When I was 12 I wore my most ambitious Halloween costume, and it took no great skill to create. It was the October 31 of 7th grade, and my friend Gwennie Cebulski and I went as a pair of dice. Lucky seven. We made our outfits out of cardboard boxes worn like 3-D sandwich boards. We covered them with old sheets and used Sharpies (then called Magic Markers, but just as indelible) to create the dots. One of us bore three on front and the other showed four.

We trick-or-treated (tricked-or-treated?) in her neighborhood, near our junior high. That was also where Steve M lived, hyperactive tormentor/buddy of mine (Detention – August 5). So I guess I wasn’t all that surprised when he shot at us with his BB gun, from his bedroom window. A pellet got me on the outer right thigh, below the cumbersome costume. It made a bruise.

It was okay for me to be out trick-or-treating with Gwennie. In fact I’d been doing it on my own for at least three years, counting from the first Halloween in Chula Vista.

That was the thing about old Halloween. It wasn’t really about acquiring candy. It was the one night a year when we kids got to cruise the streets without adult supervision. There were so many of us that we were all safe. The biggest threat we had to contend with was the fat red-haired kid a block away, the one who climbed up on his own roof and waited to lob raw eggs at us. We figured out how to mostly avoid him, just fine.

So don’t give me stories about razor blades in apples and arsenic in Snickers (don’t give me Snickers anyway). And don’t let me catch you dropping your kids off at a mall. If they’re all under age 8 you have a duty to escort them from a distance, ready to step in if they need guidance about costumes or courtesy or curbs. But as soon as they are old enough to ride a bicycle, gather them together with other kids and permit them, for that night, to rule the streets.

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