Monday, October 31, 2011

When Halloween was in the dark ...

When I was a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday.  Probably some children feel that way still.  And there was a whole "Halloween season," which started right after school reopened in the fall.  By the end of September, the classroom was decorated with pumpkin drawings and construction-paper cutouts of ghosts and witches (I don't remember cornstalks.  I imagine they were not yet in vogue).  But the best thing about Halloween, in the early 1960s, was the freedom of Halloween night.

Hard as it is to believe, Halloween trick-or-treating back in the day was done in the dark, absent hovering parents.  Parents stayed at home and watched TV, after helping us children get into our costumes, handing us flashlights, and warning us appropriately about getting run over (this is the only warning I recall ever receiving).  Costumes could be more-or-less the same for several years. "Blue fairy again?" Mom would inquire, and I consented to be the blue fairy until I outgrew the costume.

I always trick-or-treated with Cathy and Chuck, my sibling friends from around the block.  We basically ran wild for two or three hours after dinner, through neighborhood after neighborhood, finding our way back home shortly before bedtime.  No one kept track of us (there were -- gasp! -- no cell phones). Mom and Dad would look up when I arrived, admire the size of my candy-stuffed pillowcase, and advise me not to eat it all at once.  No one checked for razorblades, poison, or any other items of ill-intent.

By the time I raised my own kids, trick-or-treating had migrated from the evening to the afternoon.  My kids enjoyed it, but for me, it had lost a lot of its glamor.  What's scary in the afternoon, in broad daylight? Not much.  I took a half-day off so I could trail around behind my son and daughter, sometimes in the company of adult friends of mine. Trick-or-treating was now a group activity for parents, too. It was ... shall we say ... ho hum.

On Halloween night, by the time I get home from work, Halloween activities are long over.  Everyone turns out their porch lights, to discourage teenagers who have ignored the curfew.

A Halloween curfew.  I realize the point is the safety of kids, but my happy memories are at odds with this dangerous world.   

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