Halloween lives in the hearts of kids and kids at heart

The air has a nip to it, leaves start to litter the lawn and the fog ghosts dance on the morning river, Halloween is coming. Halloween is a kid holiday, it comes with no religious obligations, no family gatherings full of grandma kisses and auntie hugs, just costumes and candy. You get to be any character you want and mug the neighbors for goodies. Halloween remains a kid holiday in spite of the adult paranoia that tries to kill it off.

Back in the day, Halloween was more of a challenge that it now is. We made our costumes. Being of the male persuasion, Dad’s wardrobe was the one that usually took the brunt of the punishment although Mom’s closet caught it on occasion. One of my father’s old shirts, a pair of his work pants rolled up on the bottom and pinned in the back, a floppy old hat, a liberal dose of burnt cork smeared on my face and a stick with a bundle tied in a handkerchief over my shoulder and another bum was loosed on the streets, much shorter, thinner and slightly better bathed than the average hobo, but a pretty good representation none the less.

Bud, the next brother down, favored the old lady look. One of Mom’s old dresses, hemmed with safety pins and with an impressive bust stuffed with old t-shirts and towels, topped with one of Grandma’s old hats with a veil, wobbling on ill fitting high heels and smeared with enough makeup to decorate a Las Vegas chorus line, and he was ready to go. He still likes to wear high heels and makeup — we worry about him. The two little ones usually picked out a mask at Newberry’s and Mom made appropriate outfits to go with the characters they had chosen out of stuff around the house.

All decked out, we walked to the nearest neighbors. We lived on a dirt country road, the nearest neighbor was half a mile away. After hitting the three houses that were within walking distance, we staggered home to check the bounty resting in the bottom of our overly optimistic pillow case bags. Now the real fun began, we readjusted our costumes and climbed into the back of our 55 dirt brown Chevy station wagon and our parents drove us to our relatives’ houses. The pillow cases started to bulk out. After the quick visits to shock and awe our extended family members, who could never guess the identity of this strange troupe even with our mother and father standing behind us, we headed for the school to finish off our wild evening of pillaging and plunder.

School was the center of our childhood, it was where we went for Boy Scouts, we put on dramatic productions worthy of Hollywood there, we got to eat there and occasionally even learned stuff. Four rooms built around a gym, we spent the first eight years of our educational life there. We knew it and its people well and it knew us. We paraded our costumes and received awards in a hundred or so categories — funniest, scariest, fanciest. The memories of such honors lingers to this day. We then sat on the floor and watched a horror movie, usually starring Abbot and Costello, then we played games, dunked for apples and generally just messed around with our buddies and had a great time while our parents ate doughnuts, drank cider, smiled at us a lot and generally just messed around with their friends also.

Too soon, it was back into the Chevy and off to home, another memory filed away to warm us and make us smile sometime in the distant future when we would need it. At home, we dumped the booty bags onto the kitchen table and compared the take. After a little supervised consumption and a little horse trading of goodies, the pooped party trooped off to bed, secure in the knowledge that they’d be reliving the fun in the discussions on the bus and in the classroom that would follow for days.

Halloween still lives — in spite of town curfews and the banning of costumes and parades in our schools. It lives — in spite of the fear of razor blades and drugs in the treats. It survives — in spite of the worries of dark hearted strangers on dark streets.

It goes on because it’s a kid’s holiday and kids know what’s really scary and what isn’t.

Thought for the week — I wonder if witches use “Spell Check”?

Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.

Reach Dick Brooks at whittle12124@yahoo.com.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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