“I got a rock.”
Charlie Brown’s lament — from the classic 1966 TV show “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” — has, for the past 40-some years, echoed in my head every Oct. 31.
Halloween is probably my favorite holiday, although it gets short shrift some years when such grown-up concerns as work prompts my family to push jack-o-lantern carving back to the night itself.
Then there was the year of my ill-advised suggestion that the family travel to a neighborhood on the other side of town to see what was reported to be an especially elaborate Halloween yard display. Of course, everyone else in town had that same idea and the resulting traffic jam on neighborhood streets meant that we almost — almost — didn’t get back to our own neighborhood in time for trick-or-treating.
But stressful Halloween memories are, thankfully, few for me.
I’ve enjoyed two great periods of Halloween in my life. In recent years, the chance to take my son trick-or-treating marks one of the highlights of the fall for me. Him too, I hope.
And of course, there’s the good old days. Halloween classic.
Growing up on a farm in a rural area, I never got to go trick-or-treating in my own neighborhood. Houses were few and far between and neighbors were so unaccustomed to having trick-or-treaters that you’d be better off expecting to find treats in our chicken coop.
But because my cousin Mary lived in the city, my family usually went to her house on Halloween and from there the kids went trick-or-treating.
Back then, in the 1960s, we went trick-or-treating for more than one night. Some people don’t believe me when I tell them this. Some people think we were deluding ourselves and were actually “shaking down” my cousin’s neighbors for candy several days in a row.
I’m sure that’s not true. Pretty sure.
Anyway. My cousin and I and several friends would set out at dark, costumes on and bags in hand, and it seemed like we ranged all over the south side of Muncie. I’ve previously noted in this blog the problems with wearing a mask over glasses. The glasses tended to fog up and reduce visibility. Being out at night, roaming over city blocks illuminated only by porch lights, made it even harder to see. My costume one particular year consisted of a painted-on beard, goofy hat and paint-spattered shirt. It was pretty low-rent but at least I could see.
As gratifying as the treats were, the tricks were just as good. One year, as our group approached a front porch, the resident of the house pulled a rope and caused a dummy to fall from a tree near us. As we shrieked and ran away from the house, other people, wearing masks and lying in wait, chased us.
We ran wildly into the street, narrowly avoiding getting hit by a passing car.
Now when I go along as my son trick-or-treats, I get to enjoy the gruesome costumes on the older kids and the awfully cute ones on the little folks. I remind my son to say “trick or treat” and “thank you.” I carry a flashlight to help motorists see us.
It all seems pretty tame compared to my youth, when it seemed as if we roamed and pillaged across a wide swath of the city for the better part of the week.
But, you know, it’s still trick or treating and there’s not much better than that.