Tomorrow is Halloween, and the excitement in our home is nearly palpable. My eight-year-old daughter spent the evening on Pinterest looking at different ways to paint her face to look like Spiderman, and my seven-year-old son keeps asking to wear his Iron Man Costume around the house.
We’ve discussed our plans for Halloween night, which includes crashing a nearby trunk-or-treat at a local church, then “inspecting” the kids’ candy for anything suspicious.
“We need to get a plastic pumpkin to put our candy in,” Courtney says, ticking off everything she needed to do before the big night.
I shake my head. “Nah. You can get much more in a pillowcase.”
Courtney’s eyes widen. “A pillowcase?”
I shrug. “Sure. That’s what we used as kids.”
Courtney’s jaw drops. “What was Halloween like when you were a kid?”
A grin spreads over my face as I remember Halloween in Lynnwood. Most nights it would rain because, well, we lived in Seattle. Which meant we’d be wearing coats over our costumes. If we were particularly unlucky, it’d be snowing and we’d be lucky to have even an inch of bright-colored fabric sticking out from underneath mittens, hats, boots, and thick winter coats. But if the Gods were smiling down on us that year, it’d be a clear night perfect for hours of trick-or-treating.
Our family had a large container designated for costumes that were recycled from person to person each year. Our body size at that time of year usually dictated what we could wear, but sometimes Mom would use safety pins to get them to fit without sliding off our shoulders. There was this fantastic Spanish Dancer dress made of black, red, orange and yellow, with massive ruffles that fluttered outward below the waist in alternating colors. It was second only to the authentic cream or black flapper dresses our grandma used to wear when she was a performer in the 30’s. I wore those dresses well into my teens and it was nothing short of fantastic. Other costumes included some funky white jumpsuit trimmed in orange and rhinestones, massive black platform shoes, a wedding dress, a Native American costume, and a few other items we’d usually fight over who wouldn’t have to wear them.
We’d start right after dinner, long before sunset, starting at our neighbor’s house because they saved a full-sized candy bar especially for each of us. Probably their way of saying thanks for being so crazy they never had to pay a dime for entertainment. They’d just sit on their back deck and watch us ricochet of one another in the back yard.
When we were younger, Mom or Dad would take us around “the loop” which was a housing development just up the hill from our house where homes were built in this massive loop. It was just large enough for us to feel as if we’d accomplished some serious candy collecting, but not so big that the parents were ready to gouge their eyes out.
When we got older, however, that’s when the fun occured. Well, older is relative, of course. The age limit for trick-or-treating in our house was twelve. If you were twelve when Halloween hit, you were too old to trick or treat. Those of us whose age was double digits got to strike out on our own without the watchful, and way too-easily-tired-out eye of our parents, provided we stuck together. As soon as the little kids left with the parents, the older ones would head towards The Pits.
The Pits were a massive housing development that used to be acres and acres (maybe miles) of dirt and rock, but was eventually developed into thousands of high-end homes. Our first candy stop would often be the mansion at the top of a long, winding hill where the doorbell chimed a song rather than dinged. I don’t think anyone ever answered the door, but it was more about listening to the doorbell anyway. Besides, you could ring it more than once if nobody came to the door.
Next, we’d systematically move from door-to-door, begging for candy before racing to the next unsuspecting resident and repeating the process. Our curfew was ten o’clock, and you didn’t want to push your luck with Dad. But it was amazing how far a kid could wind their way in and out of streets, provided they planned properly.
And we planned properly.
This candy had to last us months! Okay. Who were we kidding. We were lucky if it would last a week. Regardless, the goal was to fill our pillowcases nearly to the top. Most years we’d usually come home with legs and arms aching, noses running, make-up smeared, and a faces lit up by a giant grin because our bags were at least 3/4 full.
We’d stay up till midnight sorting, separating, and trading candy with one another until each of us were satisfied with our haul. Anything undesirable would be left for Mom, Dad, or the babies who were too young to trick-or-treat anyway.
By morning our tummies would ache, and we’d be hung over from the late night and too much sugar. It was entirely worth it, and we knew we’d be back at it again next year.