Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween Visits

When I was a kid, we lived in the country.

Rural America.  We lived by a state road with no street name.  Our address was “Rural Delivery 3.”  Then it changed to Rural Delivery 1.  But everybody knew that if you addressed the envelope to us and put RD 3 on it, we’d still get it, the same way you address a letter to “Santa Claus – North Pole” and everyone knows he gets it just in time for Christmas.

We had two neighbors.  One was a family whose house sat on top of the hill behind us, and another family whose house sat an acre away.  We knew our neighbors well.  In the summers, I’d climb the hill and read the books that our neighbors kept in a small bookcase in their family room, and in the winters, our other neighbors sometimes kept me after school while my mom and dad finished up their workday.  Both families had children who were older than me, some who were old enough to be our babysitters, and some who were practically grown by the time I was old enough to be babysat.

My parents grew up in the area, and their parents, high school friends, and aunts and uncles and cousins lived nearby.  It was a good childhood, one filled with people whom we loved and trusted and knew all our lives.

And we visited them on Halloween.

We’d dress up in costumes made of cast-offs and whatever we could find in our parents’ closets some years, while other years we demanded a character and dressed up in the five-and-dime costumes which were little more than stitched felt and a plastic mask.  Trick-or-treating had a goal: to get our neighbors and extended family to guess who we were.

Faces were covered, as were any telling traits about who we might be; our mother would drive us from house to house, and we’d stand outside giggling, ringing doorbells and knocking on doors that we’d normally just open and walk through unannounced.  Keeping silent was key; we were not to blow our cover.  Mom was instructed to stay hidden until they guessed who we were.  Some years she would don her own costume and join us, staying just as quiet until we’d all be identified.

Of course, they always guessed who we were; we never had to stand shivering in our hobo rags or cheap Scooby-Doo costume for long before they guessed and invited us in for candy or cookies and hot chocolate and my mom for a cup of coffee and a visit.

We’d stay for a bit while we warmed our hands and feet – the end of October was always cold, and the idea of putting a winter coat on over our costume was the kiss of death – but then got antsy as we knew there were only a few places we could visit before the night got too long and we’d have to return home.  We tucked the treats inside our bags, straighten out our disguises, and jump in the car to the next house.

Our loot was varied: cookies and wrapped chocolates, candy bars and popcorn balls.  Gum and hard candy would sometimes be given, as not everyone expected trick-or-treaters on the night we’d visit.  We didn’t mind when our relatives and neighbors gave us those things; the treat ended up being the visit, the thrill of being a witch or an old man or Captain America for one night.

These days, Halloween looks different.  We don’t live in the country.  My kids don’t always wear masks.  They trick-or-treat in our neighborhood with friends and parents, visiting most of the hundred or so houses for chocolate and lollipops. When the night is over, after they divide up their candy, they talk about the costumes they saw on their journey, the houses that were decorated the spookiest, the neighbors they visited, and the spirit that electrifies the air when families come together on one night to do something fun.

And I know that their Halloween is not all that different from when I was a kid.


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This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: Who had the good candy?  Share what Halloween was like for you as a child.

34 comments:

  1. I *love* this post. Your words took me back to exactly the same kind of scene from when I was a kid...so many great memories... Halloween is way different for my kids, and it kinda makes me sad. But we're doing new and different things, and they have fun...no sense of 'loss' for them because they didn't know the things I did...they're memories are fresh and new and just being made...so that's good. But it was a nice stroll down memory lane...thanks for the post. :)

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    1. So glad to bring back good memories for you. :) My kids have no idea what it's like to ride in the car between trick or treat stops, but yeah, they don't know the difference. I kind of like both ways for different reasons.

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  2. I love a good story and you tell it so well!
    There was no Halloween in Germany when I grew up (it only started in the last few years, when candy companies realized there was some extra business to be had ;) ), but my kids have embraced it wholeheartedly since moving to Canada.

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    1. Oh, yes. Halloween is a big deal. They try to teach the history of it from time to time, but in reality it's all about the candy.

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  3. Love it. And MAN, if the image of the felt costume and plastic mask didn't bring back all sorts of visceral (awesome) memories. :)

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    1. Right? Ahhh, the pinch of the elastic on the back of that mask.

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  4. I love this! It sounds a lot like my childhood Halloween experience too. It was always to people we knew, we got invited in, we got homemade baked treats, and I think I was a hobo for four years running ;)

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    1. We were hobos a lot, too, especially after we grew out of the sizes that the store-bought costumes came in

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  5. We must be close to the same age. I remember those dime store boxed costumes with the mask and little outfit that said who you were. Also I lived way out in rural countryside on a state road as well. Though the razors in apples scare of the period had made people stop giving cookies or popcorn balls.

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    1. Ahhh, the razor blade scare. I remember that well, too.

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  6. Yours sounds so much like mine... brings back memories. :) Today, things are so different and so much the same.

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    1. You're right! The more things change, the more they stay the same. Wow. Now I really feel elderly.

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  7. This is a great story, Andrea, and so similar to Halloween stories of my own childhood. We did our Trick-or-Treating in my Grandparents' neighborhood because my aunts and uncles were close enough to our age to still go, my cousins lived in the same neighborhood, and we knew EVERYONE in the neighborhood either by blood or by some other means - church, school, neighborhood friends, etc. Trick or Treat night was way more about the visit with people who hadn't see us and the night was filled with "oh my gosh look how big you all are!" exclamations. Our older uncles would often hide in the bushes until the neighbors guessed who we were or they'd wear a silly ape mask (every year....same mask) and pretend to be an ape. Treats were often homemade cookies or popcorn balls - back when you didn't have to wonder if sickos laced apples with razor blades or cyanide. It was wonderful - and after we finished, tired and cold, we'd come back to my Grandparents' for cocoa and toast or something else to eat. And some treats, of course. It was grand. I probably should've posted about it. Hrm.

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    1. I LOVE your Halloween story, Lisa! It sounds like ours now, except we're not related to anyone in our neighborhood so it's not quite as much of a family affair. And now my kids just come back to our house and try to eat the good candy they got before I do.

      It's not too late to post. You still have a week before Halloween. :)

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  8. I remember walking down the sidewalk with THRONGS of other kids when I was little, in my clown costume that my mom made. The reality is that it was probably only a few kids, but to me, it was the Halloween you see on TV where the streets are packed. I loved it.

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    1. I would have loved to have a clown costume when I was a kid! I loved clowns, but thought that a costume would be too much to make or impossible to find.

      I love how our perspectives are so different when we were kids. Life was so much simpler then.

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  9. Not growing up in America, I love reading these stories and wading thro the memories of others. Lately I want to move to smalltown America, and raise my kids behind a picket fence .. perhaps be the crazy cat lady ...

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    1. "Wading thro the memories of others" - I love that. I'm so glad you love the stories! I'm sure the memories you make with your own kids will be just as cherished.

      PS - my daughter is dressing up as a crazy cat lady for Halloween this year. :)

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  10. I love this so much, Andrea. Halloween from your childhood sounds like so much fun and warm and welcoming at the same time.

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    1. Thanks, Kim! It was fun. I hope that my kids feel the same fondness for their Halloween memories as I do for mine.

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  11. I lived in the rural area too (but had more neighbors!) We used to get a lot of trick or treaters, but last year, we had 6. I was quite sad. :(

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    1. The fact that there were only 6 would make me happy, because that means the twenty pounds of candy I bought was now all for me. :)

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  12. Oh gosh, I loved Halloween SO much as a kid. I wish we could have visited family but we did not have them close. I also liked the popcorn balls at the annual party one of my friends' mother hosted every year. She had THE best balls! ;)

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  13. I adore this post! We didn't live in a rural area, but we also didn't live in the city. That picture reminds me of a costume I had as a kid too :)

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    1. The scary Casper one, or the creepy circus performer one? I can't decide which is more horrific.

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  14. Oh, I love that the goal was simply to guess who you were and the joy you all got out of that :) great story Andrea.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sarah! It really was a simpler time. Simpler than eating a bagful of Butterfingers. :)

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  15. I love that you actually went inside people's homes! We never did that, even though we lived in a small community where we knew everyone, it just wasn't the thing to do. What a wonderful experience it must have been ... getting warm, sweets. What a great combination!

    Those store bought costumes were always so cheap and itchy! I can't imagine they have gotten any better.

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    1. Those costumes were the worst. And did you ever wear a latex mask? By the end of the night my hair smelled like rubber.

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  16. That sounds idyllic and fun, Andrea!

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    1. My memories always are. I loved Halloween. Still do. :)

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  17. Now THAT is a childhood memory.

    BTW, that's just about the creepiest photo I've seen in a long time.

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    1. That photo gives me nightmares. I'm sure those costumes weren't meant to be horrifying.

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