Thursday, October 31, 2002

Things that go bump in the night

I can't remember my costume from Halloween 1966, the year I was in kindergarten. I don't have any pictures either. But I do have a very clear memory of at least a part of that night. I think it might be one of the reasons - even the major reason - that I am not completely comfortable in a car.

A magical thing I remember, or at least I think I remember, is that we collected a lot of candy that Halloween. In my mind's eye I see paper bags brimming with candy. The kind of bags that supermarkets always gave, before the better stores started to parrot "plastic or paper?," crummy stores just shoved your groceries in plastic without bothering to ask, and the really eco-sensitive began to carry around re-usable canvas. A couple of years later, when we moved to West Shokan, we'd walk around, from house to house, on Halloween night. But when we lived in Boiceville, Route 28 made walking too dangerous, even in the 1960s. So we drove around, going to the more densely populated areas of our town. In Shokan, there were some developments, or what I thought were developments until I visited Bob's family in Long Island, years later. But for the Town of Olive, they are developments, built when IBM had a big presence in Kingston [see my essay Ghosts of the Past].

It was the end of the night, and we headed home; we were leaving Aunt Dot's house, going around a turn from Black Road to Bostock Road. My father was driving some sort of a Jeep. It had a button on each door that you pressed to open it, the kind of design that Ralph Nader might agitate against. That Jeep had bucket seats, and my brother was sitting on something like an upside down spackle pail in the middle. I was sitting on my mother's lap in the passenger's side. As I recall, there were no handles or armrests. The days before "paper or plastic?" were also a time when children did not have to be strapped in the backseat until they were old enough to drive, when seatbelts were optional, when bicycles and helmets were not found in the same sentence. (It's just my impression, but I think road rage may have been less common, though.)

We rounded the turn, pressed against the door, the button did its job, the door flew open, and my mother and I fell out. There was nothing to grab on the way out but my brother, and doing that would have made him tumble out, too. My biggest problem was being scared; it happened so fast, a moment of horror, and then I stood up and cried. Afterwards, I refused to sit on anyone's lap in the car. My mother took the brunt of the fall and was quite banged up from landing in the gravel stones, but considering other potential, very serious outcomes, she was very lucky. Last weekend, I was thinking, I guess our numbers just weren't up.

I think the big bags of candy were unharmed.

Fast forward to 2002, we made 80 packets of candy last night.

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