Tag Archives: Halloween

Good vs. Evil

In the beginning, everything was inherently good until the Garden of Eden incident. Evil entered the world when Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, and ever since then there has been an ongoing battle between good and evil. That’s rarely more evident to me than during this time of year. ‘Tis the season for all things spooky: monsters, skeletons, cauldrons of witches’ brew, and black cats. (Actually, all cats are creepy all of the time.) I’m well aware that with fall comes colorful foliage, Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice concoctions, and of course football season (both real and fantasy), but most noticeably autumn brings forth Halloween. Thoughts of good vs. evil are always at the forefront of my mind around All Hallows’ Eve.

The season’s cooler temperatures and diminishing hours of sunlight tends to awaken something inside of me that’s typically dormant throughout the rest of the year. I instinctively begin craving the “darker stuff” from my eclectic compact disc collection. I find myself selecting music from artists such as Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson while classics from the likes of Kenny Rogers and Barry Manilow remain on the shelf. I also naturally stray from my normal afternoon routine of watching the abundance of wholesome comedies found on network television. I gravitate from viewing reruns of Leave It To Beaver and Dennis the Menace to watching numerous horror movies of the disturbing kind. I suppose all horror flicks are disturbing in their own right although I’m more of a psychological thriller connoisseur than I am a slasher film fan. One bag of Candy Corn: $2…One large pumpkin for carving: $5…Jack Nicholson in The Shining: priceless.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend dabbling in the things associated with “the dark side” especially if one is not firmly planted in His light. One of my favorite mottos is “if you don’t stand for something…you might fall for anything.” I’m rooted enough in who I am and what I believe to not allow the Devil to have his way with me. Satan has made an art form out of deceiving humanity since he first appeared in the Garden of Eden, but I’m on to him. I do realize the Deceiver has a knack for quietly entering through the backdoor instead of boldly announcing his deceitful intentions at the front. Being aware of the Evil One’s ways is half the battle, so I will not be fooled.

Admittedly, I simply like being scared. Obviously, I’m not speaking of the fear one would have after hearing a doctor’s dire diagnosis. I’m not alluding to the deep concern one might have for a loved one gone astray either. I am referring to the type of fear that stirs up an exhilarating, yet manageable, level of anxiety within: the kind I remember experiencing, as an adolescent, when aimlessly wandering about inside one of those haunted houses exclusively manufactured for Halloween. The anticipation of the unknown, waiting behind every door and lurking in every nook and cranny, was more than enough to arouse the hair on my arms even before setting foot in the makeshift house of horror. I’m sure I’d be just as anxious today as I was back then. Some things never change.

I don’t think trick-or-treating has changed much since I used to hit the streets, during the 70’s, in pursuit of free candy. Some might argue begging for a Snickers has become more dangerous in recent years, but I would have to disagree. I know I’m about to sound like that cranky, old man (every neighborhood has one) who can usually be seen, with raised fists pumping in the air, shooing all of the neighborhood children off of his lawn, but here it goes anyway: (use old man voice here) In my day we had to worry that a “flasher” might answer their door, and parents were compelled to check their children’s goodies, at the end of the evening, for concealed needles and razor blades…and we liked it! (stop old man voice here) I just don’t hear any of those concerns anymore.

Maybe it’s because parents have become too complacent these days, or quite possibly those evil individuals, desiring to do harm, were forced to give up their tampering ways. I imagine their annual unethical practice was severely hampered after so many hospitals began offering free x-rays of every little ghost and goblin’s collected treats. I reckon the final nail in the coffin was when some schools and churches, as well as the hospitals, began providing other alternatives to neighborhood trick-or-treating. My lovely wife and I (at my urging) took advantage of both. We’d take our son to the hospital, for a bag full of candy, and then I’d escort him around numerous neighborhoods for a few bags more. Hey, free candy is free candy.

I’m sure most dentists cringe at that sort of behavior, and most churches oppose Halloween altogether. I understand the depravity associated with All Hallows’ Eve; however, I believe all situations are what you make of them. For instance, one Sunday morning, when my son was around 10 years old, one of our pastors preached a very interesting sermon. The unorthodox message was about the whole “Satan can enter through the backdoor” concept, and he mentioned the beloved Pokémon cartoon as being one of the culprits. My ears instantly perked up because my son absolutely loved the Japanese television series. He boasted Pokémon trading cards, figurines, posters, t-shirts, and a stuffed Pikachu (his favorite character).

The missus labored over constructing a Pikachu cake, for his Pokémon themed birthday party, and we even got him a Pikachu piñata. Looking back, it seems a bit ironic our son was perfectly fine with beating his adored character into pieces with an aluminum baseball bat. I can’t recall exactly why the animated series was supposedly bad for the soul, but after careful consideration (about 13 seconds worth) I concluded my family could responsibly handle Pokémon in our household. My wife and I were just thrilled our son had finally outgrown his Barney stage. I don’t think choosing to celebrate Halloween is much different than the previously mentioned Pokémon example. Life has its good vs. evil battles although a majority of those battles need not even take place if our minds (and our hearts) are right with Christ. We are all assured of this: In the end, good will conquer evil.


Halloween Past

At a very early age, while growing up in Iowa, I discovered I was almost as fond of Halloween as I was of Christmas. I don’t know which came first: Halloween or candy, but as a boy with an enormous sweet tooth I really had no choice but to fall in love with trick-or-treating. It was impossible for me to ignore the fact that I could accumulate more candy, roaming the streets of my small hometown on Beggars’ Night, than the amount Santa Claus could leave in my Christmas stocking every 25th day of December. My stocking could only hold so much, and many times an apple and an orange took up most of the important space I thought was strictly meant for candy. It didn’t matter how many sugary treats I acquired during Halloween because the goodies were always unwrapped and inhaled within a mere couple of weeks. My older sister was disciplined enough (unlike me) to ration her supply of candy in the same manner a stranded cowboy in the desert would conserve the water in his canteen; therefore, she had plenty of candy leftover well into the next year. To a sugar junkie such as myself that concept was completely foreign to me.

Dressing up for Halloween was always exciting, but dressing up at Christmastime usually meant putting on an itchy sweater and uncomfortable shoes to attend (or possibly star in) some sort of holiday pageant. Knowing beforehand what attire I’d actually be wearing on Beggars’ Night was nearly impossible. In general, my siblings and I each had a couple of costumes in mind, up until about an hour before we were to be unleashed into the dark of night, because we weren’t positive what type of weather we’d be facing until the final hour came. We never knew for sure whether we were going to have decent weather, rain, sleet, snow, or the bitter cold to contend with until the time for trick-or-treating had finally arrived. The famous line, “if you don’t like the weather, just give it a few minutes and it will change,” has never been more pertinent than during late Octobers in Iowa. Most Halloweens we were forced to wear our winter coats over our costumes, so I don’t know why we even bothered getting dressed up.

There were a few foreseeable things my siblings and I could expect every year as Beggars’ Night drew closer. The city would deem 6pm-8pm the official time for trick-or-treating, and my parents would be sticklers for honoring that guideline. We weren’t allowed to leave the confines of our home at 5:45pm, 5:55pm, or even 5:59pm, and it didn’t matter if the other neighborhood kids, dressed as ghosts and goblins, had already come to our house and received a teat from us. I’ve never been too keen on patience, so being all dolled up with no place to go (at least not yet) was just about enough to drive me insane. We couldn’t barrel out the front door until 6:00pm, so barrel out the front door at 6:00pm is what we did. There was so much candy to be had and so little time.

Another thing we could always count on was my mother going to the extreme when preparing Halloween goodie bags for all of the anticipated trick-or-treaters. She would begin her ritual, a day (or sometimes two) before Beggars’ Night, by baking dozens of cookies and popping several batches of popcorn. My mother would place one cookie in a sandwich bag and then she’d add a specific amount of popcorn to that bag with the help of a measuring cup. I would swear each bag was purposefully filled with precisely an equal number of popcorn kernels because my mother aimed for fairness. She apparently didn’t want to cheat anyone or possibly start any feuds amongst siblings who might be comparing their gifts with one another when they got home. My mother typically finished each goodie bag by adding a fun size candy bar, a roll of Smarties, a caramel square, and a sucker before ultimately cinching the sandwich bag with a piece of orange or black ribbon. I always hoped there would be plenty of her famous treat bags leftover and awaiting me at the end of the evening.

My favorite Halloween, while growing up in Iowa, was also my last year of trick-or-treating as a child. I knew well beforehand it was going to be my last year because I was in the sixth grade, and my parents were adamant that once a kid entered junior high then they were too old to be donning a costume and begging for candy. Again, they were sticklers, but this time it was about who should and who should not be trick-or-treating. The weather was perfect for my “last hurrah”: no heavy winter coat to weigh me down or clumsy snow boots to slow me down. I was no longer constrained by my parents to chaperone my younger brother and sister, although I still couldn’t leave the house until 6:00pm, and I had learned the previous year that using a pillowcase was the optimal way for collecting people’s offerings. The newfound method was much better than the old way of using either a cheap plastic bag or the traditional small orange pumpkin (with the stapled black handle that inevitably would come undone by night’s end), so I was all set to hit the streets one last time.

I treated my final experience as a trick-or-treater as though I was an aspiring Olympian. I sprinted from house to house, zigzagging back and forth across the street, while leaping over anything that got in my way including flowerbeds, hedges, and even a few fences. I was guilty of ignoring all trick-or-treating etiquette, and I blatantly disregarded the sidewalks altogether. The sturdy pillowcase got much heavier as the evening wore on, but I managed to somehow tough it out since I knew it was saving me from having to make time-consuming trips back home to unload. I surely mirrored Christopher Columbus as I explored many new territories on my quest for candy. Eventually I found myself over a mile away from home and realizing I had entered the Berg area (aka the rich part of town). I had heard the rumors that some Berg residents handed out full size candy bars on Beggars’ Night, and I was fortunate enough to find out it was true. I decided I should retreat from the rich neighborhood after receiving more than a couple of complaints, from potential donors, about the time now being well beyond 8:00pm.

I tossed the large pillowcase, filled with tasty donations, up and over my shoulder and headed home. I’m certain I resembled some sort of scary Santa Claus toting a bag full of toys, for all of the good girls and boys, but everything in my bag was all mine. My final year of trick-or-treating provided me with a stockpile of candy lasting longer than the usual couple of weeks…but not by much. I could hardly wait, as a sugar junkie needing a fix, for the real Santa to replenish my candy supply, and I was hoping this time the jolly old elf would forget about the apple and the orange when filling up my stocking.


A New Halloween

I thought I knew everything there was to know about Beggars’ Night until I moved away from Iowa and made Arizona my home. My first Halloween in the desert was quite a learning experience. It was approximately twenty minutes into the two hour time frame our city had allotted for trick-or-treating, but my wife and I had not yet given out a single treat. I could not help wondering why we weren’t being solicited by any ghosts or goblins (It’s the one time of year I don’t mind strangers knocking on my door). Our porch light was on, and only the screen door separated any trick-or-treaters roaming outside from the fun size candy bars awaiting them inside our welcoming home. For a split second I thought maybe we had the wrong evening, but I quickly dismissed that notion since both my wife and I are perfectly capable of deciphering a calendar.

I began contemplating that maybe the Scary Sounds Of Halloween cd, I had purchased for the special occasion, was too frightening for a little princess or super hero who might be traipsing through our neighborhood. A half an hour or more had now elapsed, and we definitely could hear some intermittent commotion going on outdoors. Every so often the obvious voice of a child could be heard passing by our house, but no one came to our door asking for a goodie. I finally decided to brave the unknown, on the other side of the screen door, in an attempt to solve the mystery. I did not need to enlist the help of Scooby Doo (and the gang) to crack the case wide open because once I got outside the overwhelming evidence was crystal clear although it was something I had never seen before.

All of our neighbors, who were participating in the annual event, were sitting in chairs at the end of their driveways and handing out holiday gifts to every passerby who was wearing a costume. I immediately cranked up the volume on my stereo system, so the “scary sounds” emitting from the tower speakers could easily be heard outdoors. I grabbed the large bowl of candy, brimming with Butterfinger and Snickers, a couple of lawn chairs, and I set up shop at the end of our driveway. I went back inside for a cold beer before easing into one of the comfy lawn chairs for the evening. For me, after discovering craft beer, Beggars’ Night isn’t complete until I’m sipping on a Four Peaks’ Pumpkin Porter.

Every Halloween, since being apprized of the proper trick-or-treating protocol, we’ve had well over 100 guests expecting a handout. We have now experienced seven Halloweens in Arizona, but my wife and I are still amazed at how many parents, accompanying their children, wear costumes while trekking through our neighborhood. Most of the chaperones donning costumes don’t ask for candy, so I suppose they simply enjoy “dressing up.” Some of them can be seen enjoying adult beverages as well. We continue to be a bit perplexed by the number of parents who have newborn children and are willing to push a stroller up and down the streets in hopes of receiving some free candy. Who is it for? The toothless “sleeping beauty” occupying the stroller? Sometimes the baby isn’t even wearing a costume. Regardless, I always oblige the new parents because I figure it’s only candy, and if they’re willing to beg for it then I’m willing to accommodate them.

The same goes for the high school and college age kids we inevitably have wandering our city’s streets on Beggars’ Night. Heck, I’d gladly join them (even at my age) if I thought I wouldn’t get hassled so much by those who think trick-or-treating is strictly for the little ones. It’s no secret to those who know me that I have a massive and most-likely abnormal sweet tooth. I easily can eat piece after piece of deliciously rich cheesecake or pecan pie, and I certainly am able to devour a half dozen or so assorted doughnuts in one sitting. Sometimes I think even sugar needs to be sweetened. Therefore, I probably should not be the one in my household in charge of buying the bags of fun size candy bars for Halloween…but I always am. In addition, I’m a bargain hunter, and I clip coupons (I’ve rarely paid more than $1.50 per bag), so there’s no question there’ll be plenty of Butterfinger and Snickers leftover after the last trick-or-treater has come and gone.

I possibly went a little overboard last year (even by my standards). I began buying bags in late September, when the sales first started, and before I knew it I had amassed a pretty significant amount of candy. We ended up with 23 bags of fun size candy bars. We used 8 of them on Beggars’ Night. I know what you’re probably thinking, but you would be wrong. I do not prematurely open the bags of candy and then have to go back to the store to buy more. I don’t know why exactly, but for some reason I’m disciplined when it comes to refraining from partaking of my stash before Halloween. Afterwards though is definitely a different story. You would think the remaining 15 bags would at least last until New Year’s, but again you would be wrong. The sad thing is my wife doesn’t care all that much for candy, so the person in our household with the sweet tooth is literally left holding the bags. However, you won’t hear me complaining. With me in charge of the Halloween candy supply, whether in Iowa or Arizona, there will never be a shortage of Snickers on my watch.


My Baby Boy

There he was. My “baby boy” disguised in a grown man’s body, just lying there in a bed much too small for his 6’3″ frame, and looking quite helpless with several tubes seemingly appearing from out of nowhere. Some were partially concealed underneath his hospital gown while the remaining tubes were resting in plain sight on top of my son’s newly acquired and fashionable attire, but they were all aimed directly at him like launched rockets with their sharp points successfully striking their intended target. My one and only child was still groggy from the anesthetic and had not yet spotted his mother and I, who were crammed into the small recovery room, nervously awaiting at the foot of his temporary bed. As a parent there is no worse feeling than seeing your child, no matter how old, in a vulnerable state. When raising a child, from the onset, it’s hard not to constantly worry about their health and overall safety. It doesn’t really matter whether your child is simply crying for a bottle as a newborn, receiving the unavoidable bumps and bruises as an active toddler, getting stitches under the chin because of a bicycle accident as a rambunctious adolescent, or taking some vicious hits out on the field during high school football games. The deep-seeded concern one has for their child does not diminish as time goes by. At least that has been my experience.

The first time my baby boy ended up in the hospital was when he was at the ripe old age of almost 3 months. We knew he was probably coming down with something, but at the time my wife and I weren’t too concerned. Besides, we hadn’t been out together as a couple for quite some time and had already made plans with another couple to attend a Halloween costume party at a local nightclub. We both felt fine leaving our son with his grandparents for the evening. As we were enjoying the autumn festivities an announcement was made, over the loud speakers, informing us that we had an urgent phone call waiting at the bar. My parents were worried about our son and insisted we come home. The fear and concern for my small child instantly ignited because if my folks, who had raised four children, were worried then surely there was something to worry about. When we arrived at my parent’s house we found our baby boy crying, and he appeared to have some difficulty breathing, so we rushed him to our town’s modest medical center. After a quick examination the Newton staff decided to send us west, about forty minutes away, to a larger hospital in Des Moines, Iowa.

My wife was dressed as a baseball player (chewing tobacco included), and I was wearing “hair metal” rock star apparel (make-up included) as we made the trek to the state’s capitol city, in the back of an ambulance, with our ailing son. We were slightly comforted in knowing one of the paramedics on board, so the trip didn’t seem as endless as one might imagine it to be in that sort of situation. The first thing the doctor on-call needed from me was written permission for him to perform a Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). I can’t remember if the spinal tap was designed specifically to assist him in finding a diagnosis or if it was just to be able to rule out some of the possibilities, but I do remember the doctor warning us of the potential, yet unlikely, complications that could occur from the procedure including paralysis. I most certainly remember the make-up streaming down my face as I reluctantly signed the consent form.

Thankfully my baby boy survived the Lumbar puncture, and it was determined he had contracted Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The Virus is commonly found in newborns and begins with cold-like symptoms, but it can lead to hospitalization if not caught in time as I can attest to. Although he needed to stay an additional evening in the Intensive Care Unit I was extremely grateful my son was going to be alright, and I also realized there were worse things in life than my child having to spend his very first “trick-or-treat” night in a hospital. The evening wasn’t a total bust since many family members came to see him in his cute little outfit. My wife and I, now cleaned up and wearing normal clothes, could not take our eyes off of our precious baby boy adorn in a colorful clown costume. Posing on his hands and knees, in the I.C.U. crib, our “happy little clown” rocked back and forth as wide smiles continuously formed behind his small Binky pacifier.

My son’s next hospital stay occurred several years later, but luckily on this occasion we had time to plan for it. He was around the age of seven and had been dealing with strep throat symptoms off an on for a few years, so the doctor suggested we have his tonsils and adenoids removed. We still had some concern for our child even though we had time to prepare ourselves for the operation. I admittedly was a little excited about him losing his adenoids because he could snore with the best of them (a trait no doubt inherited from his mother’s side), and we had been informed that removing them could possibly help to alleviate his loud, incessant snoring. It did not! At least the tonsillectomy was a success, but as our son awoke from his induced slumber he sat up faster than anything I had ever seen before, and the look on his face was of pure terror. I had to help the nurse restrain him, and I tried my best to comfort him, but even the traditional promise of, “all the ice cream you can eat,” could not ease the pain he was feeling.

As a parent your child’s past experiences with sickness, pain, and even hospital visits can seem somewhat trivial when their present health issue is staring you in the face. My now adult son wasn’t simply in the hospital due to a virus, or in for a routine tonsillectomy, but he was recovering from heart ablation surgery to correct his abnormal heartbeat (Atrial fibrillation) condition. The procedure involved placing those aforementioned numerous flexible tubes into several of his blood vessels and moving them towards, what my wife and I know to be, his sensitive and generous heart. The abnormal tissue presumed to be the culprit is then destroyed by zapping the areas with electrical heat. The doctor explained how the 3.5 hour ordeal was pretty much what he had expected it to be, and he was very encouraged by what he was able to accomplish during the procedure, but we won’t know for sure if the surgery was completely successful for a couple of months. This time it wasn’t Halloween, and there was no clown costume, but after my grown son finally realized we were there and flashed us a big smile, no longer partially hidden behind a Binky, my concern and then my sense of relief was no less than it was so many years ago when he was my baby boy.