In a small town where scarecrows were real and pumpkins were local, we put on our costumes and headed out in groups of two or ten, pillowcases in hand, not returning until our bags were full. House by house, we covered the whole town, never involving parents until we needed cars to deliver us to houses of teachers or friends who lived in the country.
Trick-or-treating went on for a week, with one night set aside for Unicef and Halloween night reserved for the annual costume contest held in the bandstand on the court house square.
Not everyone remembers that we celebrated for the whole week. Sometimes I wonder if I might be wrong.
Although maybe not. When I moved back to that small town 30 years later, the City Council was limiting trick-or treating to two nights, making that week long celebration seem possible.
Even so, it's not my main memory of Halloween. That's reserved for Mrs. Tarble, who lived alone in the big house at the south end of our block and handed out full-size candy bars or full-size bags of M&Ms to everyone who hurried across the big front porch and knocked on her door.
At a time when even snack size candy bars were rare, full-size candy bars were unheard of. Mostly it was suckers, penny candy, home-made popcorn balls or apples. Even the occassional onion.
The anticipation of going to Mrs. Tarble's house and seeing that bowl of full-size treats is vivid in my memory. She was the Santa Claus of Halloween.
Yet my sister remembers it differetly. She remembers getting that full-size candy bar from Mrs. Miller, a woman at the north end of our block who never gave out anything better than suckers.
I can't believe she gets it wrong.
She's sure she's right.
When my own kids were little, I made most of their Halloween costumes--staying up late and hand sewing full-body Care Bear suits or gluing individual sequins onto butterfly wings.
"Why isn't Baba making my costume?" my older daughter asked one year as I was frantically finishing up some cat ears before she needed to head off to school.
Baba was a good friend and did make her very first costumes. But in the four or five years since, I was the one with sore fingers from pushing a needle through two layers of fake fur. I was the one who figured out how to get horns to stick up on a Wild Thing costume and wings to stay out on a butterfly one. I was the one creating memories.
Or so I thought.
Twenty some years later, my daughter still remembers Baba always making her costumes.
Just like my sister still remembers getting those full-size candy bars from Mrs. Miller.
I remember my own mom paying a high school student to make me a pair of bat wings for my Halloween costume one year.
I wish I remembered the years that she didn't.