OPINION — It’s long ago enough now, that the Halloween celebrations of my youth have melded into one autumn-infused memory: It’s twilight, and the streets are hushed save for the scrape of dry leaves on cement. My siblings and I stretch costumes over our winter coats and the anticipation of candy has us giddy. Outside, the evening smells of campfires and candles and the innards of freshly carved pumpkins. We scurry down our front steps to join the other neighborhood children as the streetlights click on.
By the time we run up to the first house screeching “TRICK OR TREAT!” the long shadows have turned into the dark blanket of night. We feel powerful and wild; we are ourselves, but also not. The world as we usually know it has temporarily been suspended and all the usual stoops and porches are a little spooky and unfamiliar.
For an hour or two we scuffle and run, jostling each other at each new doorway, cloth sacks outstretched, while parents gather at the curbs, chatting. Later, we return home and sort our booty, best to worst, keeping close count of each category: Mini candy bars, candy in miniature boxes, candy in wrappers, gum, and then the outliers — the weird off brand stuff — which gets shuffled to the side to be consumed after we’ve eaten our way through all the “good” candy.
I’ve written before about how Halloween in the country is a different affair than the Halloweens I remember. My kids will never tumble out our door and down the street to run with a pack of friends from house to house. The closest house is a mile away after all. The next closest, another mile. Instead, we will drive into town for a ‘trunk-or-treat’ celebration, and line our vehicle up next to the other pickups and cars along Main Street. Once there, the kids will still run wild, just as they did in my day, even if it is only up and down a few small town blocks.
Meanwhile, this week is all about the preparations for the big event. Unlike years’ past, my son is old enough to know his desires and be more decisive now, so his costume is nearly done and ready to go. His sister, on the other hand, still changes her mind as often as she changes her moods — which is to say very often. And she is frustrated when what she imagines doesn’t instantaneously materialize.
Then there is the concern of outerwear. This past weekend, when I told her we really needed to start working on her costume, she was absolutely certain she wanted to be a pirate queen, but was equally certain that pirate queens have short sleeves and do not wear coats or sweaters, and no, never cloaks.
“What do you think pirate queens do in the winter?” I asked her, and the look she gave me in return would have put fear into the heart of even the roughest, toughest pirate, making it clear that while she may not have the wardrobe to be queen, she certainly has the temperament for the job.
Unfortunately for both of us, the weather forecast for Halloween predicts we will have either a very crabby pirate queen or a very chilly one come next weekend. I remember having the same feelings as a child. I loved the idea of being able to slip into another identity, if only for an evening, and anything that disturbed the authenticity (like putting on my regular winter coat over top of my outfit — the horrors!) seemed like a devastation.
Now, I’m the one breaking my kid’s heart by insisting that she’ll still look like a pirate queen with a coat. I’ll be the parent waiting by the sidewalk while the tiny creatures of the night haunt the streets. And, if I’m anything like my own mother, I will be the one who sneaks mini-candy bars from the sacks after bedtime, leaving my children to wonder why their tallies are off. Time carries us forever forward, always a new destination, or perhaps simply a new way to appreciate a place we’ve been before.
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