I had just turned five. Mrs. Skilling had decorated the room with things that made me uneasy. A ghost and a witch that seemed straight out of Madam T’s Wax Museum looked especially convincing when the lights were turned out. This was the moment when we sang the “Old Lady who lived alone”. The song tells of an lady who heard a noise on a stormy night and something was going to jump out and get her. The kids sang- “OOOOOOO” like ghosts. At the piano, Mrs. Skilling looked over all the kiddies she held so dear to her heart, and saw me in tears. Dear Mrs. Skilling took my hand and walked me to the piano bench to sit right by her. Some kids giggled and wondered “what’s her problem?” Some shared their extreme courage to face anything- even if it meant seeing sharp teeth, blood, claws, – or the scariest thing their little minds could muster up way back before Freddy C. The lights were turned back on and in seconds I was back coloring the perfect jack o lantern. Just a little test of bravery that I failed at again. Oh well, another time I was going to show em. It was just that getting a year older around Halloween was tough.
Trick or Treat night that year was especially important. This was my first time. Several neighbors, my brothers, and the dad’s were all going out together. I had my wand, my long pink paper dress, my princess fairy mask, and my pumpkin. It was going to fine and fun. Each dad had a flashlight and the lights on the houses shone all down the street just as it did at Christmas.
Next door, Mrs. B gave us sweet tarts. Then came Mrs. N followed by Mrs. VD. We circled the culd-de-sac and my pumpkin was getting heavy. We were already at the end of the street and one dad said,
“You kids want to go down Sandford Street?”
In the day time, we were only allowed up and down Glenmoor and in the culd de- sac on our bikes. Sanford was like a foreign land. Nothing was familiar. But with flashlights and dads, we were assured it was no problem. Sandford Street was lit up just like Christmas too.
The first three houses had ladies with smiles and sweet voices. My pumpkin was filled near the top with goldmines my mom never let me have before. We reached the last house on the street. The porch lights were off. It was later in the evening so the night sky was even darker than when we started. The rule was always “If the lights aren’t on, no one is home.” But the boys and even my very sensible friend Suzie said,
“Let’s ring the doorbell anyway.”
I hobbled up the sidewalk and did not walk up the steps to the porch. I looked behind me for that spot of safety. Dad was waving the flashlight around as he storied with Mr. N and Mr. B. My brother rang the bell. No one answered. Most of us shouted “Trick or Treat”. Slowly a door opened and spooky music played. A white glove holding a silver bowl of candy peeked out with no head. I began to step backward. The rest held out their bags. “Show offs” I thought. A hand with no head and no problem- they want the candy anyway? I saw that inside the bowl were very large candy bars. Not worth my life, I decided as I ran towards my dad at the end of the driveway.
“Thank you!” the kids shouted as they skipped down the driveway towards me and all the dads. Right then, a werewolf head came peeking out the door and nodded. The door closed. “You don’t want a giant candy bar from this house?” my dad asked. I shook my head. I wanted to go home. I wanted to head toward the lights where it was warm and safe.
There were plenty of words of pleasure at the scariness of that moment. All the kids were proud that they were brave enough to visit the “Haunted House” and got a giant candy bar. A giant candy bar reward for knowing the difference between real and fantasy. A trick pulled, they weren’t fooled, and they got the treat. My pumpkin pail of candy suddenly felt light. I am sure it had at least one hundred pieces of candy in it. But it still felt light. I dumped my pieces on my bed and did count past one hundred. (I was a little shrimpy scaredy cat- but I could still count) The sweet smell of treats soon served as a pleasurable air freshener for my room. I heard my brother say- “This candy bar is a foot long!”
I put every piece back in my pumpkin and got dressed for bed. That night, the safest place in the world was under the covers in my room. There, I was no longer a scaredy cat but a tired little girl.
The next day, we drove down Sandford Street on our way to the grocery store. I pressed my face against the car window – looking carefully at each house. The car reached the end of the street. In the daylight, I saw that last house. The house with the werewolf and the foot long candy bars. The house that was so dark I didn’t even know what color it was. The house in the daylight was brown. At the mailbox was a lady with glasses smiling and waving.
Getting a year older around Halloween was rough. Knowing reality beyond the trick was more than I could handle. It takes more than bravery to train the imagination to control itself. It takes much to convince the seer not to believe everything they see. It takes a real grown up to believe in something that is beyond what we see. 40 Halloweens later and a year older again, I am still growing up.