Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ghosts of Halloween's Past

As kids we looked forward to Halloween for the simple pleasure of the candy.  Who didn't divide up their loot into piles according to what it was? Okay, only the OCD kids like myself then.  But before that moment of candy accounting came, there was the trick or treating. When I was much, much younger the costumes came in boxes like this one below:

Basically, you had an uncomfortable plastic mask that cut into your face, especially around the eyes, and made it hard to breathe.  Then you either froze because of how thin the plastic costume was or you complained that your Mom made you wear a coat over it.  “How will they even know I’m Spiderman?!!?”  Of course the material, which was made of something like a cheap garbage bag had thin ties in the back that tended to tear from the costume before Halloween night even came.  One year I went as Charlie Brown, but mostly I went as superheroes like Superman and Batman.  Back when I wore those costumes, I carried one of those plastic pumpkins to put my candy in.  As I got older, I quickly realized how this limited the amount of candy I could get and, therefore, chose to carry pillow cases instead.

As I got older, I graduated from the cheap, uncomfortable store bought costumes to the do-it-yourself put together kind using whatever you could find at home.  How many others of you went as hobos?  As I mentioned before, I moved from the plastic pumpkin to the much more loot efficient pillow cases (generally two on a good night).   Also, I went from having my dad escort me and my sister around, to me and my friends running amok from house to house in an attempt to see who could get the most candy.  We tended to stay away from the dentist who lived in our neighborhood (healthy snacks and toothbrushes) or any home that gave out homemade treats because, even if we liked them, our parents would've chucked them in the trash (This was, after all, the age of fear that someone had put a razor blade in an apple).  The only problem with do-it-yourself costumes were the fact that when a parent asked, "What are you supposed to be?" they usually meant it and weren't just being condescending.  My younger sister always had it easier than me because she took dance and simply wore whatever previous dance recital costume she had that fit her.   

Unlike today, the costumes were not a minimum of $30 and any decorating someone did was also home-made and not the elaborate staging that homes now do for Halloween. I think there was only one house in our neighborhood that went all out and decorated the exterior and interior into a haunted house.

When we trick or treated, we stuck to our own neighborhoods.  Nobody's parents drove them to another neighborhood like they do now.  We also had to avoid the teenagers who roved the neighborhood in search of unchaperoned kids whose candy they'd steal.  Back home, no matter what the age, I would immediately dump all my candy out onto the kitchen table to see what I'd gotten.  I was always thrilled by anything chocolate.  That part of Halloween hasn't changed for me.  Of course, as a kid, you always wondered why you got soooo many packs of those Sweet Tarts (As an adult you realize: Because they're cheap!).  The advantage to having a sibling was that we then negotiated to trade for candy we really wanted.  "I'll give you two of these Mounds bars for one of those Reese Cups."  (This didn't work since neither of us were fond of coconut and both of us loved Reese Cups).  Having a sibling meant you counted your candy to ensure that they didn't take any of it, though we did have to pay the "parent tax" by giving our parents something from our spoils (This was especially true when my Dad had to walk with us).  

It's hard to believe that now I'm the one walking my son around the neighborhood as he trick or treats.  Where did the time go?

 Being 12, he now has no use for cute costumes like train engineer or Buzz Lightyear. The only costume we ever made him was the year he went as Max from Where The Wild Things Are:

Our poor dog, Chloe, had to suffer being chased around the house with him yelling, "I'll eat you up!"

That was the last cute costume he had.  After that it was the angel of death, a mad scientist, and, last year, a zombie nerd:

It's funny, though, because no matter how he dresses, other kids who are trick or treating keep calling him "Harry Potter," partially because of his glasses, I guess.  It drives Benjamin crazy.  "Can't they see I'm a (fill in whatever costume he was dressed in that year)?"  Still, I wish he dressed as Harry Potter, which he did way back when he was 4.

The older he gets the more gruesome and scary he wants his costumes to be. This year he's going as a demented doctor with a blood-stained lab coat and bloody knife (Yeah, I really do miss when he was Robin.  See below, he's the one on the far left).

When I asked him when he planned on stopping going trick or treating, he responded with, "Hey!  You're never too old for free candy!"  (He's clearly picked up my spiritual gift).  Like me, Benjamin's also a candy counter who stacks his candy into piles.  Having inherited my sweet tooth has also made him sly about his candy.  Probably around the age he is in the photo above, my wife and I made the mistake of telling him that we were going to take his candy after he had a couple of pieces and that we'd put it somewhere safe so that we could give him a little everyday instead of gorging himself on all of it in two (like I used to do).  Over the course of the week, we noticed him eating candy.  I asked my wife, "Did you give that to him?"  "No, I thought you did," she replied.  After searching his room, we discovered that he'd hidden pieces all over the place so he could get some whenever he wanted a sugar fix.

I do wonder how much longer he'll want to trick or treat.  Part of me will be sad (after all, who's candy will I go through and pick out pieces from if he's not out there getting it for me?), and then part of me doesn't want the teenager who goes from door to door, not even dressing in a costume, and mumbling something as he holds out his Wal-Mart bag and I toss some in just in the hopes he'll move along and not do anything to my house or pumpkins (that was something I remembered about the day after Halloween when the streets would be littered with smashed pumpkins).

And even though my son no longer dresses up as a "wild thing" it doesn't mean that my pumpkin won't be one:


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