It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well, Vera, that Halloween is my favorite holiday. By the way, here’s a pic of your dad and uncle from when we lived in Bridgeville, Pa. Your grandmother made their costumes. You can tell the boys were up for the occasion.
This is the first Halloween for you — well, not actually the first, but last year doesn’t count because you were still a four-month-old slug just lying around sleeping most of the time. Now, you have wheels on those legs. I wish I were there to see you experience this wonderful holiday for the first time.
During most of my trick-or-treat years, we lived in McConnellsburg, a small town in central Pennsylvania. Townies had a great advantage over rural kids. We knew who lived where and could strategically make the best use of our time. I could harvest two large bags of candy and still have time left over. Those were the days.
When I was the age of your dad, my experience morphed from trick-or-treating to scaring. I used to dress up like Dracula to hand out candy to the kiddies who came to our door. My Dracula accent is pretty good if I must say so myself. And I never broke character.
I recall one little boy fleeing across our front yard in Pittsburgh. O.K., I probably went too far that time. But not everyone was a scaredy-cat. The little princess later that evening exhibited courage beyond her years.
I had a carafe of water with red food coloring, which, of course, was billed as blood. The little princess was the only person who accepted my offer of a drink of blood. I wonder where that girl is today. In politics? Or perhaps a lawyer.
I also vividly recall the Halloween hay wagon ride when I was a teenager. My friends and I (including your grandmother) were being pulled down a dark country road near Shade Gap, Pa., not far from where I lived at the time. A man came out of the woods with a gun, which he shot into the air while proclaiming his intent to do us great harm (can’t recall the specifics).
Now this might seem appropriate but for the history of the area. When I was in 5th grade, not far from this place a man came out of the woods and kidnapped Peggy Ann Bradnick, a high school girl on her way home from school. After dragging her across my aunt and uncle’s farm, he held her captive in the mountains for eight days, during which time he shot and killed an F.B.I. agent before the kidnapper himself was eventually gunned down trying to escape the dragnet. So, you see, coming out of the doors with a gun in that area was probably not the appropriate thing to do. But it did scare us the hell out of us — in a good way, of course.
In the final analysis, however, I suspect it isn’t the candy or the frightening experiences that make this holiday so wonderful. I suspect it’s the opportunity to dress up and be someone or something else. It’s a moment in time when our reality is altered, in a fun way.
Whatever the psychological reasons for the joy this day has brought me, I hope you experience much of the same. And I’m pretty certain that, considering whom your dad is, you’ll learn to love this day as much as I do.
Halloween is indeed a day worth dying for. Enjoy it!