Halloween hasn’t felt “normal” in quite some time. We can all play that game where we remember what it was like in our youth, and soon remember that everything has changed. When I was 10 years old my parents would let me race around the neighborhood begging for candy until the neighbors stopped answering their doorbells. One year I was out on the streets so long, I came home and changed costumes so I could hit the same households a second time.
However, even in my youth there were scary stories about people putting razor blades in candy.
At my house, my mother would “check” all the candy before we were allowed to eat it. This meant that many of her favorite chocolates were added to the pile of questionable and confiscated treats, many of which found their way to the drawer beside her bed.
In my early 30s, my best friend Bonnie and I tried to pass along the fun of trick-or-treating to her son. We lived in the Avenues in Chico, where there are very few street lights and even fewer sidewalks. The children dressed up in their store-bought ninja outfits, but they soon learned that not many people opened their doors when a small hand rapped on the door. We walked clear down to the college district hoping the candy was flowing. This was a mistake because the opening of a door sometimes was accompanied by a waft of smoke, and back in those days that kind of smoke was still illegal.
Our young ninjas soon whined about all the walking. They knew mom would buy all the candy they wanted. Plus, they had an XBox waiting at home.
However, schools can still be a lot of fun on Halloween. My mom made me an Alice in Wonderland Costume when I was in my mid-20s. I’ve worn this costume for Halloween at least half a dozen times, and once for “dress as your favorite literary character” day. I’m guessing I’ll wear it at least a few more times before my hair turns gray. I also have a costume for Ursula, the bad witch in “The Little Mermaid.” The lady who ran the thrift store where the costume was purchased said the large expanse of purple velveteen was once used for a musical theater production. To make myself rotund, I strap all of my bed pillows around my waist with belts.
These days I am teaching Seventh Grade distance learning, feeling like a hermit in my classroom. If I had students I would have tiny pumpkins decorating the bookshelves, and hold a raffle with tickets students earned through good behavior.
Yet, I’m working gate duty this week, so I’ll see the costume parade when I check children for face masks and remind them to use hand sanitizer as they enter the school grounds.
The lovely fifth grade teachers offered to lend me a 1950s poodle skirt so I can take part in their throw-back dress-up trio. I might even play some Elvis music and teach my seventh graders the Zoom version of the twist. They can laugh all they want. I’m only a 2-inch rectangle on their screen so they would need to squint to notice me make a wrong move.
I was touched the other fifth grade teachers thought of me. Maybe I can wear gloves and toss Hershey’s kisses at some of my former fifth grade students as they parade past my door wearing face paint and action figure costumes. I wish I had thought ahead, I could have given them dehydrated tomatoes.
And then there is Dia de los Muertos, which personally still hits a little close to home. My last night with the Handsome Woodsman was spent wandering around the Chico Mall, where merchants were hosting a safe and sane indoor treat night for costumed cuties. His car crash was Nov. 1.
There are a lot of things that won’t be the same this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. We can count Halloween traditions among them. However, this hasn’t halted the overstock of individually-wrapped chocolates at the big-box stores. An oversupply of candy is likely a tradition that will outlive us all.