Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Mountain Memories -- Trick-or-Treat


Blustery winds lift fallen leaves from the ground and swirl them around like haints let loose. Screams and squeals of delight mingle as hoards of children race from door-to-door to claim the best selection of candy from each willing neighborhood resident. Painted faces, costumes ranging from simple to gaudy, barely block the chill of a late autumn night.

Tonight the goal is to fill a poke or pillowcase with enough sugary treats to provide a high for days -- or send some running to the toilet as their bodies revolt from the over-indulgence of treats. Red-cheeked children ring doorbells or bang on the doors. When the door opens, a chorus of "TRICK-OR-TREAT" begs for the treat.

Trick-or-Treat soap
But beware -- for there are some ghosts and ghoulies who carry a bar of soap in their pocket.

If the treat is not forth-coming or doesn't meet expectations, that bar of soap may be used to mark the windows of the house with disappointed graffiti.

Oh, the days of TRICK-OR-TREAT.

I remember well the days when my friends and I dressed in whatever costume we could pull together from our parents' or siblings' closets on Halloween. Some fortunate kids had a mother who lived to create a costume that gave the appearance of being more thought out and creative. If you couldn't afford the appropriate fabric, though, there was always crepe paper.

My mother made several costumes for my TRICK-OR-TREAT jaunts out of crepe paper. She sewed it into a costume -- usually a witch. Crepe paper was cheap and sewable. It was also a bit stiff and made rustling noises as I ran. My hope was that it would last through the night without disintegrating.

I prayed it wouldn't rain because then I would come home with a disappearing costume (I always wore something underneath, just in case). Also, the rain caused the dye in the paper to run. My body would be streaked with dye that took some scrubbing to get off.

I think my mother made my costume so she could also make one for herself and join my brother and me in TRICK-OR-TREATING. She was only five feet tall and shorter than some of my friends. Everyone thought she was a kid, too. I swear she got more candy than the rest of us.

My favorite candy corn
Candy. How we all loved it. My favorite candy was candy corn. Half the fun was switching candy with a friend -- or Mom. She didn't like candy corn and I didn't like chocolate as a child.

Halloween wasn't just about TRICK-OR-TREAT though. It was fall parties at school (more candy), decorating with Indian corn and corn stalks, pumpkins carved and mangled into distorted faces and lit with a wax candle. I still recall the smell of a pumpkin's innards as I scooped out the seeds and pulp. Not necessarily a pleasant odor, but distinct.

Passing by a graveyard while trick-or-treating
Some parts of TRICK-OR-TREAT raised the goosebumps. Passing the funeral home made us run faster. But going by a graveyard terrified us. I don't know why we considered them scarier on that one night than any other, but that night seemed to make us all believe in our innocent child hearts that evil just might exist. Unfortunately, as adults, we now believe in evil is evident every day of the year.

One of my favorite TRICK-OR-TREAT seasonal treats was the orange wax whistles.

Almost every schoolkid used his or her allowance to purchase one at the little store across the street from the school. I'm sure the teachers were more than ready for wax whistle season to end.

We all started out playing "songs" on our whistles, attempting to play the loudest, longest, and most unique tunes. After we tired of blowing, we bit into the tasty orange wax chambers, now filled with slobber, and chewed them like gum. I loved the flavor.

TRICK-OR-TREAT has changed today. Most children don store-bought costumes that represent movie or cartoon characters. No creativity is allowed. You must have the pre-conceived representation of an imaginary character in someone else's imagination -- and pay them money for the privilege to wear that costume.

Pokes and pillowcases have been replaced with molded plastic buckets or plastic bags.

Even the racing from house to house is frowned upon -- for safety reasons. Most children are packed into the family SUV and taken to a TRUNK-OR-TREAT instead of a TRICK-OR-TREAT.

I miss the old days. I miss the excitement of being on the hunt, out in nature, on my own -- except for the company of my friends -- and Mom, of course. But on that night, she wasn't Mom. She was a fellow witch, ghoulie, or clown racing from house to house and yelling, "TRICK-OR-TREAT!"

Do you remember the days of simple TRICK-OR-TREAT? Do you miss it? I'd love to hear your stories of TRICK-OR-TREAT.

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