I grew up in what was then a smallish working-class town about 35 miles west of Philadelphia. We lived in a row house in an older neighborhood. It was a one-way street with a speed limit of 15 mph, plenty of streetlights, and ample sidewalks if not many trees (I shared a photo of our block in this post). It was a trick-or-treater’s dream.
It was safe, and well-lit, and you saw all of your friends and neighbors in their costumes. There was no getting in and out of cars; you simply finished your dinner and walked out your door and down the street. One block of door-knocking filled your bag to bursting, even by taking only one treat from each homeowner. And when you were through, you walked in your own front door, turned off the porch light, and settled in for sorting, swapping, and the Halloween special presentation of Are You Afraid of the Dark? on Nickelodeon.
I suppose that first glance at my memories is through rose-colored glasses. It was exciting and energizing as a kid, but it was also frenetic and crowded. All those kids climbing stairs in costumes with unfamiliar masks and unwieldy tails or accessories – I wonder how many took a tumble. I think about that now, as a mama. We only ever got to walk with one parent because someone had to stay home and pass out candy: your house might get egged later that night if you were perceived as being stingy. One year our pumpkins all got smashed a day or two before Halloween; we stopped putting them out early after that. And candy was ALWAYS inspected by mom and dad before a single bite could be eaten: anything open or homemade (unless from a trusted source) got chucked, anything from certain houses was discarded.
Rural Halloween is a totally different ballgame, and one that I never trained for.
We don’t live in town, now. We have to drive to get to an area with any concentration of houses, and even then, there are only a handful of homes to visit. And it’s dark! I remember being harped on to wear something reflective as a kid, but that was always a formality – here it’s a necessity as there just aren’t lights. Period. It was so starkly different that I have to admit I missed that mad, frantic rush for candy the first year or two we were here.
But you know what? My kids were happier than pigs in poo to traipse around after their bedtimes in costumes of their own choosing. They had no idea that it could be any different than it was, and so they didn’t miss what they didn’t know. And the reality here is rosy, for real. No one will smash our pumpkins or egg our house. There’s no rush to get up onto porches and no real risk of losing my kid among the masses. I’ve even gotten gently teased for checking my girls’ candy in years past. It really is good, clean fun.
So tonight we will visit our next door neighbors, and then head into our little town. We will stop at the few houses that are there, and then head to the town beach to display our jack-o-lanterns (because no one will see them on our porch way out here). The fire department will probably have a truck out with goodies to share, and a couple of neighbors will pop their car trunks at the boat launch to hand out treats. And then we’ll eat homemade snacks and bob for apples in the community center – after sorting and swapping our candy with friends. No rose-colored glasses required.