Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trick or Treat!

Picking out a Halloween costume was so important back in the day.  Now and then, I'll still dress up for Halloween, but I certainly don't buy my costumes anymore.  I didn't even venture down that aisle at Target this year, because I know that full-sized costumes' prices start at a whopping twenty bones.  And, that's for some flimsy trampy French Maid getup which is neither work-appropriate nor will it completely cover my hide.  If you're looking to have your rump covered, we're talking an investment of thirty bucks and up.

Halloween has become so expensive.  Trick-or-treating in the 70's and 80's only cost us $5.00 or less.  And, that was for costuming all four kids total!  We'd either make our own outfits or get those boxed ones that were purchased from the grocery store.  A boxed costume would consist of a plastic character mask that kind of itched your face while simultaneously smelling strange, and a plastic smock-like "shirt" and "pants" that tied in the back like your art apron from kindergarten.  The genius of these boxed costumed is that they could be layered over even the thickest down Michigan jacket.  (See me, above, as the Road Runner.)

If they made a Road Runner costume these days, the designer would try to physically turn you into a bird.  Today's costume would have a long feathery tail, skin-tight yellow legs and a big purply-blue plume on top of the head (and absolutely no allowance for a winter coat.)  We didn't need all that realistic-ness back then.  If someone was confused by my mask and thought it may be Woody Woodpecker I was depicting, they could simply look down at my smock and see a cartoon image of the Road Runner right there on my chest.  I also "Meep-Meep!"ed alot from behind my mask so, if there was still any confusion, that would surely clear things up!

The years we didn't use a boxed costume, we'd raid our toy chests or parents' closet.  On any given year, there would be at least one in our clan dressed as a hobo.  A hobo costume usually consisted of a parent's flannel shirt, my mom's floppy green and yellow gardening hat (which I'm still unsure of how she obtained it. I certainly remember her gardening, but never while in a floppy hat) and Mom's eyebrow pencil smudged across our cheeks and noses.  My sister won the jackpot one year by talking my mom into purchasing a plastic cigar to compliment her hobo garb.  I was so jealous of that thing!  She'd chomp on it around the house talking in a Grouch Marx-ish voice all the while having no idea who Groucho Marx was.  She was the hit of the church costume party with her cigar chomping bit, making middle-aged women giggle by saying cigar-ish lines. (Which, now that I think about it, may have just been, "I have a cigar!  Like my cigar?"  Still using Groucho's voice though.)  I wanted that thing still, even though it was most likely covered with saliva by now.  My hobos never had shtick.

You can see the white tip of the plastic cigar peeking out of my sister's pocket.

Each year we had a trick-or-treating tradition.  We'd horse down dinner, in anticipation, while wondering if our cousin had horsed down his dinner yet.  (My cousin, who was really like a bonus sibling, came along with us every year.)  The neighbor kids from across the street, who either ate dinner super early or all together weren't fed on Halloween, would always be the first at our door, "Trick or Treat!!!"  And, always while we were still eating.  This would cause my father to grumble in same way that telephone calls at this hour would merit.  Which cued us to grumble along, "Don't they feed those kids?", "Who trick-or-treats while it's still light out?"  It was always a smart thing to agree with Dad. 

Once my cousin would arrive, we'd hit our neighborhood's streets first.  We lived on an old dirt country road that was hidden smack dab between the suburbs and the city.  Not many kids lived on our street, which meant one glorious thing every October 31st: Full-sized candy bars!  Never having more than 5-10 treaters coming to your door, meant the neighbors would splurge on--not only full-sized candy bars--but cans of pop, bowls of coins you could grab by the handful, you name it! 

Then there was the house on the corner with the chickens.  I don't remember for the life of me what kind of goods they passed out.  I just remember we always stopped there out of some sort of family obligation.  We'd hold our sacks above our heads as the chickens would swarm us and cluck around our feet.  We'd let the family friend toss whatever it was into our bags while we'd silently wish my mom and aunt would wrap up the small talk.  The longer we stood there, the greater our chances of being pecked, bitten or pooped on!  One year as we made our speedy getaway from the chicken house, my cousin slammed his finger in our sliding van door.  I'd never seen a blood blister form so quickly and become so large!  It was a winner for sure.  Just looking at it made your eyes ache!  It was the saddest moment of my young life thus far, but I also certainly wished I could be there when that sucker got popped!

From our neighborhood we'd move on to my cousin's (which is also the neighborhood where I currently reside.)  His street was connected to an actual subdivision!  What my hood had in quality goods, his made up for in quantity.  Houses just steps from one another!  Crappier candy, but in mass quantities!  (Although, some of them turned their homes into haunted houses for the night, which I thought was rude.  We skipped those ones.)  Once our legs got tired, we'd go pick up our grandma and she'd tag along as we'd visit one of her friends who lived midway between our house and hers. (We all lived within a half-mile of each other.)  There, we'd collect our homemade popcorn balls that I would never eat.  As my grandma chatted, for what seemed like days, we'd stand by the wall staring at the bearskin rug that hung there, daring each other to touch it. 

Eventually Grandma would run out of things to say and we'd finally return to their house, dump all our goods on the floor and let the swapping begin!  Bubblegum of any sort was the highest in value.  Even if it was just Double Bubble that would lose its flavor in ten seconds flat.  The unwanted candy (those round things wrapped in black and orange wrappers that we never did open to find out what they were, anything with nuts, my popcorn ball...) would be dumped into a large bowl for the grown-ups to pick through.  In my teens I'd start trick-or-treating with friends.  But, one year after high school, I escorted my younger siblings as they were still keeping the family tradition alive.  It was during one of these candy-swapping events on my grandma's living floor that the television announced that River Phoenix had died on the sidewalk in front of the Viper Room.  Totally ruining my Halloween!

We still keep the tradition alive.  Since my parents and I now live next door my grandma's house, my siblings and the cousins still like to gather here on Halloween.  We take the new little ones to all the houses we visited when we were their age.  The neighbors are mostly all different now, but there's always those few scary houses that the kids might ask us if we can skip. 

The costumes may cost more for this new generation, but hopefully the memories are still equal in value.

No comments: