display of Halloween spine-chilling hair-raising dare-to-come-up-the-path to-our-house fun. Watching this couple adding dry ice and flickering lights to their freaky yard restored my faith in the occasion, and I doubly felt my granddaughter’s urgency to get home to trick-or-treat.
My daughter brought little batgirl and Harley Quinn to our house after they circled their own block, still revved up enough to come visit lonely neighbors with me. Like I said, it’s an old neighborhood, the streets are far too quiet and we all want to bend down and regal Batgirl and Harley Quinn with stories of the glory days on the block when there were gangs flying down the street calling out into the night, “Trick er Treat. Halloween Apples.” But the girls, sleepy eyed and contend, and just the right amount of scared, don’t seem to be missing what they never knew. And hey what’s with the apples anyways?
PS. I’d like to engage with my readers – please leave a comment or tell me, what was your Halloween all about? If you’d like to read more about my own four monsters and their journeys into the wide scary world check out my book, Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest.