Friday, October 30, 2009

Beggars' Night

In Des Moines, Iowa, where I was born and spent the first nine years of my life, kids went trick 'r' treating on October 30th, called "Beggars' Night." We put on our costumes, went out, yelled "Trick'r'Treat!" and sometimes we really would have to "Trick" with a joke or a fun fact in order to get the treat.

Tonight my nostrils fill with the smell of wet leaves, my feet balk at the arduous journey through freezing wind. My hands grasp flimsy plastic handles on cheap jack o'lantern candy baskets, occasionally running fingers over the ragged plastic protruding from lazy joins. I can feel a cut lip that healed over twenty years ago and a stiff cowboy hat that made my scalp sweat despite the cold. I can see dozens of colorful wrappers surrounding a multitude of candies. Some kinds would go too fast and others would linger for months; I knew exactly which was which and so did my father.

Today I live in Arizona, and even though the October winds are blowing cold, they won't bite as bitterly. The air smells of dust and I won't be going out asking for candy. I didn't think to wear anything for the office costume contest. I celebrate Beggars' Night and Halloween by watching horror movies, the kind that the trick 'r' treater from long ago would have run from in terror. My traditions have changed. I am not the same.

Yet every October 30th, some part of me becomes that little boy again, with the sweaty cowboy hat and the plastic pumpkin filled with candy. And I am happy.