We’re a week and a half away from Halloween, and the traditional signs of the season are rearing their creepy heads: Jack-o’-lanterns peer out of my neighbors’ windows, skeletons dangle from plumeria trees, supermarket shelves overflow with giant bags of fun-size candies and the Hallmark Channel has begun its Countdown to Christmas.
Call me hopelessly old-fashioned, but dang it, I long for the days when each celebration had its own month, with no blurred lines in between. Things were so much simpler and clearer in grade school. We spent October days cutting black cats and witch hats out of construction paper. In November, we traced our handprints to draw turkeys and fashioned collages of tissue paper autumn leaves. Not until December 1st would we begin to dream of our list for Santa. I think that made each of the holidays seem even more special.
I’m old enough to know what it was like to go trick-or-treating without fear, when “things that go bump in the night” were products of our overactive imagination, not real-life hazards like distracted motorists or sinister treat tamperers. The most dangerous folks in the neighborhood were older kids who might try to hijack us for Tootsie Pops or other favorites.
The first trick-or-treat excursion I remember was in the early 1960s, when I was 4 or 5 years old. Uncle Masa walked my cousin Mark and me through our Wailuku neighborhood, along the narrow streets between Iao School and the county building. Near the corner of South Market and Kaohu streets, a couple of houses away from the old Golden Jade restaurant, a kindly auntie opened her door and invited us in for cookies and a small cup of hot cocoa. She wasn’t a family friend; we didn’t even know her name, but she welcomed every trick-or-treater into her home for a few minutes. I still smile whenever I drive by the stone steps leading to her front porch.
By the time I was 7, still in the same neighborhood, Mark and I were allowed to venture out unsupervised. We gathered so much candy, we had to return home to empty out our bags before resuming our rounds. That’s when I learned that my father had a weakness for Big Hunk. He confessed that he’d eaten the prized candy bar while I was out on the final stretch. I forgave him because Big Hunk wasn’t my favorite anyway; besides, it was only one out of maybe a hundred treats. The following year, when someone would drop a Mounds or a bag of Sugar Babies into my bag, I ate it right away or hid it from my parents. But I always shared the Big Hunks with Daddy.
A generation later, my son wasn’t allowed to eat any of his treats before his father and I checked them thoroughly. Though we never found any evidence of tampering, the fact that we had to look dampened my spirits each year.
Now, as we approach our second COVID-tainted Halloween, I’m feeling even more wistful. Fortunately, I’m still an unabashed optimist, determined to make the most of the new normal. Pardon the blurring of sentiments, but I will be of good cheer this Halloween. For one thing, I’ve decided to make caramel apples for the youngsters in my life, like my cousin Betty used to do each year — though I’m afraid mine won’t be nearly as good.
I’m also thrilled to have a storytelling gig on Halloween evening, albeit virtual, produced by the University of Hawaii Statewide Cultural Extension Program. Part of the Hawaii Book & Music Festival, this 7 p.m. Halloween special also features master storytellers Alton Chung (who will relate “The Sobbing Spirit of Punahou Street”) and Jeff Gere (“Testing God”). I’ll tell the classic Japanese obake tale of “Okiku and the Nine Plates.” To register for the free online show, go to hawaiibookandmusicfestival.com/schedule.
But before I scare up my ghoulish persona, I’ll join my MAPA (Maui Academy of Performing Arts) ‘ohana for Maui County’s family-friendly Halloween Drive-Thru Adventure at Keopuolani Park, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 31. Along with volunteers from the county and other community partners, MAPA will staff treat stations at the event, which will also include a pumpkin patch, Maui Classic Cruisers’ vintage car showcase and LahainaTown Action Committee’s Mystery Maze.
To enter the Halloween Drive-Thru Adventure, approach the park on Wahinepio Avenue from Kahului Beach Road, and turn right from Wahinepio onto Keopuolani Parkway. Before exiting the adventure onto Kanaloa Avenue, a keiki buckle-up area will be available for families with babies and young children. No reservations are needed for this free public event.
Also, in a recent news release, Mayor Michael Victorino announced, “Trick-or-treating is A-OK throughout Maui County for this year’s Halloween.” Of course, the same old rules of common sense and safety still apply, as well as the new normal public health guidelines. And no Santa movies, please.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM and KEWE 97.9 FM/1240 AM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.