Halloween, a family holiday

When I was little and we lived in Seattle, we did not do “normal” trick-or-treating on Halloween. The street we lived on was long and had no sidewalks (it had gravel shoulders on each side), so aside going to the Godseys across the street (an elderly couple who gave us Trident gum and a penny each year), my siblings and I piled into the car every Halloween to make the rounds.

We usually started with my grandmother, who lived in Lynnwood at the time. She would have just gotten off work, and would be wearing something goofy – there was a year where she wore this blue-tinsel wig with an orange plastic Phantom-of-the-Opera-style mask. We would go in, take pictures, get our candy, and then drive back into Seattle to my grandparents’ home in Northgate. This house is now owned by Carter’s Mom and Carter’s Dad, so I can still visit it. 🙂

Anyway, we would go in, take more pictures, get our pre-packaged baggies of candy (we were the only grandchildren for many years, so we always ended up with quite a haul from them), and then my grandparents would get into their car and follow us to our next stops – my great-aunts and great-uncle, all siblings of my grandfather. So this became a family caravan each year (gas was cheap then). Go to the greenhouse, trick-or-treat at Auntie Mary and Uncle Shig’s (and say hi to Steve, the “Robert” of the family), and then walk over to Uncle Shig’s mother’s home and say hi to Grandma Otani (who died at the age of 100 a few years ago), because she loved to see us kids all dressed up. Then we would go to Auntie Rose and Uncle Richard’s house and get more candy there, and then finally we would end up at Uncle Hank’s. He was my grandfather’s younger brother who never married, and he loved seeing us kids. He lived in the house right behind House of Pizza on Aurora. The front of the house was so overgrown with shrubbery and trees that I once called him “Uncle Hank who lives in the bushes” as we had two Uncle Hanks (both my grandmother and grandfather had brothers named Henry who were nicknamed Hank). This became a family joke and stuck. This Uncle Hank died in 1994, two years before my grandfather did. All the other great-aunts and great-uncles are still alive.

This was a yearly tradition until we moved out of Seattle. The drive was a little longer, but we were older and still enjoyed it. Eventually, though, it stopped when my youngest sister was born and we started going to the church Harvest Party instead. But the Harvest Parties aren’t held on October 31st anymore, because people still want to trick-or-treat.

Which brings us to today. Our little cul-de-sac is quiet, and while some kids do live in the neighborhood, we have no street lamp or sidewalks. So we get zero foot traffic (something that disappointed me terribly the first Halloween that we lived here. I was pregnant with the Munchkin and waited eagerly with a bowl of candy for the trick-or-treaters that never came). Even when the Webmaster and I lived in our first apartment, we got very few kids coming to the door. So, off in the car we will go. The Munchkin and Baby Boy are scheduled to go trick-or-treating at the Webmaster’s work (the company has employees bring their kids in to trick-or-treat around the cubicles), and then we will visit my uncle and aunt, my grandmother, and my parents’ house. With my youngest sister now “officially” too old to go trick-or-treating (we got cut off when we entered junior high when we were growing up), it’s now up to my kids to fulfill the family’s need for cuteness on Halloween.

It is sad to see how this tradition has devolved into a candy hunt for most kids. Last year, we went over to my uncle and aunt’s house as a surprise to them – and were shocked to see that the lights were off outside. I called them on my cell phone to make sure that they were home. “We’re here, and we’ll let you in,” my uncle said, “but we have to keep the lights off because we’ve run out of candy!” They live in a large development with lit streets and good sidewalks, and it is not uncommon to see minivans dump off several kids to go trick-or-treating in a pack. It’s no longer a neighborhood tradition – it’s a multi-million dollar industry driven by candy and costume makers, but with a need for safety built into it. Hence, the trick-or-treating in packs in “safe” neighborhoods.

I miss the old days of seeing family on Halloween, but with gas as expensive as it is, we will visit the family closest in the area and then go home. Fortunately, a little candy goes a long way with the Munchkin, and Baby Boy is just along for the ride. Maybe someday we will live in one of those “safe” neighborhoods and will just be able to turn the kids loose (with parental supervision). Or maybe their memories will be all about trick-or-treating from cubicle to cubicle, and making a huge haul because everyone buys their candy from the Costco right across the street. Regardless, I hope that someday they look back on their Halloween memories as fondly as I do. I remember my dad picking through our candy after we brought it home and saying “What’d you bring me?” a little less fondly. He always took my Junior Mints.

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