Like the zombies and vampires that will proliferate as the darkness descends on Saturday, Halloween is hardly recognizable against what it was when the earth was young and I had to wear a fake beard so my neighbours could pretend they didn’t recognize me when I went trick-or-treating.
We used to gear up for Halloween by rummaging through the closet for Dad’s and Mom’s oldest clothes. The rattier the better, of course. Favourite personas were tramps or dishevelled businessmen, trollops or old washerwomen.
You could get cheap make-up sticks for death-darkened eyes, and the old standby was throwing a sheet over your head and cutting out a couple of eyeholes – and that had better be a really old sheet! Pretty close to half of all the kids trick-or-treating were ghosts.
Everyone talked a lot about the “ghosts and goblins” spooking the neighbourhoods at Halloween, but I don’t recall actually ever seeing a goblin. I figure goblin costumes were too much trouble for any Mom with a house full of brats running her ragged and a sewing machine already loaded up with pants and shirts that needed mending.
Didn’t matter what we wore, anyway. The neighbours always recognized us – even the ones who pretended to be frightened by our creepy appearance.
Even when we were totally covered up under white sheets and talking with our creepiest moans.
The real trick was trying to fool someone – anyone! – handing out the treats.
If you have your goodies at the ready, how many of the ghouls and rock stars knocking at your door seeking sweet sustenance from you will you recognize?
Indeed, how many would you recognize even if they weren’t wearing masks and ghastly disguises?
Do you know all the kids in your neighbourhood? Do you know any of the kids in your neighbourhood… except maybe your own?
Most of us spooks and oddly put-together mini-adults walked around the block in our quest for treats.
Well, actually, for most of my friends and me, the “block” was about a mile up and down the gravel road we lived on. As I think back, I figure that totalled maybe nine houses, counting our own – a lot of work for limited rewards.
Some years, usually if the weather was good, we would hang a left at the end of the road and foray into the adjoining, slightly more densely populated neighbourhood. One of our older brothers might tag along undisguised, to watch out for us, careful to stay in the shadows when doors were opened and treats handed out – so as not to give away our unsuccessfully concealed identities.
The chaperone was mostly a token, and often left out of the picture altogether. The neighbours all watched out for us from door to door.
I hate to sound like an old curmudgeon – even if I am one – but when we were kids, we frowned on the rich brats from the high-end neighbourhood who got their parents to drive them all over town and bragged at school the next day about how they had to change pillow cases twice to keep up with all the treats they got to haul home. They didn’t even realize that their greed sucked the fun out of their own experience.
Perhaps they were the reason that, just as television vampires have become mediocre, as monsters go, and zombies are now boringly commonplace, trick-or-treating has buckled under the weight of its uninspired hankering for selfish gain, and in the more successfully ghoulish households, Halloween finds costumed kids laughing at parties instead.