When I was a kid, the excitement leading up to Halloween night was second only to that of Christmas Eve. The leaves had fallen and made a wonderful noise when you tramped through them; summer was a memory but hockey season had begun; and it was cold out there with just a costume, but somehow as a kid I never noticed. The really rich kids had store-bought costumes, but I had more fun dreaming up my own. My mom and dad were always great sports: helping me out and proclaiming that this year's costume was even scarier than last year's.
The secret of which costume you would wear was, of course, guarded as closely as Fort Knox. There were also the stories--shared among friends--of past Halloweens: which houses had the scariest decorations or the meanest dogs; which neighbors gave out apples (to be avoided because they were healthy); and which people dished out the real goods (bags of chips and small chocolate bars that you could count afterward to see if you had surpassed last year's record).
Halloween Day seemed endless until the school bell rang and I grabbed my UNICEF box and headed home to “get ready”. Having graduated to bigger kid status, I could go out with some neighborhood friends. We timed it to avoid the little kids walking with their parents when there was still daylight, at one end, and the teenagers who came out when it was really dark, at the other. The mean ones would try to frighten you and steal your candy. I learned from experience to make a tight knot in the top of the white pillowcase my mom had sacrificed to the Halloween cause. Then I could run like heck when the teenagers approached, and the knot helped me avoid losing any of that precious candy.
Halloween was the Great Equalizer because you got neat stuff regardless of whether you were rich or poor (or had a “lame” costume). And you didn't even have to give up that carefully-guarded paper route money and buy gifts in return. Of course, there was the odd house with “old people” who wanted you to reveal who you were or sing a song for the candy, but a seasoned kid knew how to avoid these places.
And then when my friends and I were so tired that we decided to forgo the last of the houses, we would trudge back to our homes to examine our loot. I would proudly display the night's booty to my parents, who would then let me pick out some favorite treats and eat them before going to bed.
And if I was really lucky, I could make that stash last until that other great day came and my Christmas stocking brought more candy.
Happy Halloween, everyone!