Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sweet memories: Things that go barf in the night

My brother was a few years older than me (and still is) so of course he didn’t want his little 7-or 8-year-old brother tagging along with him and his friends on Halloween, but my mom made him take me.

It gets pretty cold in Michigan in late October and I can remember being all bundled up like little Randy in Christmas Story, to where I could hardly move my arms. But my cold fingers fiercely gripped the big brown grocery bag I hoped to see filled with candy before the night was over.

We set out at twilight, before it was even fully dark yet, working our own neighborhood first. My trick or treat bag was half full before we even got to the more distant neighborhoods.

I was half running to keep up with the older boys, and I soon was sweating profusely. My hot breath condensed against the inside of the cold rubber mask, making it wet against my face, and it soon slipped down so I could only see out of one eye hole and had to tilt my head back until my neck ached just to get the one eye.

Our town was small, so even the distant neighborhoods were less than a mile from our house, but as my bag got heavier and heavier, it began to be an ordeal rather than great fun. I was happy when the porch lights started to go out and we headed back home.

The first thing we used to do was dump our bags of booty out on our beds and separate the candy into piles. Candy bars in one pile, bubble gum in another, suckers in another, and so forth. Why? I don’t know. It all soon got mixed up again anyway.

I don’t know if it was the sweating in the cold night, or simply the ingestion of so much sugar over a period of a few days, but even now I associate Halloween with sickness. Or at least with throwing up.

An odd holiday, Halloween.


  1. Thanks for sharing.

    Halloween is and always was my favorite holiday (my husband's too - it's our anniversary as well). Not because of candy - candy never excited me - but because it was a day or whimsy and imagination, magic and mystery. It's easy to become leery of those things or to find oneself so busy with necessities that they fall by the wayside more than more, but, for me, those things are what I like best about children and the parts of me I like best about me.

    As a child, I was very responsible, grown up way too early. I don't remember ever knowing how to play. But imagination and fantasy, dreaming up things that had never been, that I loved doing. And it's still one of the high points of my adulthood.

  2. I don't remember having much fun trick or treating either, mainly because it was in our apartment building and it was weird going around on the elevator and ringing doorbells up and down halls. It just never seemed legit.

  3. I was going to comment on this much earlier but Google or something mi-Atlantic has gone awry and I was beginning to think you'd blocked comments. But now I'm glad I didn't because I've had two small boys knocking on the door, all dressed up for Halloween. It's so charming, Halloween with a French accent. :)

    What I wanted to say in the first place was how much I enjoyed your memories. I was with you every step of the way, all bundled up, the wet mask, trying to see out of one eye hole - all of it! I don't need to lament my deprived childhood, I have yours. Those are wonderful pictures you conjure.

    I'd still like to know at which point turnips were hijacked by pumpkins.

  4. @Stephanie B - I think memories are probably the springboards to novels. Perhaps I will try fiction one more time. Thank you for your comment. (Stop being so responsible. Let your inner child out to play.) :)

    @Lidian - Hi Lidian. But apartments would let you cover more territory faster! No hi-rise apartments in our little town. No elevators either, unless you count grain elevators. :)

    @A. - I'm curious - do they still say "Trick or Treat" in English? Or is there a French equivalent? I'll bet you had to scurry to find them some sweets. Or did you give them wine? I don't know about you. :)

    Pumpkins, Soubriquet says, started in Central America and spread from there. I still can't imagine having a turnip large enough to carve.

    Glad your internet problem seems to have cleared up.
    Suckers are a species of bottom-feeding fish.

  5. Lollipops. :) :)

    I forgot what you call popcicles. I do remember candy floss. Are you sure we speak the same language?...

  6. No, they don't say Trick or Treat, they say " 'allo en", look hopeful and display their success so far. I wasn't allowed to give them walnuts off the neighbour's tree. Or figs.

    Our turnips are bigger than your turnips then. Big yellow ones. Size of a football. I've heard a rumour that you call them some weird name like rutabaga? I don't know if it's true.

    Lollipops! :) I was afraid your succkers was referring to little ones running alongside, panting to keep up, hoping to get a share. Nothing healthy thanks.

  7. I used to love Halloween. I don't remember before I could go out with my friends.

    Then I had Evan & I enjoyed driving him to different neighborhoods (it's very hilly around here) to people who gave out the good candy, LOL. We'd park at the end of the block and hit all the houses, then drive up the next hill, LOL.

    He's never had much of a sweet tooth, though, so it was really more for me. :-)

  8. We used to use pillow cases and I can remember the sucker being filled to the top. Gawd Halloween was good in the old days when no one wanted to poison kids candy and did not care if you rotted out your teeth. We too would separate ours and "trade" just so we could jumble it up all over again in the sack.

    You paint a beautiful memory Max - I remember me and my two older brothers well and how they always tried to ditch me. I was fast then; agile even. I was the shadow that would NOT go away.

    Happy Halloween.

  9. I always liked Halloween and I still do. I also remember sorting the candy for no good reason and then dumping it back into a bag.

    My worst Halloween was when I stayed home from school and Mom told me that if I was too sick for school, I was too sick for Trick-or-Treating. She could be such a childish thing.

  10. All good memories. :) I wrote about Halloween and how much I loved it. We dressed in poodle skirts and lots of costume jewelry and wobbly high heels. It's funny but we always did our own house first. I think it was for our parents. Tom, I have been in hell and can't seem to find my way out. Please forgive my absence.

  11. @Petra - Good memories, for sure! :)

    @Descartes - Mothers just don't understand. Mine was the same way. If I couldn't go to school on Friday, I couldn't go out on Friday night. She didn't understand how my health improved at about 3:15 Friday afternoon. :)

  12. @Angelika - Sad that Evan doesn't have a sweet tooth. But make him do it anyway. More for you. Well, I guess he's too old now. But you are a runt - you can still go!

    Kidding. Kidding. Kidding. Kidding.

  13. @A. - "Allo en"? What the hell is that?

    Turnips and rutabagas are two different things. A rutabaga is what you call a swede. We call swedes squareheads. Ummmm, no we don't. I didn't mean to say that out loud.

  14. @Ettarose - But you still do wear poodle skirts and wobbly stuff. Why didn't you dress up different for Halloween?

    SuzyQ, I hope what is giving you trouble gets better right away. I care.

  15. Message, Belated, to both Max and 'A'.

    Firstly, Max, Squareheads are, of course, not Swedes. they are Germans. When I was about ten years old, I used to read comic books, and trade them with other kids at school, and a common theme (it not being so far away in the nineteen sixties) was the second world war. germans were krauts, squareheads, cabbage-eaters, and fritzes, and the british soldiers were called schweinhund, englanders, pig-dog, (yes, I know), and tommies.
    American soldiers, of course, were yanks, regardless of their origin in relation to the mason-dixon line.
    (There were jokes about the wartime elastic shortage as it applied to women's underwear: "One yank and they're off")

    Squareheads... Done.

    Turnip vs Rutabagata,
    Oh no, they're not the same thing at all. I have spent backbreaking days harvesting both, having altogether too many farming relatives.
    Turnip is Turnip, but Rutabaga is Turbage or Cabnip
    Oh yes, the rutabaga is a result of some naughty goings on between an amorous turnip, and a nymphomaniac cabbage sometime in the middle ages,

    At this point, I confess I had to seek confirmation elsewhere, not trusting my uncle Raymond, who told me the above stuff long, long ago. I phoned my niece, Sarah, who is an agronomist who travels the country looking at all sorts of crops on behalf of the government.
    Turnips, she says have twenty chromosomes. Cabbages have eighteen.
    Rutabagas have a grand total of.... thirty eight. Yes, they have both.
    The Roman Empire loved turnips, but the rutabaga, or swede was first recorded by a SWEDISH botanist called Caspar Bauhin. Thanks, Sarah.
    Then I found this : "Rutabaga (Brassica napobrassica) gets its name from Swedish rotabagge. In England and Canada it is commonly called "Swede," or "Swede turnip." The French called it navet de Suede (Swede turnip), chou de Suede (Swede cabbage), and chou navet jaune (yellow cabbage turnip). It was known in the United States about 1800 as "turnip-rooted cabbage." Although common names suggest a Scandinavian origin, this is not certain."

  16. "Caspar Bauhin in 1620", I meant to say.



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