I guess I was probably like most kids when I say Halloween was one of my favorite holidays-- and why wouldn't it be? You get to dress up in cool costumes, get a bunch of candy, you don't have to visit relatives house that smell funny (the houses, not the relatives) or church and you are, basically, expected to run all over the neighborhood causing havoc. Times, certainly, have changed in the last 30-some-odd years since I last went trick-or-treating. Gone are the days of dads taking the kids in their homemade outfits door-to-door, where they would be asked to tell a joke or sing a song by the friendly neighbor before receiving a generous reward of sweets while the moms waited at home and handed out candy to all the other children coming to their house.
Changes in the social environment and the society's decline in common values make some of the differences between 2008 and, say, 1979 obvious but I don't think they should make that much of a impact on our decision to deprive our children of the fun, Halloween traditions we enjoyed as kids. I still, to this day, have many fond memories of the Autumn holiday from my childhood but it seems that, as I have grown up, Halloween has become more of a matter for adults to be concerned with all of the rules and restrictions put on everyone.
Having a paranoid, over-anxious, very protective parent we had rules that we had to follow went we went out but nothing like they have today. We were told that we could only visit houses of the neighbors my folks knew so there were maybe two or three houses per block that we had to skip. This was to prevent us from walking up to a situation with a kid-napper or other predator that would hurt us, though I really didn't understand the point because my Dad was waiting for us at the street and wouldn't let us get into any trouble.
Today, communities are passing legislation that requires registered sexual offenders to leave off all the outside lights and post signs stating that there is no candy here. I support this initiative, although I don't believe that there is that many more perverts living in today's society than there was in our day, only that we are more aware of them because of the media and the noble efforts of law enforcement. I still think that my mother's rule about knowing your neighbors, however, is a good one but that could be difficult to do now because parents, in most neighborhoods don't know nearly as many people as ours did.
Parent's are not involved as much, altogether, as they used to be. Mine made all of our costumes every year until we were old enough to make our own. Made is the key word here. Kmart had a few cheap costumes (mainly a hard plastic mask with a elastic string and an apron-like thing that tied in the back) but there were not Halloween dedicated stores that popped-up in vacant strip mall spaces the week after Labor Day.
There were no fancy, expensive, store-bought, fire-resistant, safety-tested outfits for us-- or most of the other kids at that time either. One of the earliest of years I can remember, I was a Christmas tree and my siblings were presents. Another Halloween I was Oscar the Grouch-- made from an old green rug and a plastic trash can with the bottom cut out. I did a couple of years as a headless horseman and a few others as an old stand-by: vampire, mummy, clown, ghost or hobo-- complete with burnt cork beard.
They were not the best disguises but we had fun and learned a lot by building them with our folks. They weren't fire-proof, in fact, many of them were fire hazards and they were not engineered while keeping in mind that we would be traveling from house-to-house on dark streets so I'm surprised that there weren't more serious accidents as we often couldn't either walk or see well. Bad weather meant that we wore turtlenecks and long-johns underneath the costume or clear plastic bags on top of them which really made my brother mad one year because everyone thought he was a cat when they couldn't see his bat wings.
We started making our own costumes by the time we were 11-12 or so. Most of those were things that we thought were cool which, apparently, was Saturday Night Live at the time because I remember dressing as a wild and crazy guy, King Tut and the Blues Brothers. One of our neatest, though was the Conehead outfits we made by cutting a Nerf football in half and putting it over our head with leg of my Mom's nylons. We went out to Trick-or-Treat-- or at least said we were doing that when we were actually out starting trouble-- every year until we were old enough to drive and went to work in the neighborhood Haunted House. We had at least one parent with us until we were 13. That was the age when you were allowed to go it alone but there were still enough adults that we knew on the streets that we couldn't really get away with that much.
There are municipalities in our area that are limiting Trick-or-Treating to children of certain ages and between certain hours. Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about these restrictions. On one hand, I have answered the door at a time that I thought was a little late even for Halloween to a masked bunch of juveniles six-inches taller and 100-pounds heavier than me silently holding their bag out and thought that scene eerily reminded me of a bank hold-up and wondering if they did say anything if the voice would be more baritone than mine and they would be saying Trick-or-Treat or Stick 'em up. Either way I'm handing over enough candy to surely satisfy the young lady and getting the deadbolt back engaged as quickly as possible.
On the other hand, I think the age that they did set (12 I think in this case) was a little young and really leaves nothing for the younger teens to do but sneak out of the house after 9:00, soap our car windows, tepee our trees and hurl the jack-o-lantern that we worked so hard on into the street. Besides, how are the cops going to enforce this policy anyway? Do the children need to bring two forms of identification and pass-through barricaded roadblocks strategically placed in front of the houses handing out mini-Snickers bars? I would think that the boys in blue would have something better to do and I think we are missing an opportunity to encourage parents to get more involved with their kids' activities instead of just letting the man deal with it.
As an adult and an artist, I got into Halloween for a while. In college I made a great costume for me and G-money that we took on the contest circuit and won some prizes. We were each a giant roll of toilet paper and we had a big air-brushed replica Charmin wrapper that went around the two of us. We did that for a few years and then lost it somewhere. Other years I got a lot of use out of monk, priest and Chippendale outfits and hooked up with friends to do the Village People and Scooby Doo and friends (I was Freddy Jones). I won a contest as Ozzy Ozborne the year after his show premiered on MTV and dressed as Tanya Harding, complete with lead pipe and Rollerblades when she was in the news, but didn't really care for the drag thing (unlike Cox, who seemed to be wearing a wig, lipstick and fake boobs every year). My favorite adult costume, though, would have to be the Hanson Brothers-- it's fairly simple, a little obscure yet most people know who they are and I get to where my blades again.
I have lost some interest in Halloween in recent years. We used to go to parties but they seem to be more about the party and less about the holiday now. The outfits that adults are wearing are all about shock value instead of creativity and that has taken some of the fun out of it. Since I now have M3S, I want to make the focus on him and make it fun again.
MLW and I have talked about what we are going to do Friday night. Our neighborhood is full of old folks so it is not a good place to go out. By the time I get home from work it will be almost six and, even though daylight savings time is still going on, it will be getting dark and the kids will be heading out. This makes it hard to get out and go anywhere good and since MLW has to work early Saturday morning, we don't want to be out too late either. It may sound horrible but we were almost hoping for rain so we can Trick-or-Treat at the mall but the weather is supposed to be beautiful.
I think it is time to suck it up, put my money where my mouth is, quit trying to make excuses and do exactly what M3S wants to do... eat a taco and watch his TV. I guess we can save worrying about Trick-or-Treating until next year. Maybe then he can remember-- and understand, the punchline to his Halloween riddle...
Bolts! Why didn't I think of that?