Lately I've been on a "look at how things have changed" jag so at the risk of becoming Andy Rooney-esque I'm going to just keep going today with that theme. Today's topic is Halloween and how it has changed since we were kids. Come along and see if any of this is familiar.
COSTUMES: When we were kids we were either hobos or clowns or if our parents were rich and sprang for one of those lame plastic one-piece costumes we were superman or a princess. If our mother were handy with the sewing machine (and mine was) your repertoire could expand and I was even a pumpkin one year, my mother patiently sewing a many-gored costume she designed herself, but really, that kind of thing was rare. Now all the costumes are awesome. Even the cheapest costume at Target is of far superior quality to anything we had. Babies can be adorable fuzzy ladybugs and older kids can have elaborate horse and rider costumes all at affordable prices. This is all I'm sure due to global trade and I will try not to think about the fact that probably some Chinese waif was paid four or five grains of wheat to sew my kid's bunny suit.
CANDY: Man what was that crap they gave out when we were kids? Good N Plenty? Wax lips? Those god-awful peanut butter chewy things wrapped in orange or black waxed paper? And people were stingy too. None of this fistful of candy. You got one or two per kids. I remember SINGLE servings of Life Savers. I kid you not. Now my kids get handfuls of some of the best chocolate candy they make. Butterfingers, 100,000 bars, 3 Musketeers. The GOOD stuff. I suppose this is just another example of our super-sized mentality that has brought us our super-sized butts but I'll tell you one thing--it makes raiding the kids' candy bag a lot more fun for us.
DECORATIONS: I don't really need to tell you about the explosion of Halloween decorations do I? We all have a neighbor who now puts out more lights, hangs more stuff, and drapes more trees at Halloween than even the craziest of neighbors did at Christmas time when we were kids. Halloween decorations when we were kids? That meant putting out a pumpkin with a candle in it and a paper pumpkin on the doorway that you made at school (unless Ricky Soloway from down the street conned you out of your own paper pumpkin and his mom put it on THEIR door, not saying that ever happened to me or anything but it could and you might even be bitter about it 44 years later).
WEATHER: Now this changes every year of course especially since Al Gore got involved but since my youngest was born we have actually had many, many Halloweens that were fairly warm. Warm enough that you did not need a coat over your costume and that is weird because we live in Chicago. This NEVER happened when I was a kid. If you did not have long underwear AND a winter coat under or over your costume on Halloween you must have lived south of the Mason-Dixon line. And most of those nights it was raining too. Sideaways.
SAFETY: In this safety obsessed time when everyone is a stranger and we teach our kids to run screaming from them all it is hard to believe that at least for this one holiday our parents were even more paranoid than we are. That's because back in those days we were taught that there were crazy people who put razor blades in the candy. Our home town police even offered to x-ray the candy before you ate it. To my knowledge they did not once find a pin or a razor blade in the candy. I haven't even heard about this alleged scare in years. What does that mean? Did these crazy razor-blade toting, child-hating people all die off or did they all become strangers trying to lure our kids into cars with puppies? I have no idea.
These are some of the things that have changed over the years but for the most part, around here at least, Halloween looks like it did when I was a kid: Grandmas still open their front door and peer into the dark saying"Oh what a beautiful princess!" and "My what a scary monster!"; preschoolers to preteens still wander the streets past dark, safe for one night to cross the street without looking; and autumn leaves skitter at their feet pushed on by a wind that tells us snow is not far behind. Most of all it is still a magical night when every child gets to dress up and pretend to be anyone or anything he wants while filling up a pillow case with more candy than he could eat in a year.