Halloween - that time where kids dress up, candy is bought last minute so that it makes it to outstretched little hands on Oct 31st rather than in outstretched adult mouths as soon as they get in the house. I grew up in New York in the late 70s and the city was pretty much fright night 365 days a year. Crime was out of control, the city was falling apart, Son of Sam, blackout where it all went wrong, streets were dirty, there were garbage strikes that added to the stink already there and let the rats run amok, strikes were the horrid yet necessary fashion of wearing sneakers with work clothes came to be as people walked over bridges to work. This was the city of graffiti subways and basically every bad movie you have ever seen - well it was not far off. We would have cheered for Charles Bronson as a vigiliante - we did in the form of Guardian Angels minus the killing. The city was going bankrupt. So much for the good old days.
Into that my friends and I were not exactly "encouraged" by our parents to trick or treat. The threat of being taken or getting a razor in your apple - candy often got thrown out as soon as it came back to the house. The idea of paying for a costume..not in an blue collar - middle class mostly immigrant neighborhood. No those babies were thrown together with some serious imagination - pillowcases sometimes used as candy collectors. The places you were allowed to go very limited by parents - basically if they did not know the family (and oh yeah this was the time of parents who did not see the need to always follow children around like we do today - they just forbade you to go if they could not see you) you were not going. Maybe you could do your building - except there was always at least one old lady who yelled at everyone. Into this there were eggings - shaving cream fights - and a fear of these 2 even if they were only things you saw the day after on cars, doors, etc...you did not want it to happen to you.
So we went to our limited locations, we bums, some costumes, clowns, and cowboys. It was still fun but I have to say until I got to go to the Village parade Halloween was not as appealing to me. It was a time for parties as I got older, the city was cleaner, the crime down, I no longer trick or treated - Son of Sam was a movie while the actually guy lingers in Sing Sing (I pass by that every day on my way to and from work and never really even give him a thought - this man who paralyzed our city). Then I had kids and well the whole holiday took on new meanings. I mean seriously nothing is cuter than a baby in a costume. They excitement that my older son showed when he was 1 1/2 and kept inviting the trick or treaters in as they rang the bell - as he sat on our steps and fell asleep sitting until the next knock and in his Tigger costume he barely held up his head "come in come in". As my younger son wore a giraffe costume as he as only 2 weeks old and then moved on to no longer wanting his brother's hand me down costumes.
I love the holiday - a bunch of kids with their parents come to our house for pizza, the dads shepherding the little ones (getting scarier by the year - both boys and girls) as we see them getting bigger too fast while we Moms have wine and give out candy. Their excitement at being slightly scared and over sugared. It is a feast of the imagination. In a world where we often think of the uncertain future we are giving these kids, in a world where it has become easier to be cynical, I look around and realize they actually have a much safer environment than I did. Maybe the world is just as crazy or crazier but maybe it is just that we focus so much on the negative. Their world, and even NYC, is so much safer than it was when I was a kid that they can enjoy the fright of Halloween because it is not real.
Enjoy the day and smile at the little faces as you hand out your candy...