Halloween Here and There
I love Halloween here in Brooklyn. It’s more festive than anywhere I’ve lived. With all the brownstones and apartments and local shops so close together, the streets are lined with people and store clerks giving out candy. There are a lot of families in our neighborhood and people come out in spectacled groups, sequined and felted, wielding plastic swords and scepters, with wild head-pieces and spooks. The leaf colors are at their peaks and it’s just before we lose the lushness of our tree-lined streets and things become more stark and cold.
This year, Little O was a duck, an outfit chosen because it’s a word he says emphatically. He sends his arm out, like a saluting soldier, pointing at anything in books or in life that closely resembles the feathery creature (rubber duckys, baby chicks, yellow dots). Then he calls it out with gusto: duck!
At first, the costume made him grumpy. He ripped off his duck-billed hat and the velcro-ed web feet. Then we went to a Halloween party at his daycare, which we call school (which he calls coooool), and everyone fussed over how cute he was, so he finally understood the costume was an attention-getter, and, therefore, a welcome addition to his life.
Later, while trick-or-treating, he learned that holding out his orange and black bag would award him more oohs and ahhs, so he proudly accepted candy, with no concept that his parents would be the eager recipients of the fruits of his labor later that night.
After a long afternoon wandering the streets we went to a child-friendly bar serving pumpkin beer for the adults (we do it right here in Brooklyn) and a mound of french-fries for Little O to share with one of his little buddies.
I kept remarking to my own Dad the kind of ‘damage’ I could have done had I grown up in this neighborhood on Halloween. I was the kid who came home with pillow case-sized bags of loot, wandering late into the evening with my friends. Halloween was a mission to traverse as much sidewalk and bang on as many doors to get as much candy as I possibly could.
I remember this woman ‘around the corner’, as we always said, who gave out whole candy bars on Halloween. They were Ronald McDonald bars — something I haven’t really seen since (though a google search tells me they can be ordered and personalized to sell for fundraising efforts) and she had a giant wheel in front her home, like one you’d steer on an old ship. She wasn’t like our immediate next-door neighbor, who gave out pennies if you dared to knock on her door, who once refused to give me any despite giving them to my friends, because, who knows, any one of her crotchety, old lady excuses would do.
We knew which houses gave the best and the worst treats of the day. We knew which darkened porches to avoid and which streets were too dangerous to cross. We knew the land like we’d settled and mapped it ourselves.
It made me smile to think, no matter where Little O ends up doing his growing, he’ll, hopefully, have his own Halloween land to map out too.