Like all kids, I looked forward to Halloween each year because it conjured up all kinds of emotions, running the gamut from screams to giggles, and all of them gloriously wrapped around candy bars. Back then there were no “fun-size” bars — they were all big — and how my teeth ached with childish joy just thinking of my upcoming stash.
In my house, costumes were either homemade or recycled from the neighbors’ kids who had grown too old or too big to wear them any longer. There were no special stores popping up around malls as early as August where customers were lured to pay hundreds of dollars for clothing, shoes, wigs, makeup, and accessories. We were a lot more creative and had a lot less cash, so we were limited only by the boundaries of our own creativity and handiness.
The only obstacle that stood in my way was my mother. She never denied me going out for Halloween, but insisted I wear a coat over my costume “just in case.” The “in case” applied to cold, rain, a late October blizzard, a tornado, or a tsunami ... that’s how mothers thought. I hated getting all done up in something silly, fun, beautiful, or scary, and then having to top it with wool, but that was the house rule: no coat, no going trick-or-treating.
Still, I was obedient because there was absolutely no debate my mother would entertain on this one point. So one year when I was about 13, I dutifully pulled on my heavy woolen coat with the fake fur collar that smelled funky when it got wet and completely covered up my clown costume. I grabbed my big shopping bag and my UNICEF milk carton to collect change for the United Nations Childrens’ Emergency Fund, and off I went out the door and onto Gregory Avenue.
It was a mild late October night, and soon I began to get pretty warm. My sack full of candy was getting heavier by the moment, and now the clown costume was beginning to itch. Holding the bag and dealing with the heavy coat made it difficult to scratch. After a few minutes of this futile exercise, I decided the coat had to go. I looked around, but it was dark out, so I figured no one would notice if I ditched the coat. But where would I stash it while I finished the rest of my sugar-laden route?
A quick look around, and there at the side of the Reinert’s driveway was an old oak tree, with drooping branches, one of them drooping low enough for me to hang the offending outer garment. This accomplished, I was soon on my way, congratulating myself on such clever thinking and rewarding myself with a couple of bites of a Mounds bar as I rounded the corner of Gregory and made my way onto Mitchell Street.
A bunch of houses later with neighbors commenting favorably on my costume and makeup and a few bites more of the larder within my bag, the wind was starting to blow, and it was time to go home.
When I reached the house, every light was on and both my parents were standing in the driveway. My mother was giving me “the look,” as all mothers throughout the history of time have managed to perfect. But my father stood silently, his arms firmly crossed over his chest, his steely blue eyes fixated on me. After what seemed like hours of silence, he said in a quiet, even tone, “Where’s your coat?” I gulped, the chocolate and coconut from the Mounds coming up in my throat. I knew I had forgotten to go back and get my coat, so full of myself and candy was I.
“I, um, forgot it. I just took it off a minute ago. Lemme go get it,” I stammered.
“Not necessary,” my father said, his voice growing louder. “Mrs. Reinert called a little while ago. She said you left it on her tree, so I drove over and got it.” Then it got quiet, very, very quiet.
The next sound anyone heard piercing the dark Halloween night was me wailing as I got the spanking of my life.
It’s not the werewolves, the goblins, the vampires, or the zombies that are the scariest on Halloween. Sometimes it’s a 5-foot-6 father who’s just a little bit ticked off.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 19 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at email@example.com or 401-539-7762.