Blogs by Linda Lange
HALLOWEEN AS IT USED TO BE
10/29/2013 2:31:18 PM
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The magic is gone for me, but the memories are fun.
I loved Halloween when I was a child. When I still believed in ghosts and monsters, it was an evening of magic and adventure. What creatures might lurk behind the next bush? If someone was burning leaves—no laws against it then—the rising smoke, glowing embers, and pungent odor added mystery and enchantment to the night.
I was an only child and lived on a busy highway, so for years I would go to a playmate’s home for trick-or-treating. I would caper in the dark through the unfamiliar neighborhood. Although I had no intention of playing a trick on anyone who didn’t ply me with candy, it was intriguing to think that for one night, I had a license to be naughty.
Running wild through the night was the holiday’s hallmark. In my neighborhood today, trick-or-treating is a regimented affair. A siren—the same one that announces tornadoes and other disasters—blows promptly at 6:00 to begin the festivities and again at 8:00 to end them. Because Daylight Savings Time has been extended into November, and Cincinnati is on the western edge of its time zone, the skies remain light through much of the mandated begging time. Of course it’s safer, but it can’t be as much fun.
The first year my friend invited me to join her, I was unprepared. Fortunately, my parents allowed me to cut eyeholes in an old sheet and dress up as a ghost. After that I would go early each October to the five-and-dime to select my costumes, relishing the silky feel of the flimsy fabrics, grimacing as the outfits shed glitter. My earliest masks in the 1950s predated plastic ones—they were made from a burlap-like fabric, stiffened, molded, and painted.
I don’t remember my parents ever checking my haul for contaminants or sharp objects. In those days before a few bad apples spoiled it for all of us, I ate whatever I received. Homemade popcorn balls were a special treat. I remember one candy, endemic to Halloween, that I never knew before or since—large chunks of cheap taffy, choking hazards for sure, wrapped in orange or black waxed paper. I didn’t care much for these, and they generally languished in the bottom of my bag until I gnawed at them out of desperation or glumly threw the petrified things out.
I also miss Halloweens when my son was small. His birthday is October 29, so his grandmother would join us for a week-long celebration. At age two, he strode out into the night for the first time as a tiny Incredible Hulk, only to cling to me in tears when he encountered older kids dressed as vampires. But he soon learned to appreciate the fun. For years his parties featured costumed guests and scary movies.
One year he claimed, from an outdated video store promotion, an almost life-sized cardboard figure of Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Although my son has moved far away, Freddy remains a permanent part of our Halloween décor. Meanwhile, my son organizes horror-movie festivals in his new hometown of Seattle—and writes, directs, and produces his own gory and raunchy slasher-film parodies.
Although much of the magic of Halloween is gone for me, I still enjoy my recollections. Times are different, but I hope today’s kids are able to find their own Halloween magic and memories.
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