Halloween is gone another year, and this year was one of the best we’ve had so far. Back when we lived in a more rural neighborhood, we couldn’t take our daughter trick-or-treating on our road. We had to take her to a trunk or treat thing or to a friend’s neighborhood instead. But so far in Ohio we’ve lucked out. Our rental neighborhood was huge on Halloween and so is our new neighborhood. This was our first year trick-or-treating here.
Even though it was windy and cold, by dusk, the streets were busy with kids and families darting back and forth from house to house. I absolutely love seeing everyone going around in their costumes. Most of the neighbors gave out candy and had some sort of decorations. Quite a few had displays that were just as grand as what they put up for Christmas.
It got me thinking about why I like Halloween so much. I think it’s because out of all the holidays, I have the best memories from Halloween. You’d think it would be Christmas. But Halloween was the one that was all about the kids. There was absolutely no adult drama. No disappointment. No your sister or your cousin got the toy you wanted and you got socks. No having to sit and eat stuffy dinners with relatives that analyzed every move you made to gossip about it later, or nitpick about it now. No forced march to church wearing an itchy dress I despised. Halloween was pure fantasy, candy, and kids. Most of the stuffy adults that put a damper on every other holiday were nowhere to be found.
Since I was a rural kid, I didn’t go trick or treating much of anywhere until I was older. When I was little, I only went to three houses in our family neighborhood: my grandma’s and two great aunts. But those were all the houses we needed because they spoiled us completely rotten.
My grandma didn’t usually have much for us, because she was diabetic and I don’t blame her for not wanting that temptation sitting around all week (they shopped twice a week, if that). She would give us what she had: usually fruit, maybe a few candies, and Carefree sugarless gum. My sister also had a thing for Grandma’s Slender bars (anyone remember those? What the heck WERE they?) so Grandma would give us some of those too.
Glenna and Boo sort of competed to see who could rot our teeth and drive our mother over the edge the fastest. If we mentioned liking any brand of candy, there was a whole bag of it. Plus maybe some cans of soda, toys, beef jerky for me (I was a beef jerky addict), potato chips…they literally gave us a full sized grocery bag of snacks and toys. But first they took a hundred photos of us in our costumes while we tried not to suffocate in those awful plastic 80s masks. Then we’d sit down and go through our treasure bags while they watched. Usually if Boo saw us going to Glenna’s she’d come over, or vice versa. Then they’d walk us to the other sister’s house because we literally could not carry all the stuff from more than one house at once.
We always waited until dark to go. That was a hard rule. No going until dark. If you went before dark it just wasn’t right. Dressing up in costume and waiting until dark made it seem magical, something more than just going to your auntie’s. Plus, it was Halloween night. We walked the paths between the houses all the time in the dark but going on Halloween night gave it a slight spookiness that was delicious. There was just enough space between the houses where something could be lurking in the woods or the gardens. Halfway between, the lights of the houses looked much farther away and smaller than they really were. Then you arrived to soak in all that warmth, light, and laughter before going on to the next place stuffed full of candy.
When I got older and learned about the pagan history of Halloween, it made so much sense. The veil between the worlds getting thin enough to commune with the spirits. But now enough of my loved ones have gone on so spirits aren’t a scary idea. When I watch my kids enjoying Halloween—decorating, the hay rides, the pumpkin hunts, picking the perfect costume, trick or treat, swapping candy, sneaking it when they think I’m not looking—I like to think Glenna and Boo are watching them too. They would enjoy them so much. If I could talk to them again I’d thank them for teaching me just about everything I know about life’s simpler joys.