Autumn! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Halloween and Thanksgiving jockey for the title of “best fall holiday,” with votes generally divided between kids for Halloween and adults for Thanksgiving.
But really, when it comes to Halloween, there’s a little bit of a kid in all of us.
Readers of a certain generation (ahem) remember their childhood Halloweens as a time when store-bought costumes were a status symbol.
You felt sorry for kids who wore what were obviously “homemade” costumes, most often sheets converted to ghost shrouds, or the hodge-podge of mismatched items that served as the official uniform of the hobo.
You felt fortunate that your costume had been purchased at Ben Franklin, Value Village or Fashion Fair. These costumes were made out of a thin, shiny material that can only doubtfully be called “fabric.”
You stepped into the jumpsuit-style costume – carefully, so as not to rip out the already-precarious seams – and tied the plastic strings behind your neck. Presto! If you were a boy, you were now a pirate or a super hero or a monster. If you were a girl, you were a princess. That was pretty much it for the girls.
Masks were made of molded plastic, painted with garish colors, and included eye holes that never lined up with your actual eyes, and perhaps a hole or two in the general vicinity of the nostril area. Not that it helped.
Breathing was nearly impossible, and almost immediately your hot breath started to steam up the inside of the mask so that it became wet and sweaty. You were secretly glad when the thin strap of elastic finally snapped; it was giving you a headache and pulling your hair anyway.
So you discarded your damp, dented mask into your treat bag and continued bumblebeeing your way from one neighbor’s house to another, hollering “Trick or treat!” as if anything but “treat” was really an option.
Later, you dumped out your bag on the living room floor and waited impatiently as your mother sorted through your stash to make sure there were no razor blades or hypodermic needles lurking among the suckers, Snickers and SweeTarts.
She usually confiscated one or two items – coincidentally her favorite candies – and spent the rest of the evening refereeing arguments about whether one fun-size candy bar is an equal trade for two bubble gums. (Answer: It is.)
These days, many kids still wear store-bought costumes, but the quality is almost always a lot better and they are more likely to include elaborate props and realistic make-up.
And girls, thankfully, can be whatever they want.
But many kids wear home-made outfits that put Hollywood designers to shame. The time, talent and – let’s face it – money that are invested in these costumes is truly amazing.
So this Halloween, a reader of a certain generation (ahem … that’s me) will be sitting on my front porch, watching the parade of awesome characters as they make their way up my sidewalk. Some may hesitate a little as my dog barks a welcome from the back yard, but I will smile and wave and hold up a pumpkin-shaped bowl of candy to encourage the children to come a little closer so I can see you, my dears, trying not to sound like the witch luring Hansel and Gretel to her gingerbread cottage in the woods.
I will ooh and aah at each costume, regardless of how simple or elaborate it may be, and drop generous handfuls of candy into their bags and buckets.
“Happy Halloween,” I will say to the children.
And to the parents hovering in the background, I will say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”