The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 28, 2013

Murray: Put a fork in Halloween, the kids have grown up

The Mankato Free Press

---- — For a minute, I thought I was still going to get one more year out of them.

The boy had been scouring the Internet for porkpie hats and hazmat suits, doing his best to cobble together a Walter White costume (the main character in the TV show “Breaking Bad.”)

But when we turned to the girl to see if she’d be up for one more year of trick or treating, it was all she could do to pull her face away from her iPhone to laugh a little and say, “I don’t know. I just feel like it’d be a little awkward. Plus none of my friends are going.”

Of course it’s awkward. It’s Halloween. What else could it possibly be if not awkward? And it’s true, none of her friends are going. She is, after all, 16. None of the boy’s friends are going, either. They’d ditched trick or treating a few years ago when the cool bug hit them, too.

So I’m left with memories of years gone by. And I have to say, Halloween is tough to beat for straight-up fun.

Last year, the two of them teamed up on a current events costume that had moms and dads in every house flashing a knowing grin to the parents: He was a ballot box, she was ballot (a full-on legal-looking ballot with every race any voter would be voting on that year, from president right on down to whatever that Soil and Water Conservation District thing means.)

Costumes have always been a creative endeavor in this house, and more often than not, they're homemade. Not homemade by me, of course. My wife gets all the credit for coming up with such doozies as the box of popcorn, the box of puppies, the crayon, the hippie, Pac Man and the little ghost that chases him, and others.

The real fun comes when we’d head out, though. When we used to live on Nicollet Avenue, my favorite part came on the 500 block. That’s where our friends the Morrisons lived, and while mom Cyndi was out with their daughters collecting candy, Scott would be on the porch handing out candy to the kids and, more importantly, beers to the dads.

At our current residence on Lakeview Avenue in lower North Mankato, we don’t get a lot of trick or treaters on our street. So we head over a few streets to Harrison, Tyler, Jefferson and Center, where hundreds of kids gather.

One house on Center turns their yard into a welcoming, yet slightly creepy experience, complete with bonfire by the garage and graveyard imagery on your path to getting there.

Another house on one of those streets — this one closer to Range street (McKinley, maybe? Or Jefferson?) has a similar feel. It goes full-tilt party on the front yard, with dry ice for fog, mechanical flying bats in the trees, creepy dudes and creepier chicks in costume, raging bonfire — total loony fun.

Over on Tyler, there’s a guy who comes up with something different every year. One year he created this scene where it looked like a guy had been cleaning out his gutters or hanging lights when something went horribly wrong, his corpse still dangling on the side of the house. It’s always fun to see what he comes up with next.

Several of those years, my friend Shandy and her son Noah accompanied us. It was particularly fun when Shandy, a dental assistant, dressed up in a costume with a bunch of tooth-extraction tools hooked to a belt around her waist, along with a shirt that read “Orifice Explorer.” (Tooth orifice, you guys, not, you know, what you were thinking.)

Then, of course, there was the year when I decided to wear a purple wizard’s robe (a younger, fatter, dumber Dumbledore, I guess,) and poor Tim Stevenson, father of one of the girl’s friends and occasional member of our trick or treat party, had the unfortunate task of being within five feet of the dork in the lavender satin robe.

The girl went as a Pac Man character one year — the chasing ghost, not the big yellow dot eater — and a woman shouted across the street, “Oh look, it’s an owl!” The boy insisted he get a store-bought, “real” costume one year and what did he choose? Leatherface from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” complete with a replica chainsaw that, by the end of the night, was sort of getting on the nerves of the other boy in his trick or treat party. When Emma went as Hermione from the Harry Potter series, it was a sweet moment when two teen-aged girls at a house on the corner of Center and Harrison recognized her — the first house who knew what her costume was — and talked to her for a few minutes about it.

Yeah, who needs good times and hanging out with fun people on a fall evening. OMG, how lame is it to walk around your neighborhood collecting FREE candy from people who see you and smile. Who needs the wonder of a custom rooted in spirits and evil but which now only manifests itself in giving, neighborliness and sugar?

Oh well. I guess it was fun while it lasted.