With Halloween right around the corner and my kids making plans for their costumes, I cannot help but think how differently they are growing up in Maryland compared to how I did back in Northern Minnesota - even with the little things, that one doesn’t think about everyday - like trick-or-treating.
For starters, growing up in the country, our closest neighbor was ¼ mile away, so it was necessary for my dad to drive us kids to each house. This meant that our costumes had to fit neatly in the car and allow room for a seatbelt. No big boxes or huge accessories for our costumes. Goodbye to my dreams of being a robot or a Ghostbuster with an oversized proton pack.
Next, and most obvious, was the weather. One could usually put money on it that no matter what, it would be frigid, freezing, or even blizzard-like conditions. Thankfully, this was just a typical day in Minnesota, and we continued to trick-or-treat in those conditions like during “The Great Blizzard of 1991.” However, this also meant that our costumes had to be loose enough that we could fit long underwear underneath of them. Trust me, long underwear looks ridiculous under a Princess Jasmine costume - as Jasmine was the princess of the hour back then. Instead, I went as a mime that year. Accordingly, gloves and a hat were already a part of my costume accessories.
Another fact was that as kids, we didn’t know that people really checked their candy for razor blades and rat poison - as my parents knew everyone from which we begged for candy. As kids, we grew to know them by what they handed out every year. There was the lady that handed out the apples, as well as which house gave out Red Hots - a favorite of mine. Then there was the house that gave out full-size candy bars; most of the time they only had a few trick-or-treaters, so it was quite affordable for them to do so. And if my two sisters and I did not show up at their house, they would lose half of their visitors. It was almost expected that we would be there.
Naturally since we knew everyone, (they were usually the older people from our church) trick-or-treating usually took even longer as most of the time we were required to pose for a picture in our Halloween costumes. It was like we had 20 sets of grandparents.
At the time I remember watching kids on TV shows walking around neighborhoods and getting tons of candy. I was jealous of their fancy Jasmine costumes made of thin shiny silk. They just walked door to door in warm weather as they accumulated huge bags of candy. As I grew older, I begged my dad to at least let me go into ‘town’ with my friends and go door-to-door. He refused and insisted instead that I continue to ‘help’ with my little sisters until well beyond a trick-or-treating age. I, of course, thought he was the cruelest parent ever.
Then one day I grew up and moved away. As I look back at my Halloween memories, I realize they are much like Christmas or other holiday memories. As a child, you just don’t see the whole picture; you are too focused on the instant gratification - and what is going on in your world. Now I realize why my dad would drive us way out into the sticks to the ‘apple lady’s’ house. I see why we had to stand and politely listen to those “old people’s stories” as they told about the costumes or traditions they followed when they were children. Our visits may have been the only time these elderly people had many visitors at all.
Looking back, I realize how simple it really is to make someone’s day. I suppose it was the secret that my dad had learned years ago.