This dark and gloomy night always evokes bittersweet childhood memories of past Halloweens. Those were the days when I was not relegated to my front door “giving end,” bestowing tamper-proof goodies on adorable little goblins, tiny, cute fairy princesses, scary vampires and assorted Star Wars characters. Back in the day (as old-timers are fond of saying) I enjoyed being on the “receiving end,” grabbing my old pillow case and heading out to fill it with a harvest of collected neighbourhood loot.
And what a delectable bounty of loot it was! Mrs. Glassco traditionally and lovingly prepared dozens of candied applies, each served on a sharpened stick. I can still see these displayed treats sitting in a large bowl inside her front porch. Even now I can easily remember having to grab a stick to carefully pull one impaled caramelized MacIntosh from its sticky resting place. Another neighbor would offer small bags of buttered popcorn, its enticing fragrance drawing us in from the cold and rain to sample her creation. A third stopping-off residence had homemade fudge—-maple and chocolate—for trick or treaters. No tricks were even considered necessary. Those sweet, melt-in-my-mouth treats removed any temptation for would-be pranksters.
But then inevitably came that fateful October 31 when the “sweet” in my boyhood of bittersweet Halloween memories was irrevocably replaced by the “bitter.”
In my initial years of going door to door, I had been outfitted by my dutiful mother who wrapped me in an old torn sheet so I morphed into a ghost, or dressed me as a miniature green-garbed Robin Hood, complete with homemade bow and arrow. In later childhood I could select my own costume for the big night. I would carefully light a match to burn the end of a cork wine stopper and smudge a couple of dirty streaks across my face. I was transformed into a hobo, carrying my trusty pillow case on the end of a long stick slung over my shoulder. Another year, a similar smudge produced a black mustache and whiskers to turn me into a villainous pirate, complete with eye patch.
Then I turned 14 and Halloween arrived on schedule. Immediately after my gobbled-down early dinner, I prepared for my annual neighbourhood prowl. This time I would be a soldier. I had my uncle’s old army jacket, a pair of Khaki pants rescued from a basement closet, and a war-surplus, wooden, replica rifle, actually used by WW2 Canadian soldiers in training (when real rifles were in short supply.)
As I sat on my bed excitedly tying up boot laces, almost ready to head out on my annual patrol, my father stuck his head into the bedroom. “Don’t you think you are getting a bit too old to be going out dressed up for Halloween?’
I left a boot lace hanging undone and said nothing in reply. He quietly left the room, closing the door behind him and giving me time to ponder his words. I raised my teary eyes to encounter myself reflected in the full-length mirror hanging on the back of that door. I saw a tall, skinny teenager, no longer a little kid, looking foolish in his costume. I slowly and reluctantly removed my outfit and tossed aside my faithful pillow companion of many happy former years.
Now I realize that tonight, there will come to my door an early influx of eager little ones with open bags extended to receive the store-bought treats ready for them. No more homemade candy apples or popcorn for worried parents to carefully inspect—then throw away just in case. Later tonight I might even be startled to hear the resounding thump of much heavier feet clambering up the verandah steps. Teens can now also enjoy this evening’s harvesting of loot, whatever the younger children have not already claimed.
But back in the day (here I go again) there existed an unwritten rite of passage: when a boy or girl embarked on their journey through adolescence, trick or treating was left behind, a relic of childhood. Admittedly, my father was right but I sure missed those candied apples and popcorn. Growing up was not entirely a good thing. Kids, be safe and enjoy all the mystery and ritual of this evening—while you are young. I await your gentle knock and smiling faces.