Well, Halloween is almost here. It’s just a couple of weeks away, and Tom is already planning what treats we’re giving to the neighborhood kids. Trick-or-treating in our neighborhood is quite a different experience from what I knew growing up.
We didn’t have any neighbors. The closest neighbor wasn’t within walking distance. Dad would take us kids by car to every house in South Beaver Township where he knew the residents. We would hit at least 40 houses, and we would climb in-and-out of the car at every home. It was a workout! And we always ended at Grandma and Grandpap Knowlson’s house (after the cut off time, of course).
Mom stayed home and gave out treats to the kids that stopped at our house in the middle of nowhere. I think the most she ever had was a dozen kids. Some years, there would be none. My grandparent’s house was the same way. They lived back this long, long drive and in this home that could have appeared spooky itself with very little lights. We’d walk up the porch and knock on the screen door. Grandma would stand there and pretend not to know who we were, guessing, “Are you George? Maybe Susie? Do I know you?” Gosh I miss those days!!! I’ll always remember Grandma’s laughter, standing there wearing the same apron she always wore, and Grandpap in “his chair,” waiting for us to come inside to see our costumes. I remember it like it was just yesterday — such bittersweet memories.
Grandma Miller was an excellent seamstress. She could sew the most amazing things with just a few scraps of material. She could sew anything you wanted with just a few measurements — no pattern or anything to follow. We had this fabulous box of Halloween costumes that she had made over the years. I don’t know who wore them before us, but they were incredible! There were princesses, queens, witches, dresses with fringe and ornate western dresses — complete with sequins and feathers and all kinds of accessories. There were the most amazing clown suits and hobo outfits. We outgrew most of them when we got to middle school and had to come up with our own costumes after that. One year Grandma Miller made Tommy, my youngest brother, an Energizer Bunny costumer for a Halloween parade. He played the drums and it was a perfect costume for that. She was so creative, she made Tom’s entire head the nose of the bunny so that it’s head tilted back just like the bunny in the commercials. We used that outfit over and over as adults. Grandma Miller was so talented, and she shared her gift with everyone she knew.
Life goes on and things change. Tom and I take chairs outside in the driveway with blankets if it’s cold. We know a lot of our neighbors and the adults walk around with the kids, pulling red wagons with a six pack of beer. Sometimes the Moms have a concealed glass of wine. I guess it’s suburban trick-or-treating!
My Mom will ask me how many kids we had — and we’re usually around 100. She’ll tell me she didn’t have any kids or very few kids — just like the old days. And I’ll think back on those houses we visited as kids — many of those people have passed away now. I’ll always think fondly of tracking through the wet leaves, tripping over things in the dark — and coming home with a paper bag full of candy. And sometimes the people we visited would step outside and wave to my Dad in the car. He would just smile and keep us moving — hitting as many houses as possible.
So this Halloween, as we sit on our folding chairs, I’ll be reflecting on days gone by, thinking of Dad and my grandparents — and just how much I miss them. And this year, I’ll toast with a glass of wine in their honor.
Have a happy Halloween and safe trick-or-treating!
A Prayer for my Dad and Grandparents
Receive, Lord, in tranquility and peace, the souls
of Your servants who have departed out of this
present life to be with You. Give them the life that
knows no age, the good things that do not pass
away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Saint Ignatius Loyola