Halloween 2001 - Oh how times have changed
by James


I was talking to one of my patients last week.  She has three kids, ages four, seven and fourteen.  I asked her what they were going to be for Halloween.   She replied, I don't know yet, but they're all excited, because this is the first year I'm going to let them do Halloween."  She explained to me that they had lived in bad neighborhoods previously, so they only ventured out to church and mall events.  This year, they are living on the military base and feel "safe enough" to let the little ones go door to door this year.  I had another patient tell me she would take her kids to the church, where families would have candy in their cars in the church parking lot.  She too "felt safer" that way.  It made me think about what I had to worry about twenty something years ago as a kid in Hawaii.

The first Halloween I can remember, I was dressed as a purple panda.  I had one of those hard plastic masks that covered your whole face, which blinded you every time the eyeholes shifted.  The costume wasn't one of those comfortable cloth costumes like they have today; it was a thin plastic suit that made a ruffling sound every time you moved.  Since it was plastic, it made you sweat like crazy.  It's a miracle I didn't pass out from dehydration.

We went over to my cousins' house that year.  Nolan, who is five years older than me, had a Dracula's cape, I forget what his sister Nadine was wearing.  I remember how everyone was so excited, with my parents and aunt taking pictures.  I had my plastic pumpkin, already half full, from visiting my neighbor, Mr. Matsuura.   I also remember it being dark, with a lot of kids in spooky and weird costumes, running all over the place.  I thought about the boogey-man getting me.  I got scared, and announced, that I didn't want to go trick-or-treating.  I probably started to cry.

My cousin Nolan took me too the side.  He was nine at the time, and I know he was eager to go, and getting anxious because his little cousin was preventing him from getting candy.  Nolan put his arm on my shoulder and said, "You don't have to be afraid.  You're a bear and bears eat people.  If anyone comes to scare you, you just growl at them, and scare them away.  Bears are strong."  Well, maybe that's not exactly what he said, but I was four, so that's what I think he said.  Anyway, those words gave me the courage to go house to house and say trick-or-treat.  I no longer had to fear the boogey-man.

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A few years later, I remember my cousin Nadine inspecting a Pixi-stick before I ate it.  She told me that some kid died of cyanide-laced Halloween Candy.  For years we were told to go only to the homes of people we knew.  My parents sifted through the candy and threw out anything with an open wrapper.  As far as I know, no one has died from Halloween candy in Hawaii yet, at least I hope not.

I look at what children have to worry about these days as they don their Power Puff Girl and Pokemon costumes.  I know their parents will probably be spraying them with OFF - don't want to catch Dengue fever.  People would be well advised to avoid giving out any powdered candy - don't want to shut down the neighborhood with an Anthrax scare.  Parents will still tell them to go homes they know, and then throw out any open candy.  An e-mail hoax has some wondering if there will be a terrorist attack at a mall or not.  This week, the FBI put us on alert for a terrorist attack anywhere at anytime.  Wouldn't Halloween be great time to catch the U.S. off guard?  Kids today have a whole lot more to worry about.

On Halloween, I will be at the house I grew up in.  I will have my lights on bright and will have bags of candy ready to dispense.  The kids who have come to our house year after year will come in their costumes, with smiles on their face, and bags full of candy.  "Are you Nathan and Joseph's uncle," they'll ask - my nephews go to Kokohead School with them down the road.  I'll smile and complement their costumes.  "Trick-or-treat," they'll say with joy, and I'll respond with candy for them.  I hope they'll be thinking of the candy, and what they'll get at the Matsuura's house (always good stuff), and not about anything else.  I doubt they are thinking about the boogey-man, but I wish that he were all they had to worry about this Halloween.