Every Autumn since I moved to Connecticut twelve years ago, I enjoy a Halloween ritual that is yet to grow old. The haunted hayride at Stew Leonard’s. Participants young and old, board a tractor amid bales of hay and are transported through an underground cavernous world of eerie ghoulish figures, though this year a tribute to Derek Jeter was added to the mix (no doubt by a Yankee fan who assisted in the design). In past years, I have always enjoyed this activity with my two sons, often bringing along one or two neighborhood friends as well. However, for two boys now thirteen and fifteen, sitting on a tractor with their mother at their side among mostly elementary school children and toddlers no longer evokes the thrill of yesteryear. In fact, I am sad to say that I had to bribe them each with the promise of an ice cream cone to partake in this morning’s ride. “If I see anyone from my class I will die!” said my oldest, a freshman in high school. I turned a deaf ear and boarded the tractor.
I have always loved Halloween. One year when I was no more than eight or nine, my best friend and I donned our costumes on a Saturday morning at 7AM so excited we could not wait till dusk and ran from house to house on Hill Top Drive. The sleepy occupants, the few who actually answered their doors, more often than not told us to come back later as they “had not even had the chance to buy their candy yet.”
My most traumatic Halloween occurred when I was a teenager and my friend threw an apple through a neighbor’s glass front door. On a dare, she had meant to land it atop the roof of the house but in the darkness had poor aim. And the name of the unfortunate homeowners? “The Macintosh’s.” I always recall the good-natured husband after being told of the unfortunate incident wryly remarking…”I hope it wasn’t one of our apples…”
Last year, in our current hometown a hurricane downed several wires and the town declared trick or treating unsafe. The Halloween that wasn’t. As retribution, the PTO organized a “trunk or treat” wherein parents parked in the school lot and kids went from car to car collecting their loot. Not exactly ideal but a success nonetheless.
Yes, I love Halloween. As far as the haunted hayride is concerned I fear as the years creep up and my sons can no longer be bribed with sweets, that I may be on my own. But for me it will always remain beloved. The cool darkness of that underground cave, spooky organ music playing in the background, the faint yet somehow reassuring rumble of the tractor and the chance to leave the uncertainty of the world behind, if only for fifteen minutes is just fine with me.