A Halloween revelation, and evolution

by Tom Coombe. Echo Editor
I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t a normal kid.
Those who grew up with me or watched me grow up probably have their own stories, but a few things pop immediately to mind:
• In perhaps a signal of things to come, as a five-year-old I walked down from my grandparents’ house and watched, unattended, as Ely hosted its first State Legion baseball tournament in 1975;
• Just a year later as a first grader I remember staying up late to watch Chris Chambliss hit a walk-off home run to win the American League pennant and send the New York Yankees to the World Series;
• That same year there was another late night as my mom let me watch as the returns came in to decide a close presidential race between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Want even more proof? I absolutely, positively, without question hated Halloween.
I was a fan of Christmas, Thanksgiving and really any special occasion that led to a long weekend away from school, but I was clearly the anti-kid when it came to Halloween.
I remember trick-or-treating three times, once at age three and tearing off the costume my mom made me wear, and a couple of later trick-or-treating ventures - sans costume - in third and seventh grade.
When other kids came to school dressed up like Star Wars characters, cops or even “The Bandit” from Burt Reynolds’ famous movie, I didn’t play along. I recall one time a classmate asking if I was “dressing up as a regular kid” for Halloween and now that I think about it, I’m sure there was a Halloween or two where I played hooky and stayed home for the day rather than take part or dress up.
The aversion to Halloween continued well into my adult years. I scoffed at those who showed up in costume at work on Oct. 31 and generally avoided going out to restaurants or bars on Halloween.
Go to a costume party? Not a chance.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks and leopards don’t change their spots, but there was at least some softening as life evolved and parenting beckoned.
Our boys are more normal and they loved Halloween and trick-or-treating.
The costumes ranged through the years and the boys dressed up as baseball and football players, monsters and in a nod to my youth - even Darth Vader.
Looking through the photos earlier in the week brought a powerful moment as I spotted 10-year-old Jacob dresssed as a U.S. Army soldier.
That, as Hollee would say, “got me in the feels,” as it was only a couple weeks ago that we looked on at Fort Benning, Georgia, as the boy who dressed up as a soldier is now just that in real life - and has graduated from Basic Training.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve enjoyed watching the kids embrace Halloween in a way I wouldn’t or couldn’t.
Macy, now age eight, has followed along in her big brothers’ footsteps, dressing as a witch or a princess and getting a kick out of going from house to house and filling her Halloween bag.
This year was no exception. Our third-grader loves to read and is curious, brave and adventurous.
She’s already planning trips to New York and Paris and at times dreams of being an astronaut.
Like clockwork, on Halloween afternoon the costume she ordered arrived just in time - and Macy took to the streets and sidewalks as Sally Ride. Who’s she? “The first American woman in space, dad,“ Macy told me, with more than a bit of exasperation.
One couldn’t have asked for a better Halloween night in Ely, at least when it comes to weather. There have been years where the trick-or-treaters have dealt with freezing cold, a damp chill and even snow, but Mother Nature was having none of that in 2022. Temps reached the 60s during the day and I felt comfortable in a short sleeved shirt on the final night of October.
We started at Whiteside Park and the Trunk-or-Treat event. Whoever thought of that is a genius, as dozens of kids went from vehicle to vehicle, stuffing their bags with treats.
Now 16, Robert was there not as a trick-or-treater but as part of Ely’s football team, giving back to local youth by putting on games and providing goodies for the young ones. Of course we got a photo. And the smiles, both on Robert’s and Macy’s faces, were priceless.
There aren’t as many kids in Ely as there used to be and our population isn’t what it once was but there’s no shortage of Halloween spirit in town. At Macy’s request, we took her around to all of her favorite stops and some new ones as well. House-to-house on a few well-lit blocks, the fire hall, Carefree and Grahek Apartments, and the homes of neighbors and friends. We were by no means alone and Halloween participation was high in Ely.
Fresh from heart surgery, Macy’s grandma Peg was along for the ride and we all got a boost from Macy’s unbridled enthusiasm. She explained who she was to a few treat-givers and even opened up and said “Trick or Treat” a time or two.
As darkness set in, it was time to venture back to White Street and for Macy to survey her haul.
It was impressive, massive and probably won’t help reverse the demand for dentists in town.
Even Hollee got a chuckle the following night when I snuck a piece of Halloween candy from Macy’s bag.
There can now be now doubt:
I don’t detest Halloween anymore.
In fact, as a parent I actually enjoy it and can’t wait to take Macy out and about again in 2023.
Maybe I’ll even wear a costume.
On second thought.... probably not. That’s still a bridge too far.