The Little Things
By Jason Marshall
Vampires lurking in the shadows.
Zombies lumbering along under a full moon.
Eight bucks for a bag of microscopic chocolate bars.
Man, Halloween sure is a scary time of year.
As a kid, October was about one thing: trick-or-treating on the 31st. And you only had two worries: finding the perfect costume was the big one. The other was that Halloween night would never arrive.
The true stress fell squarely on the shoulders of your parents. Namely your mom.
Today, moms tap their phones and order you a politically correct costume from Amazon. With overnight delivery. Then mom surprises you with a personalized candy collecting bag made from recycled organic non-allergenic materials. She made the bag herself after finding the pattern on Pinterest.
Back in the day, mom had a phone that was nailed to the wall. With a dial on it. No touch screen. No personal ringtone. In fact, it was a party line. Two long rings, and a short.
Amazon didn’t exist. No Internet. Mom had the costume-buying option of the corner store or, if time and budget allowed, a trip to Zellers in the city. Costume selection was limited. Heartbreak was imminent. You went into the shopping trip with a dream of trick-or-treating as Darth Vader or The Fonz. You were lucky to find a cheap plastic clown mask.
So, imagine mom’s strained patience on Halloween night. You’re crying about not being able to breathe in the mask. You’re hot. Sweating. And the eyehole edges are slicing your face. Then the elastic snaps. Mom tries to staple a rubber band in its place, without any luck. Finally, the mask cracks. Time to pivot. Hello MacGyver mom.
The bottom dresser drawer is where she finds a bedsheet. And a pair of scissors in the junk drawer.
By the time you are fully “Caspered” the sun is almost down. Candy is about to be handed out. And you’re still not ready. Mom grabs the pillow off your bed, shakes it out of the pillowcase, and hands you your candy bag for the night. She then gives you a flashlight that looks like it came off a Second World War battleship. It weighs roughly the same as a car battery.
After a kiss on your cheek, she pushes you out the front door, telling you to be careful. You assume you’re outside because of the cool breeze. You can’t see anything since the eyeholes in your bedsheet ghost costume are nowhere near your face.
Behind the door you hear what sounds like a cork popping out of a wine bottle.
Mom did it!
Today’s mom has an app that shows every house in a five-kilometre radius. She has a full police background report on each neighbour. A list of all their known associates. Household income. And a complete breakdown of who is handing out what type of candy.
Moms from the 1970s would say, “Don’t get hit by any cars. Be home by 11. You have school tomorrow. Don’t eat all the Aero bars. And if anyone gives you anything homemade, whatever you do, don’t eat it. You know your father loves that kind of stuff.”
Three hours later you drag home a pillowcase with 50 pounds of goodies. You have licorice. BB bats. Chocolate marshmallow brooms. Those horrible little Kerr’s molasses kisses. An Eat-More bar. Peppermint leaves. Wax lips. And Pixy Stix.
Homemade treats weren’t uncommon. Candy apples. Caramel corn balls. Fudge. Brown sugar candy. Who remembers rock candy? And you’d always have little paper treat bags full to the brim with sugary goodness.
Deeper in the bag you find candy necklaces. Swedish berries. Pop rocks. A Big Turk bar. Sweet tart lollipops. Candy corn. And an apple. Always an apple.
There are handfuls of Tootsie Rolls. Packs of Chiclets gum. Rockets. Popeye cigarettes. Maybe even a pack of real cigarettes. The kids of the 70s were built tough.
You eat most of the treats in the bag that night. And stuff your lunchbox full of candy before heading to bed.
There were no selfies posted on Facebook or Instagram. No TikTok video of you wearing your $450 imported costume. The only proof you even went out for Halloween is your aching tummy, the scar on your cheek from the elastic, and the fact you’re sleeping on a pillow without a pillowcase.
Times have changed. But moms haven’t. They still do what they need to do for their kids. They care for them. Love them. Keep them safe. And want nothing but happiness for them.
Sadly, what’s changed is the world we live in.
Let’s just hope it hasn’t changed so much that we forget the little things. They make all the difference.
Jason Marshall has been a writer and journalist for more than 30 years, and is an on-air host and station manager at Valley Heritage Radio just outside of Renfrew, Ontario. And he’s truly a big kid at heart. You can email him anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org