Thursday, October 29, 2015
No one decorated their yard with severed legs, dismembered children, and Day of the Dead tableaux when I was growing up. We were lucky if neighbors remembered to put out a pumpkin.
Half the time, they didn't even bother to stick around. There'd just be a basket of candy on the porch with "Boo! From the Hendersons" scribbled across a piece of graph paper. As the basket held nothing but Smarties, the Hendersons often found an unpleasant return on their investment. But not from my quarter, I assure you.
Me and my friends, we never tricked. That would have taken both too much time and too much imagination. We didn't even bother with regulation costumes after the age of five. A little grease paint, a torn shirt, and we were good to pillage. Sugar. We wanted sugar, and nothing but sugar. Specifically, chocolate sugar. "Open wide for Chunkies!" (Which must be the creepiest ad slogan ever.) No time to chat, just in and out, done and done.
Most parents in the subdivisions spent Halloween watching Gunsmoke, and would answer the door feigning only the barest vestige of interest. But there was always that one house. That house where the grown-ups were way too excited, way too invested in the evening's entertainment. For whatever reason, they had passed through adolescence and teenagery into dotage, somehow blissfully unaware of Halloween's true purpose.
So these -- we'll call them "enthusiasts" -- had a yard decorated with some sort of children of the corn configuration. The mom dressed up as Morticia and the dad as a vampire. While the Addams Family theme played in the background, they'd greet us with a cauldron of Hi-C fruit punch and dry ice and say, "Come into our chamber, my pretties."
We had no choice, we had to go inside, they played bridge with our parents. Thus, we'd waste precious chocolate-accumulating minutes dipping our hands in a bowl of cold spaghetti labeled INTESTINES, peeled grapes labeled "EYE BALLS." We'd smile politely. "Oh, that was real spooky, Mrs. Johnston." And she'd wag her finger and say, "Mrs. Johnston? Who is this Mrs. Johnston you speak of? Gomez, Do you know a Mrs. Johnston?" Then Mr. Johnston would jump out from behind a door and flap his cape, "Cara mia!"
We felt greatly embarrassed on their behalf, and finally understood why their kids had taken up pot at such a tender age.
When we eventually escaped the clutches of Morticia and Gomez Johnston, I'm sure I wasn't the only kid to appreciate my own parents, whose Halloween lassitude suddenly seemed quite sophisticated.
Many of us lived in sugar-restricted homes and any candy we hadn't eaten along the way was confiscated as soon as we opened the front door.
Next spring, we'd set up a stand outside our house and sell the candy back to the original owners. But at a discount. And I suppose they handed it back to us the following fall. Who knows for how many years that went on. Some Dutch scientists recently proved that subatomic particles travel both backward and forward in time. Apparently the same principle applies to candy corn.