By Judy Reiss
When I was a little girl, I can’t remember any holiday that I looked forward to more than Halloween. I lived in a neighborhood that was filled with children, mostly boys. And because we had the biggest lawn and backyard, the boys allowed me to play and be part of the gang. Now if you wonder what any of that information had to do with Halloween, let me tell you.
For literally weeks before the big day, all of us discussed what our costume would look like. Of course back then no one bought their costumes. So when the discussion was about a costume, it really had to be something that you could put together by yourself. I know that it was possible to buy your mask, although there wasn’t much of a choice. And regardless if it was called a pirate, or a princess the masks looked the same…and smelled the same! I distinctly remember getting my mask and it was made out of strange material that looked like bandage stuff and then it was waxed. Now if you were a pirate or a princess, the facial features were put on your mask before it was waxed and we all thought that they were super. What I also remember was when we started out our masks looked OK. However, after about an hour and everyone’s hot breath, the masks started to melt! By the time I would get home, the mouth was a flabby piece of some strange material, that was, if you were lucky. If not, your entire mask could melt and it was almost impossible to see out of the eye holes.
Now we see great differences between Halloween today and what it was those many years ago. I think that the most and biggest difference was the children from 3 or 4 to about 13 all went trick or treating without their parents. Without their parents and no one got snatched or hurt? Yes, can you imagine? We all went trick or treating in a large group and although we always met other big groups and I think the only discussion we ever had was what house had very poor treats, like graham crackers instead of candy or a popcorn ball. And by the time we went home, which was about 9:00, we had enough candy to last us way past Christmas! Now I did know kids whose parents would only let them have one piece of candy a day, which could stretch that bag of candy for months. However, not in my house. My Mother said I could eat the entire bag of goodies if I wanted to. Which I have to admit was what I did with my children. The theory was you could eat it all and then it was done. No lingering over a nasty bag of old candy.
Regardless of what I might tell you about Halloween, even with my own children, things have changed so much you can hardly recognize the day. Back when my children were young and I had a lot of energy, I worked with another group of parents and turned the gym in the Waitsfield Elementary School into a scary Halloween place to gather. Over the years we did have wonderful tricks for the children to enjoy. However, one Halloween a group of new parents and new residents decided that the Halloween party was just too scary for their little darlings and the party was over! My children still remember those parties and they made good memories. It should be noted that back then, parents were the drivers in the cars because our area was so rural. But they didn’t go trick or treating with their children, nor did they involve themselves in any and all of the parties, games or sports that their children did. Back in the good old days, parents were parents and they didn’t try and be their children’s best friends.
Did you know that the widely held story of someone putting razor blades in apples was just an urban myth? And because people believe that story, Halloween has changed for the children of today. Unless they were shaving or driving, parents take their children by the hand and only let the children trick or treat in a specified area. And I know that many of the parents dress up, too! Halloween has changed so much and many of the children are only allowed to buy their costumes and certainly not ones that are too scary! Poor Halloween has become more like Easter with soft and cuddly costumes.
When I was young we had several neighbors who dressed up and made scary tableaus in their foyers. In order to get your treat you had to go in and take your treat from wherever it was for that particular year. I still fondly remember the year the elderly woman who lived in that house, as she was lying in a coffee in a very scary room and you had to walk up and take your candy from her hand. I want to tell you that there were lots of kids outside her house waiting for their turn and the longer they waited the worst the adventure got to be. I still don’t know who had a better time, the kids or the elderly lady in the coffin! And where were their parents? home in bed or handing out candy in their own homes.
I don’t know if Halloween has passed yet or if it is time to prepare. I hope if it is over that you kept a bowl of candy right by the front door and that you enjoyed the little kids as much as possible. But if it hasn’t come yet, remember when you were young and don’t think of the evening as a chore but as a time to allow everyone to be whomever they want to be. And that includes you, be a kindly old man or woman who treats the children this one night of the year as enjoyable guests. You don’t ;have to wear a costume, but you can if you want to. And if not a costume, at least a mask!
HAPPY HALLOWEEN! From the old witch in Waitsfield!