JackOLantern - GillisPhotos.com
JackOLantern – GillisPhotos.com

by Robert Gillis Published in the Foxboro Reporter, (revised) 10/2009, 10/1996 and the Boston City Paper 10/2006

There is something very special and magical about Halloween night. The sky seems darker, the moon fuller and more ominous looking, and the air itself seems charged and foreboding. The sound and smell of dead leaves as they blow across the streets seems crisp and eerie. The clouds, lit by the moon, create scary patterns across the sky.

I vividly remember the Halloweens when I was a kid. We spent the entire month of October decorating the house with pictures of ghosts, witches on brooms, pumpkins and scarecrows, and started thinking about what we wanted to be.

We’d go to nearby Uphams Corner to Kresgee and Diskay and sort through the cardboard boxes filled with costumes. There were piles of boxes with Superman, Barbie, GI Joe, Wonder Woman, Archie and Jughead, and generic ones like “Clown,” “Pirate” and “Bunny Rabbit.” We’d visit our own pumpkin patch — the local supermarket — and pick out two or three of the best specimens. That evening would be spent shoveling pumpkin-goo onto a newspaper, and carving bizarre faces into the hapless vegetable. We didn’t have any sort of Halloween lights for the windows, so I made a pumpkin on my “Light Bright” toy (remember that?) for all to see.

On Halloween, we’d go to Mom’s mother’s house in the afternoon, and Memere would make the traditional baked macaroni — delicious! By 5:00, the anticipation and frenzy had reached the breaking point as we rushed to get into our costumes and be made up. More often than not, I was Superman. Pictures were usually taken, and protests were filed as we were told we must wear coats over our costumes. Finally, my sister and our cousins, led by Mom, would enter the crisp autumn night.

Mrs. Rose, who made special treats for us in those little paper Halloween bags, was always the first stop. (I saw this lovely lady in 2008; she says she still makes over 75 bags of special treats every year!)

I remember the excitement as we raced from house to house, past the glowing jack-o-lanterns and occasional scarecrow. “Trick or Treat!” we’d gleefully shout, and Mom would remind us to say “Thank You” as a few bite-size treats were dropped into our plastic bags. God, I loved those Ressee’s peanut butter cups — I still do.

Even back then, there were older kids stealing bags and throwing eggs, but Mom’s presence prevented that from ever happening to us. By the hallway point, the masks were taken off, the bags were getting heavier, and poor Mom ended up carrying an armload of pumpkin-flashlights, batons, masks, and an assortment of other objects. Other parents walking by were similarly overloaded.

By 7:00, happily exhausted, we’d return to Memere’s house and sort through our booty. Mom inspected each piece for signs of tampering; the apples, loose candy-corn and unwrapped stuff was always tossed out despite our protests, but soon we were digging into the best chocolate, and thankfully Mom never mentioned the word “dentist” on Halloween.

We were shocked one year to discover that a candy bar actually contained a common pin — it was hard to believe someone could be that malicious, but there it was. Imagine the injury that could cause. However, that didn’t stop us from going back out the following year — one sick individual was not going to stop our fun — we’d just have to be even more careful. That’s good advice today, too.

I loved trick or treating (confession: I did it until I was 15). Kids these days who don’t go out that night are missing out on something special. Sure, indoor supervised parties are safer, and some communities now host structured parties and other activities as a way to keep pranks from turning into destructive rampages. But I feel that but nothing matches that magical feeling of stepping into the cold Halloween night air in your costume, bag in hand, ready to demand some serious goodies from the neighbors. The candy tastes better when you work for it. However, there is no excuse for any kind of prank as revenge on people who don’t give out candy.

And while I’m on the subject, I’d like to add something to the select few misfits in every town who roam the streets with shaving cream, eggs and toilet paper, stealing candy bags and making a nuisance of yourself — stay home. Someone has to clean up your mess, and no one appreciates it. Grow the hell up.

While Halloween has become a multi-million dollar costume business, it really doesn’t have to cost much to make a child happy. Costumes don’t have to be expensive (and the best are homemade) and a few bags of candy won’t break the bank. Little pumpkins can cost less than a dollar, and new knives are designed to be child proof, allowing a child to carve their own pumpkin without being injured.

Halloween night — a night of magic, candy and fun. Enjoy yourselves! Happy Halloween! Be safe!

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