Steven Downey takes a long look at Halloween now and then.
I had the good fortune this year to accompany my 8 year old nephew on his Trick or Treat walk through our small community. All three of my own children have outgrown this ritual long ago; and are answering the door at their own houses. For my nephew, Jordan, this was really only his second time to walk about, door to door, gathering candy. His choice to be a Commando/Seal team member was a great one; simple camo shirt and pants, a few bandoleers thrown around his neck, rubber knives, and a smudge of black face paint to finish his bad-assed look. Experience has taught me that simpler is always better, and to avoid rubber masks at all costs. I enjoy the whole creativity thing just fine, but stumbling around in the dark, on uneven sidewalks, with obstructed vision is a recipe for disaster.
We live in a small community in central Pennsylvania that observes All Hallows Eve pretty much the same as I remember it in the late sixties. The only real differences were (thru Adult eyes) improvements.
Firstly: four different houses on our half mile meander, were decorated with huge displays including scary music, electronic witches, bubbling caldrons , and most importantly adults keeping an eye on things. Also, a church had opened its doors to hand out popcorn, hot dogs, and hot chocolate.
Secondly: two policemen took turns, one circling the area in his car and the other standing on the corner, not scowling, but laughing and talking to the kids as they trudged by.
To be honest, my first (walked up hill both ways to school thought) was…well now they gone and took all the fun out of it. Where’s the adventure, the living dangerously. What kid can possibly boast the next day at school about eating popcorn at the church and cutting up with the policeman on the corner? But maybe (I suppose) maybe these are good things. If we’re going to have a holiday that literally poses the question; Candy or Vandalism? It’s probably a good idea to take to the streets and provide some good examples. On a more sober note, it is also well established that children live, and learn to behave, as they are treated by the adults around them. Physical and mental abuse breeds vandalism and eventually more violence. I see a straight line for me, in my life, from beatings at home, in school by teachers (yes they used wooden paddles) and by my classmates…to bigger and bolder vandalism, stealing and violence in my teens.
On a side note I must say Jordan’s costume was pure genius. Simple, good visibility…obviously it’s Jordan, but tough guy cool “Jordan the Commando” with a plastic pumpkin basket. Contrast that with this scene from about 1968, on Halloween night in Central Pennsylvania. My older brother is a Robot..it’s a huge cut down refrigerator-size box with an ten year-old inside. Yes it’s painted and tin foiled and has whirling spinning stuff on it but only his ankles and feet protrude from the bottom of it. He navigates using a small set of holes in the front of the thing, which keep dodging and diving out of view, as his knees hit the box, as he walks up the street. His younger brother (me) “the Mummy” leads the way trying to help him get to the next house, to get some more damn candy.
The mummy’s costume consists of a very cool rubber mask that depicts a grotesque face half covered in cloth, with only one eye to navigate thru. The mummy, all on his own, wrapped strips of white sheet over his neck, torso, arms, and legs, and of course fastened them securely. They walk up an uneven sidewalk, on a small back street and approached a curb. Forgetting his brother, the Mummy boldly looks both ways and tells Robot to hurry up. Robot, with no idea what is in front of him plunges off the cliff (curb) with no way to stop himself, and topples over face first in the street. Bruised and bloodied they move on, with Robot insisting that the Mummy stick closer and guide him along. It is now that the Robot has his revenge. The trailing streamers of white sheets, (still attached to the Mummy), disappear under the Robot as they walk along. The Robot steps on the sheets…the mummy crashes onto the sidewalk.
By the end of the night nearly all the sheets have been lost. The one-eyed rubber mask is ceremoniously applied “only” after the front door is opened (yep, see I’m a Mummy) Robot has hacked and clawed away, with his bare hands, huge chunks of himself. He is now a torn up box with shredded tin foil and spinney-bits dragging behind him up the street. At each front door he cheerily announces “Trick or Treat” and “Yes I’m a Robot”
Good call Jordan…..Good call.
Photo: Miss Barabonov