Saturday, October 31, 2009

Orange You Happy It's Halloween?

When I was growing up, there were two times a year you got candy, Halloween and Easter, a rather odd juxtaposition if you think about it. Candy was seldom in the grocery budget, but everyone splurged at Halloween, except for crabby old people, and there weren't too many of them.

The neighborhood kids and I would plan our trick or treat routes, remembering which streets gave the best candy - M&M's, Snickers, Hershey's, peanut butter logs, even candy corn. At dusk on Halloween night we fidgeted in our front yards, waiting for the first parent to release us. It was a good night if you had to make a pit stop to dump your full grocery sack and go out for more, literally racing from house to house. One of the sadder moments of my childhood was when I rang the doorbell of a house and was identified as a big kid rather than a little kid. Big kids got less candy. I was in third grade and my childhood was over!

I still have my Indian costume from second grade, last worn in college. Handmade by my mom from burlap and decorated with sequins and beads, the floor length tunic is thigh length now. It was too itchy for my picky daughters to wear, but maybe it'll get used again someday.

As a truly older kid, I gave out the candy while my baby brother got the loot. The house I lived in during junior high had a courtyard with a wrought iron gate. The gate could be opened from inside the house with a string. I'll never forget the three year old girl who reached for the handle to open the gate. The gate opened before her hand touched it. She then reached further, grabbed the gate, shut it and fled, her dad laughing out loud. (Dads are like that.)

Over the years, my girls were bunnies, witches (sometimes troll headed), Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Eyore, a spider and other home made costumes. The Disney costumes I made are heirlooms - the funny things we mom spend time on. The boys were clowns, ghosts and superheroes. Once I figured out pajamas made great costumes we had a bunch of years for Batman and Superman, the pajama companies obligingly providing the capes as well. My favorite though, was three year old Wiley putting on a Tigger costume. The first thing he did was jump and land on his bottom. He thought he would bounce on Tigger's springy tail. Tonight Wiley was a ninja, using black shirt and pants with black soccer socks for the head and feet, and a plastic sword held in place with shoestrings.

Fifteen years ago we lived in the perfect Halloween house, a three story Victorian style with the big front porch and lots of gingerbread woodwork to drape things from. We would do spooky music, a fog machine, black lights and strobe lights. My oldest, dressed as a witch, lay on a bench as if dead. When kids jokingly referred to the mannikin and reached out to touch it, she would move and they would scream. My husband wore a suit and tie, but with gorilla hands, feet and head, to pass out candy.

One neighbor served hot dogs. Who would have thought it? But they made a perfect treat for the kids in the middle of all the sweets. Another neighbor put a spiked dog collar and chain on his twenty year old son. The son, wearing t-shirt and jeans and chained to the front porch post, acted the mad dog guarding the candy bowl. He played his part so well, he even scared the grownups. The braver kids still somehow managed to make it past him, though.

Our neighborhood would get several hundred trick or treaters. Those were good times.

Now there are too many crabby old, and not so old, people. They want to complain about the safety, the noise, the inconvenience. They gripe about the teenagers being too old for trick or treating or people coming to the door who "are not from our neighborhood."

Bring them all on, I say! At a time in history when our kids have so few traditions they can keep, what's the harm of Halloween fun, whether you're four or fourteen? Our kids can't wear costumes to school or have spook houses at the school carnival in case someone might be offended. Trick or treating is frowned on because there might be poison, or razor blades, or a costume might catch fire, or you might catch the swine flu or get a cavity.

Good grief! Whenever you can, let kids be kids and while you're at it, do a few things yourself just for fun. Halloween only comes once a year, so trick or treat!

1 comment:

Ricky Balthrop said...

Okay, so what are you going to be this Halloween?