Abby the Rescue Dog works hard to get the treat.
I am so thankful to have grown up in an era where the government did tell the schools or our parents what we had to have for lunch or snacks. Growing up in the 60's our Mom made sure there was lots of healthy food on the table, rarely anything "prepackaged", even the bread made from scratch (though how we whined to get some Wonder Bread, because you could roll a little piece of it into a ball and bounce it). But dessert was common, and there was always a sweet snack after school.
As children, we were given a small allowance, in exchange for doing a pre-set list of chores. No chores, no allowance, the whole "something for nothing" unheard of in our household. We were allowed to spend it as we wished. Mom and Dad did help us set up a little savings account at the Credit Union where we were encouraged to save what we earned from strawberry picking, babysitting, and paper routes. The allowance though, that had one purpose and one purpose alone.
I keep a glass jar on my desk full of Tootsie Pops. I hunt around to find some unusual flavors to add to the standards, and currently have lemon-lime, raspberry, blue raspberry and watermelon in there with the regular flavors. I was surprised as to who would stop by my office, usually in the form of a large wall of muscle, asking me a question that didn't need to be asked, while eyes darted to the dish. Finally I said "would you like a Tootsie Pop" and I'd see a Marine's eyes light up like a six year old.
Around certain memories of childhood a lot of us never truly grew up.
I guess I got to thinking about it today, as kids started knocking on the door about 4 o'clock.
I remember the last Halloween here, with both Barkley and Big Bro were still with me. That night, the stars lay scattered about Sirius's lair, tossed playfully upon the sky only to lie forgotten. Children cut through the trees across a vacant lot, the burn of branch, a tickle of cobweb, one eye weeps where an eye patch binds. It's soon discarded with a snuffling of nose and the raise of a toy pirate sword. Crying is for wimps.
The houses stand, some decorated with orange and black, others with only the discard of leaves. This home was built right after the first Great War, when men left and women waited, everything they knew dissolved in fire and smoke as soldiers carried the pride and hope of peace in the form of a flag and women wept at home, tears hitting the ground like ice, to be swept away like broken glass. I have a sense of them in this house even now, for those that came back and those that did not, not for pride or peace, but simply to regain that love and that faith they left behind. It's here in this house, it's here outside, in the echo of children who were never born.
But the trick or treating wasn't just about the candy. It was being out, after dark, by ourselves, just kids, with scores of other kids, flashlights in hand. Out in front of us, two whole blocks, dozens of houses, the darkness slung low with lights, the night blowing cool and full of promise.
In our garb, we hovered over places of play, breathing sugar fueled dreams like air, ashen figures gliding through the night on silent feet. To each porch that had a light on we'd go, candy bag in hand. The houses weren't decorated up the way they are now, but on the porch would often be a lone jack o lantern, eyes shining from a candle or some fake cobwebs along the porch (those aren't fake! ack ack ack, get it out of my hair!) We'd pass each other wondering just who was that superhero, who was that under the Casper mask? We scurried along, hands waving, quick steps in time to the chatter of chilled breath, the blocks of a post war suburb stretching out, the dim lights of small town America.
As ghosts, cowboys, baseball players and Superman, we covered ground, drawing in deep breaths of it all, unutterably aware of how brief this night would be. I think even as kids we know that too soon we'd have to put this other life, this other identify away, as we melted anonymously back into our regular life, with wistful longing and the taste of sweetness on our lips.
Even though we were told to just do two blocks, we always went ahead and did that third one, or as much of it as we could fit in before our little watches told us it was time to back. We advanced, trudging up the steps to that first house, looking over our shoulders as if we could already see our Mom scolding us. We hit about six more houses, with other kids from our street, before as a group we agreed to go back. We swear each other to secret, the words not spoken but carved into stone upon which lies a nameless and forgotten effigy, those secrets of childhood we bear with us always.
There up ahead, the lights of our house. Home! We cross the empty lot where a new house was going in, following a faint path were dozens of small feet had worn the rotting leaves down to the soil. We clicked off the flashlight, whispering there in the dark about Great Pumpkins and Ghosts, where overhead, Chestnut trees thinned against the skies.
Too soon it would be time to go in, the night rushing past all too quickly, stolen moments of sweetness there in the dark. As children we live in the moment, we live in a sugary world where not all is warning, where people are inherently good, and the goblins and witches and demons take off their costume and reveal a harmless smile. We know that in recollection, we see how quickly it all went past, and holding a sweet piece of time with blurred eyes, I realize we all have lost part of that, the innocence and the wonder, forever, even if memory remains.
We probably didn't even look back as we ran out. But if we had, we would have seen her standing there, evanescent and forlorn, even as she put a smile on her face and waved, so we'd venture forth with hope, not fear.
For myself, I'll keep my little stash of candy; I'll retain the child within, these nights of exploration and magic, where my super hero costume is untarnished by time, where there is only laughter and sweetness here in a house that's become a home. As I lay back in the chair, sweetness on my tongue, I can almost hear the sound of children's feet, rushing up towards the next house, not an actual sound mind you, but something in the air which the sound of the running feet faded into. The sound of innocence, so easily lost, yet remembered there in the shadow of a chestnut tree that stands its watch in silence, gallant and forlorn.