The year is 1962 and it is Halloween, my last year of trick or treating according to my horrible mother. I am about to cross the magic line into that place where grown ups look askance at your size and give you the worst piece of candy in the bowl and ask, “Aren’t you a little old for this?” Mind you, this was back in the day when we still locked up our garbage cans and put everything away for fear of pranksters with mayhem on their minds. I longed to live in the days when kids put outhouses on the school roof and played other elaborate jokes on unsuspecting adults. The best we could ever come up with was soaping all the gas station pump windows in town, pretty puny.
Halloween 1962 was my grandparents 48th wedding anniversary. Who gets married on Halloween? They lived next door to our big white Victorian house in a brick bungalow right across the driveway. My grandad Floyd had been living in twilight for about five years after a diabetic stroke left him unable to move or communicate.
My grandmother was his main caregiver and I can only imagine now how hard that must have been for her. At the age of 14, none of this even dawned on me. I used to go into the bedroom and read to him, I worried that he was lonely in a room where the only window was high up in the wall. I liked to think he could hear me as I read the Reader’s Digest aloud and carried on one-way conversations.
Before his stroke, my grandfather was a terrible grump who yelled at everyone. He had a cigar in his hand at all times, sometimes I wondered if he slept with it. I was never afraid of him, as his only granddaughter I was the princess and I remember very well how patient he was with me, teaching me to tie my shoelaces and my doll’s bonnet strings. It was probably because he was sick of tying my shoes for me but it made me happy then and it does now.
Halloween afternoon, 1962, after 48 years of marriage, my grandfather died. I remember being sent to go call the doctor when he passed. My mother ordered a black wreath from the florist in town and when it came she hung it on the door so everyone would know not to knock and trick or treat there.
My mother decided I couldn’t go trick or treating. I had to be the responsible dragon at the gate, keeping the hordes of kids from thumping on grandma’s door. Rats. I remember being devastated because I was already facing the end of my candy-gathering years and here the last one was yanked right out from under me.
I had my costume ready and everything. For some odd reason, I had landed the role of the angel in the Chritmas play when I was twelve and we were still living in Colorado. No one was further from angelic, but I ate that role up. My dad had made me a set of cool gold cardboard angel wings with little gold glass balls all the way around the edges. My mom had made my white wide-sleeved angel gown from old bedsheets. They were always white back then. I even had a gold halo that was cleverly mounted on a circle like a tiara. It sat on my head allowing my halo on a wire to float above me.
No! They couldn’t take it away from me! Yes. They could and they did. For about five minutes. It took me that long to realize I could sew a pocket into the bottom of my wide-winged sleeve and cleverly drop it off over a kids bag of candy with some snappy patter. I figured it would take me about two seconds to scoop up a nice fat fistful of candy from every victim’s hoard bag and drop it in my giant sleeve pocket.
I was sent out at dark to park in my grandmother’s driveway on one of her metal chairs. I still wish I had those chairs. I loved those chairs, I see chairs like them now and they bring back so many memories of granma on the porch. This night it was just me in the driveway with a flashlight and a bowl of cheap jelly beans. My mother was nothing if not frugal. We gave out the kind of candy kids throw away, orange circus peanuts and black gumdrops. The Whitman’s Sampler she hoarded in her lingerie drawer, ‘hidden’ from us kids and we knew better than to touch her chocolate so Halloween was our chance for a chocolate fix.
The whole thing went off without a hitch. The whole town was trick or treating and bringing their candy to me. Bwah ha ha ha! I had a pillowcase full of candy and I didn’t have to walk a step to get it. I felt like Donald Trump that night. I did excercise some restraint and I didn’t pillage little kids who had just started their rounds but the big kids who practically had to put wheels on their candy bags were fair game.
Luckily for the neighborhood’s candy stash I had discovered the wonder of boys by the next Halloween and my my angelic/devilish trickery was a one time event. Still, I wonder if it would still work….hmmm….somewhere I have a witch costume…