After supper, from the safety of our large front porch, I watched candlelight flicker from grinning Jack O’Lanterns across the street. Paper skeletons dangled from the neighbor’s porch and kicked the artificial spider web stretched across the corners in occasional gusts of wind.
“Harrumph,” my father said when I asked for a pumpkin for our porch. “Wasting food that could make a good pie. Besides, we’ll need our candles the next time the power goes off.”
On Halloween, my sister-in-law, Genevee, showed up at dusk. I overheard Mama trying to convince Papa that my twin and I, both first graders, would be safe walking the neighborhood with Genevee and our teen sister Nadine.
Papa declared that Trick or Treating was begging. “If the girls don’t get a treat after they beg, then they lied because they know better than to play a bad trick on our neighbors.” With three women against him and our deep brown eyes pleading to go, he relented. With our chaperones, we trekked up the street in our regular clothes, no costumes, not even an eye mask for an attempt at a disguise.
“Two blocks was as far as we said we would go. We’d better go back after this house,” Nadine said. The porch light was on, the signal that Trick or Treaters were welcome, but the house was eerie in the pale light. I shivered and glanced back to be sure our guardians waited in the shadows.
“Trick or Treat!” my twin and I yelled in unison when the door opened. A stooped woman glared down at me, her gray hair in disarray above a worn sweater half buttoned, her wrinkled apron over a faded housedress above bare legs like nothing I’d ever seen.
“There’s been one bunch here already this evening,” she said. “This revolting begging has got to stop.” She reached behind her, shook something that sounded like paper, and offered four small squares of unwrapped saltine crackers.
I turned and ran down the porch steps, quite sure that I had escaped from the wicked witch who held Hansel and Gretel captive.