The Tricks of Treating
By Deborah Rieth
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 1:14 PM EDT
I rummaged through the small cardboard costume box one last time, hoping to find something impressive and special to wear. Whatever I chose, my mother insisted it be multi-layered to withstand the inevitable sub-zero monsoon that would arrive at the appointed hour.
My big sister had already hit pay dirt with her “old lady” ensemble, complete with our grandmother’s black shoes with heels. Somehow my mother convinced me, however, that the same old clown mask was good enough to wear one more year.
“It’s dark out and no one will even see you, anyway!” she said.
Trick or treating was a pretty big deal in the 1960s in downtown New Troy, the Center of the World, and not wanting to waste any more time searching for red carpet attire, we grabbed paper bags, a flashlight, and headed to the street for the half-mile trek to town. My mom clicked off our porch light, as if discouraging any normal kids from coming all the way down our road for a silly apple was even necessary. She stuffed a large dry-cleaning bag into her pocket to put over my “costume” in case it rained.
As we edged closer to town, I easily out-paced my heeled sister. I was on a mission and had no fear, spurred on by the anticipation of sugary goodies that would surely overflow our bags, regardless of whether they came from the homes of friends or criminals. Even though my mask was cracked and crooked, I was able to zero in on the glowing porch lights without inflicting damage to myself or my paper bag.
We knew exactly who had the best treats, and decided to hit our favorite houses first, in advance of the aforementioned monsoon. Chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter bars, and sometimes even fudge, plunked into our bags. Then I saw the most amazing treat I had ever laid my squinted mask on, a saran-wrapped popcorn ball. Surely the night couldn’t get any better than this.
But wait. Now we were in the business district. First was the grocery store, whose proprietor blessed us with miniature pop bottles made of wax, and filled with colored sugar water. Some kids instantly bit off the end and downed the syrupy contents, so that they could proudly chew the wax for the rest of the night.
Then we marched to the happy end of town, and boldly clunked our way through the heavy door of the tavern. Groping through the blue smoke-filled interior, we followed the line of kids ahead of us who shuffled up to the bar. Little bags of shoestring potato chips or pretzels were removed from the little clips on the holder and tossed into our bags. We turned to leave, only to find ourselves screaming at the big stuffed gorilla placed strategically to greet us. A flash mob ensued, and we flew once again out into the crisp night air, grateful for the presence of oxygen.
I passed classmates occasionally, with Superman capes or princess gowns, chewing wax. They all had no problem recognizing me behind my clown mask. I could feel the elastic strip beginning to slide precariously down the back of my head, and I knew we had to hurry to finish our rounds. We made our way to the Long’s house, the local Seyfert potato chip distributor. The cute red bag of deep-fried delight scored a goal in my stash.
The rain snuck up on us, just as some of the braver kids made the turn toward Mrs. Marx’s home. She always came through with Hershey bars, full size ones, but she lived a bit too close to the cemetery for the faint of heart.
Keeping a good arm’s length ahead of mom and her plastic bag, and tightly gripping my now damp paper bag of booty, I proudly skipped home. My sister lagged behind, quietly wincing with the pain of impractical footwear.
The popcorn ball sat neatly wrapped in our breadbox for many days, with my hopes that it would last forever. Somehow I knew that not every kid got to trick or treat in the Center of the World.