October 31, 2006

Chocolate bars and candy corn

On a warm Halloween evening, Train Track Village is like a set in an old movie. Carefully carved jack-o-lanterns, some with smiling faces and some with evil grins, light the steps of the big old houses, with candlelight flickering through orange slits. Neighbors sit out on their porches, laughing in delight at clever costumes. Teenagers and adults hang back in the street, scuffling through piles of dried leaves, while little kids in costumes make their way shyly up to the doorsteps to get their candy. The nursing home is always open, the lobby filled with wheelchairs of old people with bags of candy in their laps, ready to admire the children who come through. One warm Halloween night, one man set up an impromptu bar, putting a board over a couple of sawhorses, and served drinks to his adult neighbors. Everyone chats with each other while they wait patiently for the kids, and a big crowd will gather near the fire station, eating the doughnuts and cider the firefighters hand out. The streets and sidewalks swarm with crowds of children in costumes.

Of course, here in Snowstorm region, this kind of warm, summer-like Halloween happens only about once every ten years. We are just as likely to get snow, and most likely – cold temperatures and rain.

Most years, Halloween weather is downright miserable. Parents flip a coin to see which one must take the little ones out in the rain and cold – the winning parent gets to stay home and pass out candy. Parents always try to make their kids wear coats over their costumes, which as any kid knows, totally ruins the effect. Anyone opening the door to hand out candy will see little kids with costume paint running down their rain-soaked faces, shivering as they hold out pillowcases clutched in cold red fingers. Cardboard ears and crowns fall apart and end up on the dark sidewalk. Any kid who makes the mistake of bringing some carefully decorated paper Halloween bag instead of an old pillow case will find his bag disintegrating -- and his candy falling into the gutter. The unlucky parents escorting their children around the village gather together to make sarcastic comments about the weather and plan the shortest possible route they can get away with.

When I was a kid, trick-or-treating meant mostly running through wet yards, slipping on piles of wet leaves, stomping through puddles, abandoning disintegrating costume parts, and begging the older kids to wait up as we ran through the rain as fast as we could. By the time we got back to Picnic Family's house, my feet would be so cold I could barely feel them. But the part I loved was sitting down in the warm house afterwards, we kids spreading our candy out on the carpet, my hands and feet thawing slowly as we bartered and traded candy bars. How cozy Picnic Family's house always seemed, filled with talk and light and jazz music. Picnic Father would set down his trumpet at some point to do a dramatic (and hysterically awful) reading of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, and we kids would chomp our candy while we listened. Then my own father would sit back down at the piano, Picnic Father would pick up his trumpet, and the jam session would begin again. Beneath the swirl of talk and music, we kids would play games on the thick carpet. No amount of bad weather could ruin the thrill of staying up late on a school night and eating as much candy as we wanted.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved all the bartering and brokering we did when we got home with our candy. I'd do anything to get rid of the candy corn. If couldn't get someone to trade me chocolate for it, I'd just give it to my dad, who LOVED it.

Anonymous said...

I loved all the bartering and brokering we did when we got home with our candy. I'd do anything to get rid of the candy corn. If couldn't get someone to trade me chocolate for it, I'd just give it to my dad, who LOVED it.

Teri said...

You have the uncanny ability to make me nostalgic for places I've never been in...

zelda1 said...

Ahhh, getting that candy home and piling it onto the floor and going through it. Yep, those were the days. I only remember Halloween as being cold and wet. I also remember being carried by my older siblings and always being told, when I walked, to hurry up. But, we went all over town and we walked. I remember waking up and finding my older sister had gone through my bag and taken all my candy bars and I cried and cried. That taught me to hide my candy, in fact, one year, I hid it so well that I couldn't find it for two or three days. Sadly, we didn't get any trick or treaters. That's another thing I miss about living here and not in our house, down in the valley.

henna said...

I have become my mother.

Last night as we drove through the dark streets and little goblins stood carefully out of the way, we waved good night to the adults and teenagers hanging back. We were returning home from Grammy's neighborhood where we always take the kids out. Then I heard myself, my mother, reminding my stepson to remember his fun night in the country with the nice weather, fallen leaves, jack o' Lanterns, and his family. That we are so lucky to live here and enjoy a beautiful fall evening. He can't imagine it any other way so he couldn't understand my nostalgia, but I hope when he gets older he will remember....

Anonymous said...

Does it ever bother you that it's all just molecules moving around?

Kyla said...

You are an amazing writer! I always feel like I'm right in the middle of your stories...out on the street with the neighbors, at home by the fire eating candy...whatever you describe, there I am.

molly said...

I like the way you share your memories, that makes me feel that they could almost be my memories.

Growing up, my family moved around alot. I didn't have the chance to form long-term relationships or friendships. I didn't think I missed it until as an adult I see my children having the experiences that you write about and forming the friendships that, I hope, will last a lifetime. I tell them how lucky they are to have lived in the same place all their lives, and to have been friends with the same kids since they were 4 yrs old, but they take it for granted. I share my experience of having moved around and never having stayed in one place long enough to have a friendship that has lasted my whole life. They don't get it. But that's OK. One day, looking back on their lives, I hope they'll understand.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Halloween has become my kids' favorite holiday, which I still don't understand...a bellyache from candy and an outfit that'll never fit you again?

Candy. That's the draw.

And Momma got to sample the chocolate...y'know, for the safety of the kids.

Mother of Invention said...

Sounds much the same weather we have here up in the north (Canada!)
And we used to get candy corn too. My dad would take all the black licorice pipes!
It was simple and fun. The pumpkins weren't so intricately carved as they are now and there was only one!
Great memories.

Yankee, Transferred said...

I would swap ANYTHING for Reese's peanut butter cups. Anything.

Chip said...

I remember our first Halloween back up here, when CB was 2 or so, it was one of those miserable, cold and rainy nights. It was beautiful last night though, wasn't it.

I also remember the old lady in Train Track Village who on Halloween night, it was said, sat on her porch in a rocking chair, shotgun across her lap, because she really didn't like little kids; she's the same one who supposedly had an attic filled with the balls that went over the fence from the playground of Big Stone Church School. I never did actually see her on her porch like that, but that's what all the Village kids told us...

jo(e) said...

Chip: Oh, it's been years since I thought of that old woman. She confiscated an awful lot of balls from the school yard over the years. I don't know about the shotgun story, but I did once see her yell at a nun once ....

We all talked about that incident for weeks.

ppb said...

indeed.

Mrs. Coulter said...

Mmm...Nice. All three of Lyra's Halloweens (so far) have been lovely, clear, fairly warm days.

I, on the other hand, recall trick-or-treating with a snowsuit under my costume. When I was older, I'd do without the coat, pushing on until I was so cold I couldn't take it any longer.

Does every small town have the cranky old lady who brandishes a shotgun at trespassing schoolchildren? I mean, I never saw her do it, but everyone said that you shouldn't put a single toe onto her lawn, lest she burst out of the house and chase you off...

Lori said...

I found this post while searching for some old tennis shoes from my childhood memories called 'cross countries' with a crescent shaped white strip at the toe. "Crescent" brought up this post.

I enjoyed reading this. It sounds so much like my own growing up and when my children were little. I'm going to have to find your blog in 'present day' too! Thanks for sharing.