When I was a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday. I loved it more than Christmas. It was that cool time of year when the leaves would fall from the trees during windy evenings and the breeze still had a hint of warmth. Okay, I guess it also had to do with the fact that on Halloween night I would get CANDY, CANDY and more CANDY. I loved dressing up and loved creating my perfect costume. When we were little, my Mom would make Halloween costumes for me and Tracy:
” Help, I’ve lost my sheep! And my dignity.”
In later years, Mom would sometimes buy us costumes from the store — probably K-Mart, and most likely a blue-light special. Little girls in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s had about two costume choices: nurse or witch. I chose the nurse. I liked those little candy pills that came in the little plastic nurse’s box. Hand-me-downs were also a part of Halloween: Coleen and Melissa would be wearing those Little Bo Peep costumes a few years later.
When I was a lot older (at least 9 or 10), I would pride myself in making my own costume. I wasn’t your typical girly-girl who wanted to be a Princess or Fairy or Bride for Halloween. I was immensely proud of a ‘bum’ costume I designed … complete with a pair of my Dad’s old pants I stuffed with pillows to look fat. I guess homeless people were fat back in the day. I rubbed used coffee grounds all over my face to resemble a five-o’clock shadow. “Brother, can you spare a dime? Or a Snickers?”
When I was just starting elementary school, there was a super dry spell in Halloween festivities for children in the San Francisco Bay Area. There was a crazy serial killer named the Zodiac on the loose (maybe you’ve heard of him). During those Zodiac rampage years, no trick-or-treating was allowed in the greater Vallejo area. I hated the Zodiac. I was too young to understand the awful truth about the Zodiac — all I knew was some crazy person had ruined my favorite holiday and all of us were banned to school cafeterias and community centers to celebrate our Halloween. Trick-or-treating around a cafeteria just isn’t the same once you’ve experienced the real outdoor festivities, especially when that nasty warm corn smell was still lingering in the air from lunch time.
We’d parade around the cafeteria in our costumes getting candy and snacks. Oh, and there was bobbing for apples, or as I like to call it, Hello Hepatitis! What the bleep? What were those adults thinking? Hey gang, let’s grab a huge rusty pail from the backyard scrap pile, fill it with water from the hose and throw some apples in it. Then for kicks, let’s have the kids dress up like dorks with crazy makeup all over their face, run around the block begging the neighbors for candy in the cold, then drag them and their runny noses over to the big rusty water pail full of apples and stick their faces in it. Then let’s have ‘em bite at the apples with their candy-corroded teeth long enough so that their spit mixes together in the water. If one of them actually snags an apple in their teeth, they WIN!! They win an APPLE!!
Even as a kid I knew something was terribly wrong with bobbing for apples. But there were more dangers lurking around in Halloween goodies. My Dad made us well aware of the potential razor blade or cherry bomb or “drug injected by needle” that just might be hiding in our mini Three Musketeers bar. When we got home from trick-or treating during the non-Zodiac years, we had to line up and pass our bags over to Dad for official inspection. Dad would check for pin holes and the like in our candy wrappers. Many times he would have to taste test our candy to be sure they were safe for us. He had to check A LOT of our candy. Well, he didn’t want a cherry bomb to blow our cheek off.
One time I didn’t listen to my Mom and Dad’s lecture about eating candy at night and I snuck lots of candy from my trick-or-treat bag into my room right before bed, and proceeded to eat most of it. That night, I had the dreaded “eating-candy-before-bedtime nightmare.” About werewolves. Dancing werewolves. If you missed that post, click here.
These days, Halloween has somewhat lost its’ magic. We have a ton of cool Halloween decorations, but never decorate because no one trick-or-treats in our neighborhood. Our neighbors have a light that illuminates the entire cul-de-sac, but strangely enough, they forget to turn it on Halloween night. So we usually go to where the nieces and nephews are to see all their darling ladybug, Thomas the Train and Tinkerbell costumes. And Jay makes sure to check all their trick-or-treat candy for dangerous items.