Archived Story

Beware of gorillas in trench coats as you make your rounds

Published 2:32am Friday, October 29, 2010

Man, I used to love Halloween.

jessicaAt the risk of sounding all “when I was a kid” about it…

When I was a kid, Halloween used to be an event.

I feel the need to put that down, record it now for all those kids who will forever be robbed of the good ol’ days and get the “used to be” out during the “nowadays.”

So settle down with a big bowl of sugary goodness, the candy corns and the orange pumpkins (my, oh my do I love those little orange pumpkins), lay your costume out on the couch because you know you can’t wait for the night you get to put that fun little thing on, call the kids over and I’ll tell you a story.

One of the earliest memories of Halloween that I have is the gorilla in the trench coat.

It’s not a joke. The darn thing almost made me wet myself.

We had a guy in the neighborhood who dressed up in a gorilla suit and wore a trench coat and he’d circle around the big pine tree in the front of his yard.

He stalked, really. This was back in the day when everybody really got into Halloween.

When kids spent weeks coming up with a costume none of your friends were already wearing, mapping out the best routes for candy acquisition and begging parents — if they just had to follow along — that they stay a good distance away.

This was when trick-or-treating started as soon as the sun dipped just low enough to turn the sky all orangy and chrome and you were sprinting down the sidewalk as the porch lights went on.

No time limits. No “official” trick-or-treat hours — just a pure, unbridled candy quest.

Anyway, the stalking gorilla in the trench coat scared me so much, I hesitated even going near the house. I can still see it and all the kids moving quickly, holding out their pillow cases, rushing back to their parents.

I love the way Halloween makes a neighborhood look overrun with whimsy, with creepy and with oddity.

As scared as I may have been, my dad made it clear he was not going backward on our route.

Nor was he crossing the street.

And if I wanted to get to him, mini-Snickers or no mini-Snickers, I had to walk past that tree where the gorilla in the trench coat was eyeing me.

So first… I walked past the tree. He came at me and I’m pretty sure I screamed and cried and shook all the way to the next little package of M&Ms somewhat defeated.

By the next year, though, ah, the next year I had grown.

I walked up into the yard braced with bravery. Ready to be defiant. Ready to face any fear. And as that gorilla in his trench coat came lurking my way, as he got closer… I spun around on a heel and screamed, “GET AWAY FROM ME!”

Then I got my candy and moved on. There’s no moral. I’m not going to bore anyone with metaphorical analysis to how we all wear masks and what they mean…

Because that’s what Halloween was all about. Simple. Scary and sweet.

It was about getting the most candy, getting home, setting it out, bartering with big brothers and fighting against parental rations in the weeks that followed.

Growing up, the holiday changes. For adults, it’s less and less about the thrill and more and more about wearing masks.

Hiding in the night, yet another chance to let all inhibitions head out the window under the guise of a walking zombie or an oversized cartoon character or Elvis.

Unfortunate realities have stripped the experience from children we’re too afraid to let walk the streets at night even if they’re supervised. We schedule the tradition around the calendar. Somewhere along the line we forgot how fun it is to rebel against the school night in the name of All Hallows Eve.

All grown up, I’m not a Halloween partygoer. I’ll go — but it’s not the best part. I’ll even put a costume on, but it’s not that much fun. I’d rather sit on a front step somewhere and watch that one little kid who is not in an entirely inappropriate costume, walk gingerly up the leaf-scattered path, gripping his or her little bag handles in little hands… and give ’em two pieces just because.

Then, when night falls and the porch lights go out, curl up with something scary like a movie and something sweet like the sense of pure childhood nostalgia.

And of course, the little orange pumpkins.

Happy Halloween.

Jessica Sieff reports for Leader Publications. E-mail her at jessica.sieff@leaderpubcom.

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