Tomorrow is the day the little ghosts, goblins and superheroes roam about in our city in search of candy. It’s also the day where I miss my own youthful candy-hunting days.
Today kids trick or treat out of trunks of cars and in temperature-controlled malls. We braved the weather and the haunts by going from neighborhood to neighborhood and door to door to seek our sugary loot in store-bought costumes. We never feared the real-life horror stories about razor blades in apples and poison candy. We trusted our neighbors and the neighborhoods they lived in.
The worst Halloween treat ever offered to me and my costumed friends was from an old man who offered us a drink of his beer. He was a guy who looked like you’d expect: a Boris Karloff-like wrinkled face and wearing bib overalls and a dirty T-shirt.
Sometimes we got a plastic mask and a flame-retardant costume of our favorite monster or Saturday morning cartoon character to trick or treat in. More often than not, many of us made our own costumes out of last year’s raggedy school clothes and store-bought face paint.
Every year my grandmother tried to buy all the grandkids costumes from Katz Drugstore, where she worked the snack bar serving doctors, lawyers and regular folks alike.
I remember one year my costume was of a cartoon dog I’d seen on Saturday morning TV. Not my choice, but with grandma Lena buying, you better wear it.
If you complained, you’d get a scolding similar to the one you got for leaving food on your dinner plate about all the starving kids somewhere.
Only this one was, “Do you know how many kids out there wish they had a store-bought costume?”
I thought to myself (never out loud, of course) that those kids got candy just like me whether they wore a store-bought costume or not. Sometimes they got more because they didn’t have one.
Halloween was a magical time for everyone. Universal Studios monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman scared us all from our black-and-white TVs.
Our school classrooms were decorated with cardboard cutout witches, goblins and monsters. The day after Halloween, we were allowed to bring our candy to school to share and trade with other kids.
On Halloween, mythical beings from witches to zombies to vampires all come to life in our imaginations. Evil, wart-nosed women in pointy hats ride through the chilly night sky on brooms. Flesh-eating, decaying zombies walk the streets in search of the delicacy of human brains. Ghosts of long-dead relatives and strangers lurk around every fog-infested corner. Werewolves run free in open fields and forests around us.
Halloween is the night where there’s a thin veneer between the magical and the realm of the netherworld and our world, even if it all exists only in our imagination. In our minds, they’re all quite real and alive.
That’s the spirit of the day. Enjoy.