Real Halloween – Bruce Remembers When Halloween Was For Kids [Opinion]
There was a time when a kid could get on his bike and ride away from his home for most of a day and there would be no Amber Alert. There was a time when lunch was served at the house where you happened to be playing around noon. There was a time when any parent could discipline you for actin' the donkey and your mom and dad would support them in that action. That time was my childhood and it seems like a lifetime ago.
Halloween when I was young was our holiday. It belonged to the kids and the kids alone. Thanksgiving was all about the grown ups and being forced to sit at the children's table. Christmas meant a few toys but mostly underwear, socks and maybe a coat. The Fourth of July was the family reunion at my Uncle Charlie's house in Faunsdale, Alabama. Halloween, that was THE night when you were a kid in small town middle of nowhere Mississippi.
Our costumes were homemade. One of Dad's old work shirts and some of his old pants held up around your waist with a rope, some charcoal on your face for a beard, a stick with a bandana tied to it and you were a hobo. Some foil covered cardboard boxes that would cover your chest and one for your head and you were a robot. If you had an old sheet and cut two holes for your eyes you were a ghost. We did not dress to impress, we dressed because it meant free candy.
Candy was only part of the story of my childhood Halloween. There were the special treats that only came out on Halloween Night. Willetta Swoope, she was the Home Ec teacher at the high school and for Halloween she made popcorn balls. Mrs. Boyette usually did caramel or candy apples. The Valentine's gave out full size candy bars and at least three or four neighbors did homemade cookies.
Our moms and dads didn't go trick-or-treating with us. That's what older brothers and neighborhood kids were for. The adults stayed home and answered the door while the kids got into mischief. Sure there was toilet paper in use. Sure there were frogs that were released into private homes. Sure there were windows that got soaped. Sure we thought we were bad asses to the tenth power. It was innocent harmless fun that never escalated beyond fun.
Halloween now is one of the most monetized holidays in America. We spend hundreds of dollars on costumes and just about every kid has a parent in costume walking with him. Some kids don't even walk the neighborhood, they are chauffeured on trailers pulled by ATV's. The parents that do stay home don't answer the door, they are too busy getting drunk at the end of the driveway and our children don't know how to say "thank you" much less "trick-or-treat". It kind of makes me sad.
Not mad-sad but nostalgic-sad. I am sad that my kids never got to experience the thrill of being out with just their friends on the most spooky night of the year. I'm nostalgic for homemade goodies that caring neighbors made for kids that weren't their own, but they loved as if they were. I am nostalgic for the loss of imagination in creating a costume out of scraps that felt like a million dollars or more when front door was opened. I am nostalgic for a time when we all cared about each other and we weren't so afraid of lawsuits and medical issues.
My Halloween has gone. I am sure the Halloween of today will be replaced in a generation or so by traditions that are just as foreign to the kids who are hitting the streets over the next few nights. So here is to Halloween and tricks and treats and "I got a rock". May the spirit of the night never be lost on those who can remember walking through shadows of streetlights, the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet and the bite of a crisp autumn breeze blowing through the hole in your dad's old shirt.