Nightmare Season

by Lillian Csernica on October 26th, 2013

I had a nightmare last night.  Not just an anxiety dream.  A full bore, nasty gory endless and very detailed nightmare.  The kind where you just can’t get away, can’t wake up.  I haven’t had one of those for a long time.  Why now?

Halloween is right around the corner.  The stores are full of cute ‘n’ spooky knickknacks, bags of trick-or-treat candy, bowls for giving and bags for gathering.

Some stores feature the really gross Halloween items.  Evil, gory masks.  Brains and bones and fake blood.  All the movie monsters, both classic and contemporary.  Costumes that really make you wonder about the mind that thought them up, mass produced them, and sent them out for sale.

These days kids go trick-or-treating by daylight.  The little ones are home before dark.  After dark the teenagers roam the streets.  It does me good to see them with their slapped together costumes and their pillow cases for treat bags.  I’m an old-fashioned girl, and that’s how we did things when I was little.  Forty years ago, when I joined in on the mad candy raids, these were the rules of the game:


1.  Only go to houses with their lights on, or with lit pumpkins outside.  The scaredy cats would only go to the houses of people they knew, but that could limit your haul by a lot.

2.  Don’t cross the streets without a grown-up.  If you did, you’d better be holding hands with somebody in your group.

3.  Go in groups.  Never go trick-or-treating alone.  When that front door opened, you just never knew what might be waiting on the other side.

4.  The classic hours of trick-or-treating were twilight ( 5 p.m., more or less) until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.  By then people turned their porch lights off and left the candy bowls out on the front steps with that silly “Take One” sign that we all ignored.

5.  When you got home, before you did anything else, Mom went through the candy to check for needles, razor blades, and anything that was unwrapped.  If a piece of candy was even remotely suspect, it got thrown away.  (My mother was perfectly up front about which pieces of candy she snitched for herself.  I was OK with that.  I already knew about sales tax, so I figured this was some kind of Candy Tax.)  Then you plopped down on the living room floor, dumped out your candy, and began the real challenge of the evening.  First came the Sorting, where you set aside your favorites and whatever candy you hated.  (Black licorice was my enemy.)  Then came the Trading, where kids got their training in the fine art of negotiation.  The older you got, the better you were at bargaining, but some of the little kids caught on quick.

These days kids go trick-or-treating in malls.  Shopping malls!  Brightly lit, full of people, all the doors wide open.  I ask you, what kind of Halloween is that?  Down in Santa Cruz on the wharf whole families show up for the trick-or-treat event between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.  I love it down there.  It’s like a big informal parade.  Up one side of the wharf where all the shops and restaurants are.  Hang out at the far end for a drink or fried clams or watching the sea lions.  Check out everybody else’s costumes, which often means whole families dressed up according to a theme.  And then, as the sun is going down over the Pacific, it’s time to head into Santa Cruz for the block parties and the church trunk-or-treats and the neighborhoods where they give out the really good candy.  This sacred knowledge is passed from one age group to the next, from older brother and sister to younger brother and sister.  Rites of passage.  Rights of passage.  Bribery for information.  Some of the best moments of childhood.

Now it’s forty years later.  My sons are fourteen and seventeen.  I’ll probably take the fourteen year old out to the wharf at the very least.  I carry a bag for my older son because he’s in a wheelchair and the wind blows really cold down by the beach.  When we come home on Halloween night, I’ll take Michael’s bag to him and set it on his chest.  If the weight is heavy enough to make him happy with his share, he’ll give me that grin that makes my life worth living.


Filed under Family, fantasy, Goals, Halloween, history, Horror, Humor, science fiction, Special needs, Writing

5 responses to “Nightmare Season

  1. Greetings from the professor! Excellent post – thank you! The professor doesn’t, but must visit fantasy regions of different time lines often. Yes, it gets confusing at times; but the professor just must overcome it. Who else would if not he? Are you Punchyish?


  2. Libda

    Here’s to enough Wright to make Micheal smile!!! Hope John enjoys the wharf!!


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