I have missed the trick-or-treaters that always used to come by on Halloween. I loved seeing the little ones in their costumes. Of course, the very little ones always got more candy from me, but I tried to be generous with them all. It’s a shame that now, all of the children go to malls and go from store to store, or “trunk-or-treating” at churches. It wasn’t that way when I was little.
I don’t really recall any Halloweens with any clarity until we moved to a suburban community south of San Francisco. My first day of school there, in the spring. was at my third school of the year and my eighth classroom. Daddy was a career Naval Officer and that year brought a lot of changes for us. We finally bought a house and I was able to settle in for the rest of the school year. I met my best friend, Jenny, at the bus stop that first day. Although we didn’t have the same teacher, we became best friends at age 9 for all of the best reasons: we lived on the same street and we had the same barrettes. We were practically inseparable after that. Even after all these years, marriages and children for me, marriage and two PhD’s for her, we are still the kind of friends that just pick up where we left off, no matter how long it has been.
We lived in a time that doesn’t exist any longer. We had freedoms that children don’t have today. We had a just a few rules–we could play outside, after our homework was done, We had to change our of our school clothes before we played. In those times, we still, as girls, had to wear dresses to school. We had to be home in time for dinner at 6 p.m. We spent most of our time outdoors, riding our bikes everywhere, skating (me with the kind of skates that fit on my shoes and required a skate key to snug them up so they wouldn’t fall off—Jenny had SHOE SKATES), making up stories, playing with our Barbie dolls, learning how to play chess from the Encyclopedia and swimming in her above-ground pool.
Before Halloween, we spent weeks planning our costumes. Back then, very few children in our neighborhood got to have a “bought” costume. Instead, we used our imaginations and plowed through our parents’ and older siblings’ closets, trying to piece together a costume for that year. We also got to wear make-up! I always wanted to be something glamorous. I still do…sigh…
On Halloween, we had just a couple more rules. We couldn’t go trick-or-treating until after dinner and we had to be home by 8. That was about it. We always knew the best houses in the neighborhood that gave the best candy or the most. We heard stories about razor-blades in apples, but that was about it. No one offered x-rays to examine the candy before we ate it. We were even still allowed to eat the homemade cookies, popcorn balls or caramel apples that someone’s mother slaved over on Halloween day. But our parents, having given us our curfew, didn’t worry about us. We went by ourselves or with a couple of other friends. Our parents didn’t go with us and we were safe.
After we had finished trick-or-treating, we would go through our haul and trade each other for the candies we preferred. Jenny, the future PhD twice over, always got the best of the deals, I think. She was a very shrewd negotiator.We made up horror stories about some of the houses and people we had seen. We even invented a haunted house in the neighborhood and never went there. We went to bed that night, stuffed with candy and happily remembering the best times of the night.
My sons were able to have some Halloweens like I had. When they were younger, we went with them. When they got older, they went with their friends. But at that time, we lived in a smaller community out in the country and our little neighborhood was the only neighborhood nearby.I do remember when we first moved to Washington state. My older son, Sean, was almost three and wanted to be Dracula. Money was still a bit tight, but I raided my fabric supply and cannibalized an old bridesmaid dress to make him a beautiful Dracula cape, with the high black collar and lined with red satin, which he wore over a white shirt and dark pants. I slicked his hair back with Vaseline (note: never use Vaseline for this purpose. It took me days and days of washing his hair before I finally got it all out.) and used my make-up to give him a very pale face, dark eyes and red lipstick for his lips, with a few, carefully placed, drops of “blood”. He was so excited. However, when I lifted him up to see himself in the mirror, he was terrified!
In past years, Halloween as a family always meant watching, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, lots of games, plenty of candy and the first pumerkin pie (as my oldest called it when he was little) of the year. This year, my granddaughters are experiencing their first Halloween in Cozumel, Mexico, where their parents are living out their dream of living there for awhile. My other son and his family, my three grandsons, are living in Las Vegas where he is finally done with grad school and has his dream job. It’s a quieter time now.
Now, I am a grandmother, with only those memories. It was such a simple time, a safe time and a wonderful way to grow up. Those times are now gone. I know they won’t come back, but every year, I still wish for those days. There are no trick-or-treaters coming to the door, but I always buy candy, just in case. Of course, I always get the candy I love, so perhaps it’s not so bad after all.