Next to Christmas, Halloween was always my favorite holiday growing up.
Between getting to wear costumes and looting all that free candy, life was good. When I was little, Mom always made a big splash out of the day we would go to Kmart and pick out our Halloween costumes. It was a big deal! My brothers and I usually knew well in advance what we wanted to be for Halloween and the selection process had more to do with size than type.
Anyone who remembers the 1970s will easily recall the cheesy plastic masks that covered your face with holes for your eyes and nostrils and a tiny slit for the mouth. They were accompanied by even cheesier plastic onesies that tied up in the back.
Mom was smart enough to know that the three of us would wear them out long before the day of trick-or-treating, so she made us hide them under her bed. That didn’t stop us from getting them out, putting them on, and showing them off for every new guest to our home throughout the month of October.
Our beloved costumes would always be showing a little wear by the time the appointed day came. First up were the Halloween parties at Niwot Elementary School. The day always ended with a costume party and a parade around the school. That usually caused some damage and/or staining to the costumes. We were kids. We didn’t care. Besides, if Mom couldn’t fix it or clean it, chances are it would be hidden under our coats (the price of living in Colorado).
There once was a time when I could recite to you which costumes I wore, in order. Today I have general memories of being the Road Runner, Batman, and Spider-Man. As I got older, I had costumes I made myself. My favorite was my Captain Kirk outfit. That was followed by my Luke Skywalker costume. Then I got too old and too cool to dress up anymore (at least until I got to college when we had some really fun costume parties).
When it started getting dark on Halloween Day, Mom led my brothers and I around our neighborhood for the annual door-to-door tradition. We followed the same ritual at each house. We rang the doorbell or knocked on the door and sang out “trick or treat” when it was answered. After the requisite goodies were deposited into our bags, we would turn to leave with the admonishment from Mom, “don’t forget to say thank you!”
The same thing happened with all of our friends. It was like a big parade around the neighborhood and in a small town like ours you knew everyone and what costume they were wearing. Even if you didn’t recognize them, you knew their mother and could figure it out.
It was always a special treat if we got to go into some of the neighboring subdivisions because that meant more candy. As a parent I now understand what a saint Mom was to let us do this because she knew the candy wasn’t good for us. That and she was getting tired of saying “don’t forget to say thank you” or “what do you say?” all evening.
Each year we kept hearing rumors about how much better the candy haul was up on the hill in Morton Heights. Kids there always filled large plastic trash bags with candy – sometimes two of them! It never occurred to me to verify this with my friends who lived there. Somehow they always seemed to get the same amount of wrapped confections as those of us in the valley.
Once the trek was done, we retreated home and began the ritual inventory. Don, Chip, and I were very competitive, and we always wanted to know who got the most. This was also a time of swapping goodies and stealing what we could. I can tell you for a fact that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups never made it to Nov. 1.
It also took me a long time to figure out that tattling on my brothers for stealing my candy was an act of futility. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure my parents exacted a candy tax from our bags when we were not looking. I know my kids paid that price, but we’ll let that be our little secret.
Actually, my kids didn’t do a lot of door-to-door activity on Halloween while they were growing up. By then our church held some variation of a trunk-or-treat and we had a big outdoor party with games, food, and lots of candy. Their hauls were always so much bigger than mine at their age.
Now, with my kids grown, Halloween has lost some of its luster. It will likely be several years before I have any grandkids I can spoil. Still, even as an old man, I like dressing up. I do it as a re-enactor with the Texas Army, but most all our events were canceled this year. I guess I’ll have to take advantage of the Texas Renaissance Festival for my costuming pleasure. We have tickets for the final weekend, which is the Celtic Christmas. It will be like having Halloween and Christmas all rolled into one!