I lived next door to this church for 7 years. From 1961 to 1968. From kindergarten through 6th grade. It was the best home I ever had. My life actually seemed normal back then. A feeling that wouldn’t last.
Anyways, I’ve been thinking of memories of my father. There were 7 of us in the Backwords family. Mom, Dad, and 5 brats. So the family car was always a VW bus, because there were enough seats in it for the whole family to pile into when we went on family trips. And the bus used to be parked in front of our house. This one Halloween night, this older high school kid who was a bit of a local tough soaped up all the windows of the bus as a Halloween prank. Well, my father caught him in the act. He collared the kid and told him he better wash off the soap or he’d be in big trouble. My Dad brought out a bucket of water and some rags and watched over the kid until he had repaired all the damage. I remember looking out the window of our house and watching the action. And I felt proud of my father. Like he was standing tall, protecting the family from harm.
When I was a kid I LOVED Halloween. Dressing up in costumes and trick-or-treating. Me and my friends would spend hours hitting every house in town. And we’d come back with sacks full of candy so big we could barely carry it. Then the ritual of dumping all the loot out on my bed and organizing all the treats into piles (prime candy bars like Snickers, Chunkies and Mr. Goodbars in one pile; crap like apples and raisons in another).
So as I grew into adulthood, and grew too old to trick-or-treat, I mourned the loss of trick-or-treating in my life. Every Halloween it felt like something was missing. Like getting no presents for Christmas, or being sober on New Years Eve, or no fireworks on Fourth of July. I couldn’t even celebrate the holiday vicariously. Because I had no children of my own. And, as a street person, I mostly lived in the kind of neighborhoods where, if somebody knocked on your door at night wearing a mask, the first thing you did was make sure the chain lock on your front door was double-bolted, and then you looked around to make sure you had a weapon handy.
So I was thrilled, two years ago in 2013, when, for the first time in my adult life, I was actually living in a nice normal house, in a nice normal neighborhood, surround by nice normal families. And on Halloween my block was full of an army of little kids, trooping back and forth in their cool costumes, trick-or-treating.
So I bought a big bag of candy (Snickers, natch). Turned on every light in my house. And opened the shades on every window. To let everyone know I was open for business. And I waited there in my nice normal house with bated breath for the first trick-or-treaters to show up.
It wasn’t long before the doorbell rang. It was a mother with her little boy, maybe 5, dressed in a Spiderman costume. And her little girl, even younger, dressed as an angel. Just adorable. “TRICK OR TREAT!!”
I gave them some candy. And then I waited for the next trick-or-treaters to show up. But as I waited there in my nice normal house, I started to get more and more this weird feeling. This paranoid and vulnerable feeling. Bordering on panic. I realized: After all the years of living on the streets as a homeless street person . . . Where you go to great lengths to conceal your crash spots . . . And every intruder is considered as a potential threat . . . I just couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of strangers approaching my house. Even if they were just little kids dressed up as Spiderman and angels. My street instincts were just too engrained. This reflexive paranoia. Which was sad. I guess you can take a person out of the streets, but you can’t take the streets out of the person.
So I turned off all the lights in my nice normal house. Pulled down all the shades on the windows. And I hid here in the darkness for the rest of Halloween night. Until it was finally over.
But I always regretted that move. I blew my one and only chance to re-experience the joys of trick-or-treating.
Oh well. But at least there was one consolation. I got to eat the whole bag of Snickers candy bars by myself. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!
Last night was Halloween. What a trip. For the first time in my adult life I’m actually living in a normal house in a normal neighborhood surrounded by seemingly normal people. So I was thrilled with the idea, for the first time in my life, of having actual trick-or-treaters knocking on my door. So I bought several big bags of Snickers candybars to prepare for the big ocassion. I turned all the lights in my house on, and opened up all the shades to let everyone in the neighborhood know I was open for business.
Mostly for the last two months I’ve been holed up alone in my house, hiding from the world. Almost nobody in the neighborhood even knows I’m here. I spend most of my time shunted off in my bedroom in the back behind shaded windows, mostly just reading books by myself, getting drunk, and blabbing off to my Facebook friends every night. But tonight is my once-in-a-lifetime chance to actually experience a normal Halloween with kids in costumes and candy and all that.
Halloween was one of my favorite holidays as a kid, roving all over town for hours with my pals until we had so much candy in our sacks we could barely carry the things (no exaggeration). And one of my favorite memories is dumping all the loot all over my bed and organizing the candy in different groups. Chocolate bars there. Hard candy over there. Accursed apples over there. I even remember some of my costumes. One year my mom hand-sewed me a really cool Batman uniform. Another year I dressed up as a woman with a bleached blonde mop for hair (what can I say, I had issues). Another year I dressed up as a bum. Which turned out to be good training for my future.
So anyways, last night I’m all excited about Halloween and pacing back and forth in my livingroom. Finally around 6 o-clock I get a knock on my door. I open the door and its two young mothers with a young boy dressed like Spiderman and a little girl dressed like an angel. Just adorable! I gave them big hand fulls of Snickers. Then, after they left I turned all the lights out and pretended nobody was home for the rest of the evening. It freaked me out. I’m just not used to this normal stuff. I’m used to living in neighborhoods where if somebody knocks on your door at night you double-bolt the front door and look for a weapon.
I guess its gonna take me awhile to adjust to all this normal Mr Rogers Neighborhood kind of stuff. What the hell. At least I had a bunch of Snickers candybars left over for myself.