Trick or Treat
By Marlene Ratledge Buchanen
My husband Snell said that people did not dress in costumes and go Trick or Treating when he was growing up. What a terrible shame. My best friend and next door neighbor Dotti and I lived for Halloween. Our mothers, however, did not. Well, maybe a little.
There was a time when you could celebrate Halloween, Christmas and Easter and no was offended and everyone was much more accepting of people’s interests and diversity. We had Halloween Carnivals at the elementary schools and they were wonderful!! We grew up in a suburb of Atlanta named East Atlanta. It is now the in-place to move, I understand, but it was just home to us. The parents planned the various contests and everyone could play. You could win a Chinese Finger Torture Tube or a cake at the Cake Walk. It really didn’t matter if you won anything. It was innocent, delightful fun for everyone from little kids to adults. Everyone was in costume.
Dotti, lovingly known only to me as Pickle (another story/another day) was my sister in crime, blood sister by a knife and a barely noticeable scratch, and just plain by love. Her parents and my parents were friends long before there was a Dotti or a Patsy. (Yep, Patsy. That’s me in another life). When Dotti and I came along I don’t think Mama and Wynelle ever thought about Halloween duty. It became an annual thing—The Halloween Maneuvers.
Dotti and I would have planned out our costumes and they would be ready for us to dive into as soon as possible. We would have our collection bags ready. I think a couple of years we had plastic pumpkins, other years a paper bag we decorated or a pillow case. Mama and Wynelle would get home from work and fix dinner. I don’t really ever remember eating anything on Halloween afternoon. Daddy was a City of Atlanta School Detective and he always had to work on Halloween, so we ate early. This meant I was dressed and ready to go by 4:30 or 5:00. I had to get on my costume for Daddy to see before he left, of course. Dotti’s Daddy was assigned candy duty for all the other Halloweeners.
Dark was probably around 6:00 pm. The phone line between Dotti and me would be humming. We couldn’t wait. We would have on our costumes and be sitting on ready as soon as Wynelle and Mama said “let’s go.” Then, more than likely and against great protests, Dotti and I would be forced into coats that covered up our stunning costumes.
We would go back to Dotti’s house and empty all of our goodies onto the den floor. The chocolate was best. Next came Mrs. Vickery’s popcorn balls. Mr. and Mrs. Vickery usually dressed up and opened the door to scare the living daylights out of us. They did this year after year, but we were always surprised.
What I remember most about our neighborhood forays into the dark night of All Hallows Eve was seeing Mama and Wynelle standing in the various driveways talking and laughing. Dotti and I would make a haul of junk food, to be sure. It was our mothers’ sharing their time together that lingers with me.
Eventually the time came when Dotti and I didn’t Trick or Treat anymore. We were the ones handing out the goodies at our front door. I really am not sure how it came about but when Dotti and I stopped our Halloween trips, Mama and Wynelle continued those annual visits by phone.
After Wynelle died, Mama would say on every Halloween, “I wish I could call Wynelle.” Sometimes she would just look up at the sky and whisper “Wynelle, get your coat on. It’s Halloween.” The last Halloween before Mama died she talked a lot about those nights where the two of them would stand together and laugh and talk. Maybe she was preparing her memories for their time to catch up.
So in the tradition of those long ago Halloween nights, I will call Dotti and she will probably answer “Trick or Treat”. We will laugh and talk for a long time and remember our Mamas, our ghosts of Halloweens past.