I suppose it was a culturally deprived childhood. I never got to go trick or treating. We did usually have some sort of Halloween activity in grade school. I am not remembering costumes. But there may have been some decorated paper grocery sacks with holes for eyes.
We lived on a farm in the country. Trick or treating was something the town kids did. And the emphasis seemed to be on tricks – old tires thrown in the middle of Main Street, fires set in unusual places, out-buildings vandalized, etc. As a youngster, Halloween seemed kind of scary.
But once I was a parent in suburbia, Halloween took on new and lively dimensions. There were costumes. Trick or treating became an exciting rite of passage into the fullness of childhood (and sugar). The neighbors who gave out full-sized candy bars also put on a good scare – things like Quasimodo coming out of the shadows while brandishing a real chain saw. Or sheeted ghosts flying down from trees.
Now all the kids are grown and out of the house. The middle one (just weeks shy of 30) gets married this weekend – that makes three for three.
But the street I live on gets lively on Halloween. It is a street without sidewalks or streetlights and the number of young families has multiplied. Starting a few years ago, we close the street to vehicular traffic from 6 to 9 p.m. One neighbor stages a driveway chili fest for the neighborhood. And the kids come knocking, ringing doorbells and trying to remember their Halloween trick jokes.
Did you hear about the kidnapping in New York?
... He just woke up.
What do you call a cow with no legs?
... Ground beef.
Why did the ghost not go to the party?
... He had no body to go with.
Why do crows never get hit by cars?
... Because one always goes "Car! Car! Car!"
Another big part of Halloween is the pumpkins. My church goes into the pumpkin business each October. Two semi trailer loads of pumpkins from a Navajo reservation in New Mexico get unloaded at the intersection of Lockwood Avenue and Berry Road.
I worked a sales shift this past Sunday afternoon. Sales were brisk and tastes in pumpkins were varied. Some liked the white pumpkins, the dense green ones or the warty orange ones. The conventional ribbed orange ones predominated. Sales ranged from an elementary student paying a dollar for a mini pumpkin for his teacher to a family who gathered nearly a $200 tapestry of the colorful squash relatives.
Lots of places still have pumpkins available for carving, for pies or just seasonal decoration. Check out Summit Produce in Kirkwood, Rogers Produce in Webster and Sappington Garden Shop. And then try to remember a good Halloween joke.