My first Halloween costume – that I remember – consisted of a red ballcap, a Lone Ranger mask and a tattered “blankie” draped over my shoulders like a cape. My 4-year-old self was very proud of the self-made costume, especially since it could still work with a winter coat.
Come to think of it, most of my Halloween costume choices were determined, at least in part, by the weather. Oct. 31 was always a tough call weatherwise in Upstate New York. There were years it was below freezing, but other years it was in the 70s.
Hence, my favorite costume over the early years was the ever-versatile hobo. A beat-up old felt hat, charcoal smeared on my face, a flannel shirt from my dad’s closet stuffed with either a t-shirt and large pillow (warm weather) or a smaller pillow combined with a winter coat (cold weather).
Halloween has always been the kickoff to what I like to think of as the season of joy.
For me, getting a bagful of candy was just the beginning, because my birthday is the very next day, Nov. 1 (my mother is still thankful that I was born on All Saints Day and that I wasn’t, as she puts it, “a Halloweenie.”)
My birthday always sped right on into Thanksgiving, and Christmas was right around that corner, which also meant a week off from school before celebrating New Year’s.
Up until fifth grade, our family lived in subdivisions, where the trick or treating was pretty easy. But after fifth grade, we had moved out to “the sticks.” We lived on a little country road about two miles out of town with about 10 or 11 houses within walking distance. That was pretty much the last year of trick or treating for me. I was outgrowing it anyway.
By sixth grade, I somehow convinced my parents to let me go down to the village on Halloween. My friend and I had plotted to wreak havoc and mayhem in the form of eggs and shaving cream all over our quaint little village. We had envisioned wars with other kids and heated chases through darkened alleys. Sadly, we were the only kids to be found. And it turned out we were pretty well-behaved children, too. So all we ended up doing was throwing a couple of eggs onto the main road before pelting each other with eggs and shaving cream. Then we went home, with nary a thought of Halloween again until I had my own children.
Halloween danger in our day was the old urban myth that someone would slip a razor blade in an apple or poison a piece of candy. Later, police started instructing sex offenders to turn their lights off on Halloween night (stigmatizing innocent residents working late that night), even though there’s apparently not a single case of a trick-or-treating-related child abduction.
This year, our older son, Luke, is going as Napoleon Dynamite, and Robert is going as Victor Cruz. As we head out trick-or-treating, knocking on our neighbors’ doors, saying hello to friends and neighbors, stopping for a moment to chat and reconnect, I’ll make sure to keep a close eye on the boys to make sure they’re not abducted or get a razor blade slipped in an apple.
The day will come soon enough when the boys will want to wreak havoc on Halloween night instead of knocking on doors and getting candy. Until that day, though, I plan to thoroughly enjoy the kickoff to this season of joy.
(McIntosh is the editor of the Ontario, Ore.-based Argus Observer, a sister publication of the Nogales International.)