Do you ever find yourself becoming more and more like your parent? As a child, I remember the level of excitement that came with Halloween. The decorating of the classrooms (which is no longer allowed in many school districts due to over-reaching political correctness) and the careful consideration of wearing the perfect costume. Halloween day seemed to move at a snail’s pace as all us kids eagerly awaited nightfall in anticipation of collecting more candy than the year before. Halloween was one of the greatest days of the year for a child.
However, I recall Halloween being a day of great anxiety and fear for my father. At the time, I viewed these emotions as simply the irrational fears of an old man. Ironically, that old man that I was referring to at the time was actually 10 years younger than I am today. But in fairness to the perception of my childhood, fear was a relative term. My biggest fear at that age was if the class bully was going to continue to ridicule my speech impediment or worse take my lunch again. Fears of an average child may seem dramatic at the time, but later in life, we long for the days of those minor fears.
But it’s Halloween……other than the dressed up ghosts and goblins, what is there to be scared of? It is a day and night of costumes and candy. What fear could possibly be created by such a festive day? Oh…how I long for the days of viewing the world through the innocent eyes of a child in the early 70s. Now, it appears that I view the world through the eyes of my father.
There is no more stressful commute home from work than on Halloween. It is dark, cold and often foggy with hundreds of kids walking (without paying attention) through the streets in an effort to fill their pillowcases with enough candy to induce a diabetic coma. To compound the stress, very few costumes include bright neon colors for easy visibility – most are dark and impossible to see until your headlight is within 5 feet of the child. It truly makes for a very long and stressful trip.
My father once explained that the commute home from work was just the beginning of a very long night. Even thirty-five years ago, there were very bad people in this world. When my brother and I became of age to no longer allow my parents to come with us Trick or Treating, from the minute we left the house to the minute we returned my father was on edge. There was the mutual concern of somebody doing something to us as well as us doing something stupid to ourselves. In looking back, there was a reason for concern since my brother, friend and I would often shoot bottle rockets at each other in the schoolyard (still not sure how none of us got hurt).
Nonetheless, when we got home with our bags filled with to the brim with tasty treats, we would have to pour the bags out on the dining room table for my dad to inspect before we were allowed to consume. He was a wise man and knew that we would not be able to overcome the temptation to eat some candy while running house to house. Therefore, we had an agreement that we would only consume candy received from family friends. There always seemed to be less candy in the morning than we remembered collecting the night before – some were trashed out of concern while others (often those including a coconut ingredient) were consumed by my father. I guess it was the cost of his quality control check.
My father passed away over 5 years ago, but this Halloween my wife said that she heard the voice of my father. It was about 9:40 pm at night when the doorbell rang. I looked up at the clock surprised that the Trick or Treaters were still out. As I opened the door there stood two teenage boys with no costumes and big pillow cases saying “trick or treat.” I said; getting a bit late boys as I put several pieces of candy in each of their pillowcases. I wished them a Happy Halloween as I closed the door. Apparently, I mumbled under my breath as I walked back into the family room how the boys should put a little effort into obtaining their candy-like at least put on a costume. My wife was smiling and I asked what? She said that it always makes her smile when she hears the words of my father.
I still like Halloween (especially the joy it brings the children), however, as an adult, I (like most parents) truly understand Halloween Fears.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.