Only one night a year can bring together the smells of waxy chocolate and granulated sugar with those of latex, grease paint and sweaty kids. Add to this a crisp twilight breeze that hints at winter and the rustle of fallen brown leaves underfoot. With all the kinetic force of a 5th birthday party and more explosively delivered sucrose than a pi?ata, it's here ? Halloween!
Having passed kidhood some time back and with dadhood nowhere in the direct future I feel a little left out during this holiday. More than anything it serves to escort me down a memory lane bustling with four-foot tall zombies, superheroes and their parents. Sure there are activities marketed at my 20-something demographic that give me an excuse to put on a costume and gather with others after dark. The treats are alcoholic now (I won't go into the tricks) but the night couldn't hold a gourd-enclosed candle to those of Trick-or-Treat past.
Being an only child gave me a slight advantage over my contemporaries in the costume category. My mom would scout out so many props for my disguises that I could barely carry any candy. The wacky dentist with lab coat, goofy glasses and giant toothbrush. A safari adventurer in khaki with a snare net and a parrot sewn lovingly atop his shoulder. Max Headroom (for you '80s fans) wearing a Coca-Cola polo shirt, sunglasses and a cardboard TV set finished with wood-grain contact paper. These are but a few and I didn't do them justice.
Every year it was me and "the boys," as I used to refer to them. Andy and Ryan were brothers who I met by the geographic union of a few backyards and spent every summer break playing baseball and inventing new troubles to get into. The three of us, with two mothers at an independence-assuring distance of one house length trailing behind, would rise with the howling wind into the foray of our candy-hoarding classmates.
Our neighborhood transformed on those nights into a life-size version of the world our action figures inhabited. There was good and evil and magic was possible. Sidewalks were overflowing with walking eye candy and you could pass by the kid you sat next to in class that morning and not recognize him. Wow.
Once the bags had overflowed with candy we checked in at my grandmother's kitchen to go through our loot. We would warm up with some of her homemade hot apple cider and doughnuts she calls "puffy-wuffies." Too tired to proceed on foot, we climbed in my friend's minivan and took a tour of the infamous homes in our area that went all-out with decorations. These houses were the physical incarnation of our cartoon and video game fixations.
As a brief side note these Halloween enthusiasts should be given the skeleton keys to their respective cities because they light the eyes of hundreds of children a year. These folks come under occasional attack by those with a surplus in their schedules who accuse them of honoring Satan. Bear your wax teeth at these pooh-pooh zealots and haunt on!
Although the black and orange holiday doesn't drop the same sweetness in my bag that it used to I can only imagine that when I have kids the same feelings will come back like a sugar rush. Reports from the old neighborhood are that numbers are dwindling but some traditions are holding out. My grandmother still makes cider and doughnuts, minus three helpings of each, for my mom and "the boys'" mom. They all agree that this night makes them miss the younger versions of us even more than our birthdays or even Christmas morning.
I'm sure they can keep the cider warm until it's my turn to serve it.
Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.