My mother wasn’t great with holidays when my sister and I were children. That was my dad’s department. He’s the one who got the Christmas tree, cooked the Christmas dinner, boiled the eggs and supervised dying them for Easter, carved the Halloween pumpkin and took us out trick or treating.
Except on this one Milwaukee, Wisconsin afternoon in 1975.
My dad was out of town for his work, and we had just moved to a new neighborhood, a few blocks away from our old one. We had not met many of our neighbors yet. Also, the forecast called for heavy rain.
That year, trick or treating promised to be, in a word, tricky, in a city where dressing in costumes and going door to door for candy was already a bit more controlled than in most places, with specific hours, only in daylight, the Saturday or Sunday before Halloween.
That rainy afternoon, so dark it seemed more like actual Halloween night than the Milwaukee afternoon trick or treating hours on the Saturday before that, my mother had an amazing idea. If she were raising kids in the 2020’s, we would call it a “rainy Halloween hack”. It was a desperate move that turned out to be one of the greatest holiday memories of my mom that I have.
“Girls, get your Planet of the Apes masks and get in the car!” she shouted. “It’s raining so I’m going to drive us to where the rich people live!”
I was almost nine years old and my sister was seven. We already thought of ourselves as too old for full-body costumes, and settled for masks of characters from the famous movies and TV series about humanoid apes who rule their planet. The masks went well with our winter hooded parkas. In Milwaukee, it could get cold enough to snow the last week of October.
But this time, it rained, and my mom drove us to what she said was our city’s richest neighborhood. I haven’t lived in Milwaukee since 1977, so I won’t name the streets or the neighborhood, because everything might be different there now.
As we slowly drove along a street with the biggest houses I’d seen, my mother did what she always did in this neighborhood. She yelled out the window, “Richie guys! Richie guys!”
I’m glad we were young enough not to be embarrassed by this behavior. We giggled behind our masks. “You girls should get a lot of candy here,” said Mom.
“You mean like the big Hershey bars and Nestle Crunch bars? Not the miniatures?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised!”
We hopped out at the first house and bounded up the huge stone steps. “Trick or treat!” we shouted, holding our dripping wet empty plastic bags . We got our loot and ran back down to the car. The houses were so big and spaced out, we had to drive between each one.
I don’t remember much of the experience after that, except that most of these “rich people” who gave us lots of candy thought me and my sister were boys. Why couldn’t apes in parkas be girls?
It was over in about twenty minutes, I think, but we had as much candy as we would have gotten in our neighborhood after an hour! Mom then drove us home and that was that.
“Maybe next Halloween will be more normal,” I thought.
That was our last Halloween in Milwaukee. We moved to New Jersey the following summer and finally got to go out trick or treating after dark on October 31st. By this time, my sister and I were old enough to go without our parents.
We never trick or treated from a car again, but I’ll always remember that experience as a standout among my Halloween memories. My mom, when I’m sure she would rather have stayed home and watched TV with some coffee, stepped up and took us trick or treating in a rainstorm.
This story was originally published on Medium.com.
About the Creator
An older Gen X-er, my childhood was surrounded by theatre people. My adulthood has been surrounded by children, first my students, then my own, and now more students! You can also find me on Medium here: https://medium.com/@becklesjm