Whiling visiting my mother at the seniors home last weekend, we started talking about Hallowe’en. As is common with Mom these days, she’s at her best while reminiscing. She reminded me that when I was a kid in the sixties, a number of the neighborhood moms would make popcorn balls and rice krispie squares to hand out. My mother made a big batch of fudge, and my sister and I would help her place four or five pieces in little paper bags.
My sister and I, and our friends, would spend days making costumes (few of us could afford store-bought anything in those days) carving pumpkins, and figuring out the most efficient routes in our neighborhood. There were no townhouse or condo complexes where we lived, just detached homes, so we planned carefully.
Pillowcases in hand, we scurried from door to door. It was exhilarating and exhausting. After a couple of hours, our pillowcases would be full and heavy. In those days, it never occurred to us to look for contaminated candy. We ate what we wanted with abandon. But then things changed.
Needles, or some other contaminant, began appearing in candy in other areas of the city. By the time I became a parent twenty-five years later, Hallowe’en came with plenty of cautions…Sort through candy carefully. Don’t eat anything homemade. Don’t go to doors alone. Adult supervision became practically mandatory. Fireworks were banned in some areas, due to accidents and horrific things done to small animals. Somehow violence had permeated what I once thought of as a completely safe evening.
I’m not sure if all the cautions rubbed off on my kids, but they were never big fans of knocking on strangers’ doors to ask for candy, Nor did they like to be scared. So we opted for the malls, which opened for trick-or-treating from 4:00 – 6:00 pm, where the focus was on fun rather than being scared.
These days, my kids are grownups who no longer live at home. We still live on the same hilly street where they were raised. It takes over thirty steps to reach our front door, some of which can be slippery in the rain. On a good night, the most trick-or-treaters I ever had was twenty. New row houses and townhouse complexes have been built the next street over, so I’ve placed myself on a Halloween hiatus.
If I become a grandparent, perhaps the ritual will resume. If it does, I’ll be there, ready to help, and to share stories of the Hallowe’ens I fondly remember.