Hallowe'en was way scarier when I was a kid. We may not have planted today's fake boney graveyards on the lawn, or hung those gauzy ghouls from the porch rafters. We might not have decorated the front steps with giant, spidery cob webs that tangle up the side walk and shrubs, or installed zombies, their exposed guts spilling out on their way up to the door. Sure there were Jack O'Lanterns in windows up and down our street, but mostly they were the smiling, slightly-maniacal versions carved by our dads, not the menacing, glowering, teeth-gnashing variety you see these days. Still, I say, we had it way scarier than kids today.
First of all, unless your mom was good at sewing, you wore a PAPER costume bought at the drug store!!! (My mother threw up her hands in defeat every year around October 25th and marched me down to the corner Rexall to pick out something "cute.") You hadn't even made it out the door before the seams came unglued and the whole thing TORN to shreds, like a flimsy doctor's office exam gown, before you even reached the next door neighbor's house! These tatty get-ups were always way too long and reached well below our shoes making them totally unsafe for travel at any speed. The TRIP HAZARD alone was enough to put you in the emergency room. And Lord help the kid that swung an overly-drapey princess skirt too close to an open pumpkin flame! A Human Torch in seconds! Without even one single WARNING on the package!! And if that wasn't danger enough, you had to wear your costumes OVER your snow suit! (It was damn COLD where I grew up — some Hallowe'ens there'd be snow on the ground — add SLIPPING on ICE to an already hazardous outing!) You looked more like a stuffed bug than the fairy or cowgirl you hoped you were. Nobody's convinced that you're Cinderella if your crown is crushed down over your woolen toque. The EGO BRUISING was enough to leave permanent SCARS and put you into therapy for life. Imagine, stopping at a house, and some kind grandma-sort asking, "What are YOU supposed to be, sweetie? No, I mean really, what ARE you supposed to be?" You'd reply "I'm Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty!" thinking, "DUH!! Isn't it obvious, LADY?" It wasn't.
Never mind. Off you went anyway. UNACCOMPANIED by parent or guardian. Your older brother way out ahead of you, not even willing to acknowledge that he HAD a little sister. You didn't care. There you were, on your own, wearing a mask that you couldn't actually see out of anyway, but NOTHING was going to stop you from making it up one side of the street and down the other, shouting, "HALLL-O-WEEEN APPPP-LES" at doorsteps, householders filling your pillow case (nobody had a sucky plastic pumpkin pail!) with loose candy and gummy popcorn balls and sticky Rice Krispy treats and bruised Delicious apples. It's a miracle none of us caught SALMONELLA or TYPHOID or DYSENTERY from all those unwrapped, unsanitary consumables. Who knows where that stuff had been!
Hallowe'en was not for the faint of heart, believe you me! And certainly not for budding introverts, like me. There was always one house on every kid's street where some sadistic adult or mean teen would hold the treats ransom until you performed a trick, a song or told a joke. "NO candy, kid! Not until you DO SOMETHING to earn it!! BWA-ha-ha-ha!" BULLIES! The lot of them. You'd stand there, frozen, petrified, maybe peeing your pants, praying as you never had before, even at bedtime when you begged the Lord to take your soul if you died in the night, that these FIENDS would just give you that one miserable jaw-breaker from the bowl and let you go!! PLEEE-EEE-EAASE!!
Somehow you'd escape those MONSTERS and race across lawns, time running out until you had to get home. Now you're on the home stretch, but, oh, you've TRIPPED on those little, ankle-high, wrought-iron garden edgers, SPILLING all your sweet treasures! Picking yourself up along with the remaining tatters of your crummy paper costume, you limp along — six more houses to go! You can make it!! Wait! Oh, no! You still have crabby Mrs. Cowser's house where her irritable dog, Butchie, is waiting to bark his fool head off and probably BITE your arm off! Or what about Mr. McGregor's spooky old house? NO kid EVER goes there!! You'd heard the stories. It was HAUNTED! And that crotchety old man would keep your baseball if it ever went in his yard. You daren't step even one toe on his lawn. Better skip it. He was probably the guy you'd heard about, sticking PINS in apples!!
Made it! You dump your loot onto the kitchen table so your mom can check it over for the aforementioned booby-trapped fruit. Another successful trick-or-treat run done until next year. You throw the shreds of your costume in the trash and hit the sheets, buzzed out on a glucose high from wax lips, licorice pipes with red sprinkles, Double Bubble, black balls, Swedish fish and candy necklaces. Your mom plays her "I know what's best for you kids" hand and hides your candy; her evil plot to dole it out, piece by piece, until Lent when she'll talk you into giving it up altogether.
Kids these days. Out there with their moms and dads, with flashlights and glow-in-the-dark safety strips. They have no idea what scary is.