In my humble opinion

Trick or treat?

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 10/27/21

Ah, Halloween! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Costumes, candy and things that go bump in the night top the list, but more than that, I love seeing and photographing kids having the time …

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In my humble opinion

Trick or treat?

Posted

Ah, Halloween! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Costumes, candy and things that go bump in the night top the list, but more than that, I love seeing and photographing kids having the time of their lives.

I did just that on a couple of occasions last week—first at “Peace, Love and Pumpkins,” which is situated on the grounds of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. The holiday display is (IMHO) a fantastical walking tour unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Aside from the requisite graves, skeletons, witches and spooks, there are more than 5,000 carved pumpkins used in the breathtaking lighted displays that are nothing short of astounding. Go.

On Saturday, Dharma and I made our way to the farmers’ market in Barryville, NY, which was hosting a great outdoor event for kids of all ages. Live music and costume parades for both children and canines were great fun to photograph. In addition, there was a cooking contest and dance tent for the younger set and a slew of prizes given out as the festivities drew to a close.

As I observed costumed families and friends frolicking by the river and enjoying the day, the ghost of Halloween past haunted my reverie.

Instantly I was transported to suburban Vestal, NY circa 1968, and a prank concocted by none other than my mother (of course) who adored trick-or-treating. With impish glee, she had formulated a Halloween prank to amuse her friends who were partying at Mr. and Mrs. Root’s next door.

Somehow she persuaded sixteen-year-old me to masquerade as her and dolled me up in one of her own everyday outfits—a flame-red wig that looked exactly like her own permed hair—and put makeup on my face, sending me out the door teetering on high heels with a martini glass in one hand and a Pall Mall in the other.

Mom’s intricate plan involved my milling about the adults-only party next door and being seen (but not heard), while she put on jeans and a sweatshirt and pulled a stocking over her head before sneaking around the house and ringing the neighbor’s bell. Once Mr. Root opened the front door to toss candy into her oversized shopping bag, she barged past him and caused a ruckus at the party, drinking their booze straight out of the bottle and acting like a teenaged hooligan, unnerving all the guests.

Mrs. Root was understandably flustered (she was delicate to begin with) and Mr. Root became downright angry. But once my mother took the carved turkey off the buffet table and dropped it into her sack, he lost it and collared her, threatening to call the cops.

“It’s me, it’s me—Barbara!” Mom shrieked, pulling the stocking from her face and revealing the suburban housewife beneath. I sneaked out when the hubbub began, laughing, smoking and sipping on my very first martini, which was invigorating but gross, as I recall.

Sadly, there are no photos to go with this absolutely true tale, but many years later I once again donned a curly red wig to portray “Little Orphan Annie” at a local fundraiser, and my sister took one look at my getup and proclaimed that I looked “just like Mom.”

Looking back, my mother’s prank was beyond epic, and her friends talked about it for years. That was enough to inspire more Halloween antics throughout her lifetime, including another trick-or-treat fiasco that sent one of my father’s friends to the hospital, but that’s a really, really scary story for another time. Meanwhile, I’ll probably stay home on Halloween, slip into a pair of stilettos and sip a martini for old times’ sake. Trick or treat!

To view photos of the Barryville Farmers’ Market Halloween party  visit www.Facebook.com/theriverreporter and subscribe to www.riverreporter.com.

Who knew? According to www.history.com, “Trick-or-treating—setting off on Halloween night in costume and ringing doorbells to demand treats—has been a tradition in the United States and other countries for more than a century. Its origins remain murky but traces can be identified in ancient Celtic festivals, early Roman Catholic holidays, medieval practices—and even British politics. In later centuries, people began dressing as ghosts, demons and other malevolent creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This dates back to the Middle Ages and is thought to be an antecedent of trick-or-treating.

Fun Fact: Although it is unknown precisely where and when the phrase “trick or treat” was coined, the custom had been firmly established in American popular culture by 1951, when trick-or-treating was depicted in the Peanuts comic strip. In 1952, Disney produced a cartoon called “Trick or Treat” featuring Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

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