This has been a heck of a year, and we’re only in the first week of November! I for one will be delighted on New Year’s Eve to bid a fond, or not-so-fond, farewell to 2020.
I’m writing this piece on Halloween, thinking about the days when I used to take two of my grandkids trick-or-treating in our Discovery Bay neighborhood. The first year we did it, they were five and seven and dressed to the nines in adorable Disney garb. Hundreds of children filled the blocks within the safety of a community that was mostly people we knew. When I wasn’t out with Frick and Frack, I was always near the front door anticipating the bell bringing from another goblin or princess who were looking for chocolate. In the early hours, there were the little ones accompanied by their parents who stood back, waving and smiling at me. As the darkness fell, some of the older kids and teenagers were enjoying the fresh air and free snacks with similar childlike glee. We always had a great turnout making the three or four huge bags of candy disappear. By about 9 p.m. the doorbell fell silent, and we shut off the outside lights. Grandpa hoped there were a few treats left in the bucket, but I always put a few aside for him before the fun began. These memories are really sweet and although we now reside in Summerset and have literally no trick-or-treaters, it is sad that this holiday, which was a big deal for me as a kid, is stifled by the pandemic. Safety for our kids is imperative, and I was happy to see that there were options to make sure the holiday did not go by unnoticed.
I was born in Brooklyn and Halloween was really safe the nine years I was there. We lived in a big brown brick apartment building and our destination for trick-or-treating was within the confines of that building. Most of the people in those apartments were my parents’ friends, and we got pennies or nickels for the UNICEF cartons and a piece of gum or candy for ourselves. Some gave us apples dipped in caramel or little bags with homemade popcorn. After we rang the doorbell or buzzer, we yelled “trick or treat” as if that was a great surprise to everyone who came to the door. Grateful for anything we got, at about 7 p.m., it was time to go home, say goodbye to my friends in the building and empty the pillowcase that my mom gave me to collect my bounty. Then she would give me a piece or two and put the rest away for future consumption. My dad would enjoy some but never fessed up to his after-hours pilfering.
When we moved to the suburbs on Long Island, I was nine and again the safety of our small town made it acceptable to go out into the neighborhood and enjoy Halloween. The streets were bustling with cowboys, ghosts, cartoon characters and other homemade costumes. Some had hard plastic masks with an elastic string to hold it in place, until it snapped, and we always wore a jacket and gloves to combat the beginning of the cold weather. Why did it always seem like summer on Oct. 30 and get really cold the next night for Halloween? After filling another one of those pillowcases with candy, I would lug it home, spill it onto the kitchen table and return on the hunt for more. If my mom ran out of candy for trick-or-treaters, I offered her some of mine; there was a “you can use these” pile and a pile of “oh not these.” Then with that newly emptied sack, I would go to the houses I didn’t go to the first round and fill it up again. I remember going to some neighbors, lifting up my mask and announcing “it’s me under here!” Our wonder years in that small town left a bank of memories I will never forget or take for granted.
The holidays started with Halloween in late October, then Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve; which were exciting as a kid in the ’50s and ’60s. We relished no school, lots of family time, more food than it seemed possible to consume, presents and the anticipation of a bright new beginning as the next year began. It was a time of childhood joy and not a care in the world. As I look back and smile, I also feel so sad for what we are all living through right now, especially our kids and our seniors. The holidays this year may not be the same, but we can try to make the best of our situation with phone calls, Zoom chats and small gatherings of family or friends. I am ever the optimist and look forward to next year when all of this nonsense is behind us and we can hug again. Stay safe and well.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at email@example.com.