Halloween in Hyde Park is Rockwellian.
It is one of my favorite events and times in our village. I was enthralled with our very first outing with my oldest daughter. She went as an ear of corn, still in the husk, her blonde ponytail acting as the silk sprouting out the top.
Halloween night in the village is wonderful, friendly, and so unlike my childhood experiences.
Most of my Trick or Treating memories as a child are from the late 70’s and early 80’s. At that time, in my hometown, hospitals offered free x-rays of your Halloween candy bags. Seriously. You could bring your loot down to the local hospital and they would zap it to see if there were any razor blades or needles stuck in the candy. My parents had to search through our bags at the end of the night to make sure nothing had been tampered with, or worse, homemade. Those particular goodies were tossed in the trash without question. It was a time when there was a rash of scares, poisonings, and gruesome tampering of treats. Maybe some of the stories were urban myths, or media hype, but the fear and anxiety was very much real.
During that time I was still young enough to be escorted about the neighborhood by my Mom. The kids just older than me who still trick or treated – before they were too old or cool to bother – who ventured out un-chaperoned, had to be wary of bands of even older kids marauding the neighborhood. It was a fairly common occurrence to pass a small group of kids crying and lamenting they’d been mugged and their candy stolen.
Please, don’t get me wrong, though. I loved Halloween as a kid. Both my Mom and brothers helped make my costumes. Never did my Mom pick one off the rack at the store, every single one was handmade. Make-up, paper mache, and cardboard were the mediums of choice. Many of my costumes went on to be handed down years later to cousins and friends to be reused they were so good. My favorite was a Frankenstein’s Monster with a complete paper mache head (I looked out through a small hole in the shirt of the costume). It was a great costume. Still one of my favorites.
However, my excitement was tempered by a very real expectation of the dangers of our world. By warnings not to eat any candy until my Mom and Dad sorted through it all, and gave it the “all clear.”
So, you can imagination my apprehension at my first time taking my daughter trick or treating, and my elation at finding such a friendly event and experience awaiting us. Large groups of children and adults alike walking the village, laughing, joking, and fraternizing. Streets lit by streetlights and front porch lights alike. Homes welcoming and excited to greet the children and hand out candy.
My daughters love it. I love it.
So, as I take a break from making bows, arrows, leather quivers, and belts to write this piece, I get to give back to my daughters the wonderful handmade costumes my Mom and brothers made me. Admittedly, usually my daughters don’t always choose the costumes I would most like to make – I’ve had my share of faeries, kitties (black, at least), and princesses, but at least they let me craft the costumes for them. Granted, I wouldn’t mind a Jedi, wizard, or superhero some Halloween. This year, my mother-in-law has come to my rescue and made two amazing dresses for my daughters that I never would have been able to make for them myself. It wasn’t easy to relinquish this tradition of mine, but her creations are beautiful, and my daughters love them. I see the excitement in them that I felt when I was a kid, parading my handmade costume around the neighborhood.
It’s this excitement I hope I safely harbor here in the village and for the remainder of their trick or treating Halloweens. For me, it exemplifies childhood and innocence. There’s something to this simple little tradition of walking amongst your neighbors, going door to door and greeting friends and strangers alike through the cool autumn night. Something about taking on a persona not your own, performing and pretending, and stepping outside yourself for a night. I’m not sure what it is, but there is something ethereal about it, something other worldly that our other holidays just don’t share.
Then again, maybe it’s just the candy…