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Sue's Muse - Trick or Treat

Fri, Oct 28th, 2011
Posted in Columnists

A black cat streaks across the yard, setting the scene for the night to come. Creative pumpkins have been carved by my artist husband, with input from the kids, and their scary faces and goofy grins await the first flush of costumed children. Candy bowls and extra UNICEF boxes are lined up in expectation. It is Halloween, and the stage is set for the feet of monsters and ballerinas, rock stars and superheroes to tread across our doorstep calling out TRICK OR TREAT! Halloween is a favorite date, possibly for the many happy memories wrapped around the night.

As a child, we awaited this night with the anticipation of every generation. Since we lived two miles outside of town in a wooded area, there were limited possibilities for door ringing when small. Aunt Maria, so familiar she seemed a relative, always hosted a Halloween Party to make up for the deficit. We dressed up in homemade costumes (originality was part of the plan, no store-bought garb for us) and bobbed for apples in a tub, ate goodies, most notably popcorn balls and caramel apples, and played games. Though I know not what it had to do with Halloween, we always danced the Hokey Pokey, Aunt Maria putting her right foot in and right foot out with the best of them, the silly motions always ending in fits of laughter.

As we grew in age, we were allowed to go further afoot (after the party, of course) and ventured to the edges of the woods, near enough, but with many faces unknown to us. We always broke up into two groups, the boys and the girls, often meeting during the evening to share good-natured banter and stories, though neither group was above playing tricks on the other. One year, the girls got the bright idea to dare the boys to venture into unknown territory and ring the doorbell of the mean old man on the far corner of the hill. We had to walk across a patch of his land to make our way to the magical large woods beyond. Here the girls often climbed the hollowed out footholds in the bricks of a tall round structure to sit in the gaping squares that once held windows. It was reported to have been a lookout for poachers of a mink ranch once, a story none of us could quite believe, as the trees had grown high above the structure. We also liked to play on the log teeter-totter and rope swing with a sawed-off log circle to sit on placed there by an unknown benefactor, the gentle murmur of the breeze in the tree branches a pleasant backdrop to the playground.

But getting back to the story, the boys had once told us this tale. As they were about to cross the cranky old man's land, he had come out of the woods carrying a rifle loosely at his side, and said in threatening tones to never cross his land again or there would be dire consequences. No doubt the story grew in the telling, but it scared us enough to grow much stealthier when crossing his land. The boys tried not to look scared, as they climbed the hill to the haunted house hidden well among the trees, but we knew better.

"Maybe we shouldn't have dared them, do you think they will be all right?" were sentiments expressed by the girls as we awaited their return with trepidation. However, the boys ran down the hill with whoops of joy. Since no one had ever dared to go up to his house, the only treats the owner had to hand out were dollar bills. The girls were not as thrilled when they hastily made their way up to the house on the hill, only to find all the $ bills were gone, and quarters were now the treat.

Years later, I accompanied my mother, more out of curiosity than anything else, when my she went to pay her respects to his widow. Image my surprise when I overheard her tell my mom that her husband was always scared the children would get hurt by the wild horses he raised when they ventured onto their land. As children we never saw his horses, but as my mother and I left, I noticed the well kept, but empty stables.

Speaking of Halloween parties earlier in the column, the best is the Fall Ball, given by Maple Leaf Services each year. People with developmental disabilities and their friends and families are invited to a costume ball with a wonderful meal made by Marilyn Gregerson from the Harmony House, and dancing to Charlie Warner's vocals with guitar and harmonica. Four individuals from one of the group homes in Harmony usually have the most original costumes; this year a gang of Harley Davidson motorcycle riders. Of course my favorite costume was grandson Oliver's bat ensemble.

I encourage all Trick or Treaters to carry an orange UNICEF box to help children around the world. It is truly Kids helping Kids and a child's first opportunity to volunteer. Boxes are available for future years from unicefusa.org. Check with your local Sunday schools to see if they will distribute the boxes to children and your local bank to collect the money.

Here's to a spooky and safe Halloween!

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