Saturday, October 27, 2018

Boo Happy Halloween by Kait Carson

Oh, the times, they are a changing! The Carson family is in the midst of planning yet another move. Note, I said planning. We’ve decided to spend our golden years in the snow country of the Crown of Maine not the sun country of southern Florida. Perverse, I know, but that’s the Carsons for you.

We already have a house in Maine. It’s tidy and snug and it sits on 167 acres. Our Florida house is tidy and large and sits on a single acre. Needless to say, we are looking at everything from a take it, donate it, or toss it viewpoint. Part of the adventure of what we have decided is our last move is looking at the unpacked boxes from our move to Florida. A planned move sounded like opportunity knocking to check out the contents of those mystery boxes. Trick or treat for the adult set.

Box cutter in hand I slit the packing tape on the first crate and discovered an entire box of photo albums covering my childhood to just before we moved. I thought we had left them in Maine, but no, here they were. Unfortunately, at some point my parents had decided to modernize and my childhood pictures were put in “magnetic” photo albums so they will forever remain stuck between gluey pages. It would have been a hoot to feature some vintage Halloween pix here.

I had forgotten how much fun Halloween was as child. I grew up in a small town, the kind where you couldn’t get away with a thing, not that I would know about that. Oh, no. We trick or treated in groups of six or eight, all of us dressed in spectacular homemade costumes. We were cowboys and cowgirls, lions and tigers, princes and princesses. One little girl was a bride dressed complete with veil. All of us were in full make up. Only the Lone Ranger had a store-bought mask. We weren’t just collecting candy for ourselves either, we all had little red cardboard boxes, too. I forgot about UNICEF boxes.

Parents gathered at their own Halloween parties waiting for the kids to return home lugging bags of loot, candy, fresh fruit, baked goods. We even had one lady who made candy apples for the local kids. Moms and Dads commandeered the trick or treat bags before we ate too much of the candy. I suppose they checked the goodies over for tampering, but it was a different time. We’d been cautioned not to eat anything unwrapped before we got home, but it would be years before we heard anything about razor blades in apples. Since our parents did not accompany us on the road, we’d already swapped out all the good stuff before we turned in our bags for inspection and the candy corn lovers had eaten their fill.

The next day in school, we’d tell tall tales of how we were brave enough to ring the bell of the local haunted house and when the door opened no one was there. In fact, the local haunted house was vacant, and had been from before I was born, and I for one never rang the bell. One year someone did put a skeleton on the front porch. We thought it was the gym teacher, but we could never prove it.

Finding those photos brought me back to crisp fall days and the sounds of leaves crunching under our feet as we marched up and down sidewalks to ring bells. I heard again the sounds of my friends giggling in the night air and singing out, “Trick or treat, trick or treat for UNICEF.” In my mind’s eye I saw the young women who always seemed to answer the door, clap both hands to their mouths in fright and surprise at our appearance, and then reach for a bowl of treats as she begged us not to play any tricks on her house. The last sound we heard was the gentle clink of coins falling into the UNICEF box just as the door closed.

It’s been a long time since trick or treaters came to my house, or even that I’ve seen them in the street. The world has become a frightening place, more frightening than any vampire costume. It’s sad to know that generations will never know the joy of Halloween, and won’t have the opportunity to learn about the greater good of using the day to collect for a charity.

The world has lost innocence, and that’s sad. So, I would like to leave you with a story of the last trick or treater that I remember coming to my house. It was 1993. The little boy was about two years old. He was dressed as a cowboy and his daddy stood at the end of my driveway waiting for him. The little guy swaggered up the path to my house and knocked. I opened the door, acted surprised, complimented him on his costume, and put candy in the bag he held out. He was silent the entire time. Then he turned and walked away. I must have been his first house. His father said, “Darren, aren’t you going to say thank you?” The little boy stopped in his tracks. He looked back at me, he looked at his father, then he sniffed and cried, “You told me never to speak to strangers.”

Perhaps it’s best trick or treating has fallen from favor, it can be very confusing.

Did you trick or treat? Did you enjoy it?

What was your favorite treat, or trick?


  1. I did trick or treat, enjoyed it, and when I finally reached teenager-dom and wanted to go hang out with my friends...I had to take my baby sister trick or treating.

    Trick or treating is a very neighborhood affair where I live. I took my kids when they were younger. But our house is on the dark end of the street, so we never get many visitors. If the night is clear, my husband will take our candy to the neighbors' house, where the men have a portable fire pit going, which encourages folks to stop and warm up as they make the rounds.

  2. I grew up trick and treating in New Jersey, where the pavements were always wet and the bottoms of our paper Halloween bags gave out half-way around the neighborhood. Costumes from the five and ten, or in later years, created from things around the house. Neighbors served cookies and punch or made candy apples. Pennies, nickels and dimes for the Unicef boxes.

    My older two children were born Halloween week, so the month of October was a manic high in anticipation of birthday parties and Halloween.

  3. @Liz Ah, the curse of being the older sibling! Did your school have Halloween parties? The schools in our town usually had something for older kids on the night before Halloween, traditionally called mischief night. The theory was it would keep the kids out of trouble and parents were encouraged to pick their kids up after the event. Not sure if it worked.

    What a great idea to have a neighborhood base of operations for candy distribution. Glad to read that there are still neighborhoods that have trick or treating.

  4. @Margaret - We share a State! I had forgotten that the bags were paper, but of course, they were! Only remember one damp one though. In my memory, they were crisp, cool, and crunchy!

    How fun to have birthdays combined with Halloween. They must have had some spooktacular parties and right in the sweet spot before the ramp up for the holiday madness! Excellent timing on their parts.

  5. My most memorable Halloween story concerns my daughter, not me.

    The little kids in our smallish town went trick-or-treating, but the older ones tended more toward "mischief night."

    My older daughter's best friend was a year older than she was, and the youngest of four sisters. She had an invitation to a party at the house of one of the older girls' teachers. The kids could have a celebration, but it would keep them off the streets.

    We worked hard on costumes for both of my girls. When Halloween night came, my older daughter announced that she had changed her mind about the party, and would stay home, dressed in her costume, and hand out candy while I took my younger one out.

    After so much work on the costume and so much anticipation about going to this party with older kids, I was a bit dismayed that she'd decided to stay home. I started to encourage her to go, but then decided that if she wasn't comfortable, the last thing I should do was interfere with her decision.

    The next morning the headlines in the local paper told of the party, where the teacher (newly hired in the district) had served alcohol to the kids, and it turned into a wild free-for-all that was resulted in the state police being called. Students as young as 14 were there. Had my daughter gone, it would have been as young as 13.

    I never again questioned her judgement on social gatherings.

  6. I had what may have been the golden age of trick or treating. As part of the early baby boomers, there were so many of us and the houses were full of other, younger children that we were mostly left on our own to navigate the streets. Older kids were responsible for younger ones. (I imagine that practice now would land parents in court.)

    We had a time we were to be home but no parent knew exactly where we were going or where we'd be at a particular time.

  7. @KM - WOW - I bet that happened a lot - but to have a teacher involved! That is especially shocking. Kudos to your daughter for maturity beyond her years.

  8. @Jim, exactly! that is the perfect description of our childhood. It was an oligarchy of children. Except we were carefully schooled in manners and behavior, given strict rules to follow and expected to follow those rules. And we did have a village of people who looked out for us and reported back! It was a special time, and one not to come again.

    Now that I think about it, I bet every generation things of their childhood that way.