Our daughter sent us a picture of our granddaughter dressed up as a pretty princess for her first trick or treat outing. Our kids waited until their daughter was almost four to let her join the ranks of smiling goblins knocking on doors in search of goodies on Halloween night, and it’s clear this cutie pie enjoyed her adventure. Her smile radiating above her flowing white dress switched on a deluge of happy memories from my brother’s and my years as beggars who also loved this holiday.
As a fan of “The Rifleman,” “Gun Smoke,” and “Combat,” my brother often costumed himself as either a cowboy or a soldier. He had the necessary plastic rifles and pistols along with hats, vests, and bandanas in his toy box. If he was tired of the old West, he had an equally fine collection of imitation WW II armament that he and dad used to aid actors on the TV show “Combat” during their firefights. At every commercial break, father and son chased Nazis down our hallway and out of closets. For Halloween, Kent could smudge his face with black and be ready to defend the neighborhood outside our front door as well.
During regular playtime in our yard, the tomboy side of me joined the boys in their shoot ‘em up western and army games. However, for Halloween, I didn’t want to be Festus to my little brother’s Matt Dillon. Some years I wanted to be a pretty spook so mom would let me sort through her flowing skirts, rope necklaces, bangle bracelets, and glittery earrings until I’d assembled a costume that would make a Roma princess green with envy. This was one of the few times she’d let me wear her eye shadow, lipstick, and rouge, which might explain why I often chose this costume.
As much as I loved to glide down a dark sidewalk in full gypsy array with my mother’s necklaces and bracelets clinking rhythmically against one another at each step, some years I dressed up as a sad- faced hobo. In the early 60s, folks still talked about men who’d ridden the rails during The Great Depression. Apparently, I found this notion romantic. I’d slide into mom’s too big britches, tie a piece of rope around my waist to hold her pants up, and wear one of dad’s huge shirts with tails that nearly reached the sidewalk. Some years, mom would draw a dark beard on my face with her eyebrow brush and once, she applied coffee grounds to my cheeks so it looked like I had scruffy whiskers. Top that with one of dad’s old felt hats, and a pig-tailed blonde became Freddie the Freeloader.
Halloween was a heady day for two youngsters who rarely roamed the neighborhood freely. We’d lug our brown paper sacks from one lighted doorway to another, knocking and chanting the requisite Trick or Treat. If we were lucky, a local mom handed out homemade popcorn balls. If we were unlucky, the grocery store had a sale on saltwater taffy just before the big night and the neighbors stocked up on my least favorite candy.
Times have changed considerably since my brother and I were trick or treaters. Despite the passage of time, the look on our granddaughter’s face in her first Halloween photo tells me that she has discovered how much fun it is to be a goblin one night a year.