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.