All evening long you could follow the throngs of children up and down the 8 or so streets, some followed by parents on foot, others being driven around and let out every so often to hit up a few lighted houses.
We always started at my Grandma’s house at the top of the hill. There, we would help her make popcorn balls. Carefully balling up popcorn after she poured the hot caramel sauce over it. Then wrapping them in cellophane and tying them with an orange ribbon. She would later hand these out to her trick or treaters.
As darkness (and cold) fell, my brother and cousins and I would don our costumes (no doubt something involving a plastic mask) and we would head out into the night with plastic pumpkin buckets ready. And when it was all over, we would return to Grandma’s, take off our masks, or whatever cumbersome, hot accessories were not conducive to a living room heated by a blazing wood furnace, and we’d dump our buckets in huge piles onto her brown carpet. There was always some kind of contest to see who had the most. There was the frustration when our parents would sift through it and take away things that didn’t look safe, even though we were sure they were fine. And there was the turning up of our noses at the things we didn’t like. Like flavored tootsie rolls and milky white taffy.
My favorites were the white peanut butter candies with the brown stripes on them that melted in your mouth. And we looked for the Indian shooting the star on the Tootsie pop wrappers. And we devoured the Crunch bars and Smarties and Sweet Tarts.
While Halloween is not a terribly meaningful holiday for me, I find that it is one of the most memorable. I don’t remember every Christmas gift I ever received, I can’t recall what the Easter Bunny left me or every fireworks show I ever saw, but I do remember my Halloween costumes. And I remember my family spending time together carving pumpkins. I remember neighbors sharing with neighbors, communities opening their doors, streets filled with laughter and squeals and fun. I remember class parades down the street lined with grandparents. Seeing our friends’ costumes at school. And I remember bags and bags and bags of candy.
It’s a holiday that I want to pass on to my children, not because of its history or because of its darkness, but because of glowing jack-o-lanterns, warm porch lights, smiling faces. Because of giggles behind masks, knocking on doors, twirling princesses and brave superheroes. Because this is childhood. And there are very few things that describe childhood better than dressing up, bouncing up steps with excitement, and eating lots and lots of candy.
What are some of your favorite Halloween memories, and how are you making new ones with your family now?