Once upon a Halloween, I was a kid who didn't need parents to escort me from door to door, nor did I wear expensive store-bought costumes. After someone brought me a poncho from Mexico, I was a Mexican Hat Dancer for three years. Of course being a hat dancer meant planning a routine because someone would always ask me for a trick.
Get it? "Trick or Treat." In the St. Louis of the 1960s that expression meant exactly what it said. Kids rang the doorbell, said "Trick or Treat," and gave the homeowner a choice: Give candy immediately or ask for a trick. As a Mexican Hat Dancer, I did a dance. In other years, I wandered the neighborhood with a joke to tell.
When I mention this tradition around Memphis, people look at me cross-eyed. That's not the only Halloween culture clash from moving 300 miles south. The first time my husband left to take our son trick-or-treating, he came home and asked, "Did you give out a candy?"
My kids: Halloween 1995
I said, "Sure. I gave out lots of candy. One to this kid, another to that."
He said, "But did you give out a candy?"
I hadn't a clue that he was trying to find out whether or not we had candy left. Go figure. We've yet to give out a candy, except for the year that the neighbors threw a huge party with gazillion kids, but didn't tell anyone they were coming.
Another Halloween memory of mine was Mrs. Zimmerman's Donuts. Every year, David's mom made homemade donuts that she'd give to all the children. I never ate one.
Kids can be quite literal, and that I was when Mom always said, "Never eat anything unwrapped." So year after year I'd skip those sweet smelling snacks that all the kids would go out of their way for. If I could go back in time, I'd eat one of her donuts on Halloween; but, it's not all bad. The memory of skipping donuts inspired my latest novel. I wonder if this manuscript would even exist if I'd eaten a donut. I also wonder if her son, who grew up to be a chef, bakes these donuts on Halloween. If he does, I just might have to go to St. Louis and ring his bell.
It was the place where yellowed stuffing spilled from tattered couches and humming heaters sang mournful duets with spinning dryers. I'm referring to that musty, spider-infested basement. That place I crept into only when forced to retrieve Mystery Date. All that bravery just to end up with the Dud at the door. After all, if I was going to risk my life to get that game, at least I could've found the stud muffin in the white tux.
That light bulb dangling from a cord was never enough to give me the peace of mind to be way downstairs--at least not alone. What was it about the basement that would scare the Buggy Man, Phantom of the Opera, or even the millions of famous dead people who we've ooed and awed over throughout history? Tackle the basement, suckers!
The shadows reflecting from the dull light gave me the tingling feeling that something eight-legged or the Mystery Date Dud was crawling on my forearm. While downstairs, I'd often hop into a hula hoop spin without the plastic because, I'd felt something creepy.
And the noise of the heater with the glowing orange light added to the drama. I'm with you Kevin, my Home Alone heater came to life when doing laundry too. In real life, we don't need Hollywood scare music to add to the tension. Haunted houses on Halloween, nah, just find the basement.
Now that I'm a grown up, I live in a state so humid that the ground would swallow those dirt dwelling rooms. Not many basements in Memphis--only attics. Yikes! That's another post.
I'm leaving you with a fun link for those too young to remember Mystery Date or old enough to enjoy a nostalgic look back to the fun we used to have. Tune in Monday, and I'll tell you all about my closet.