AT RANDOM: It’s a treat of a night

As a child of the ‘60s, I somehow managed to survive to adulthood while riding in a car without seatbelts...

As a child of the ‘60s, I somehow managed to survive to adulthood while riding in a car without seatbelts, walking to school without a parent while only in Grade 1, and learning to skate and ski without the protection of a helmet.

A couple of years ago, there was an e-mail circulating that detailed all of the joys of growing up in a certain era, and the fact that we all survived without the protective devices that exist today.

As the parent of a young child, I wouldn’t dream of letting her ride in the car without a booster seat secured by a seat belt, cycling without a helmet or walking to school by herself.

It’s probably no more dangerous now than it used to be, so either we’re more aware of the dangers or just downright paranoid. Perhaps a combination of the two.

And like most people of my generation, I bemoan the excess of electronics to which our children have access, while still making daily use of many of the delights of modern technology myself.

A friend and I were talking the other day. Wise and the mother of three grown children and three grandchildren, she is someone whose advice I value and whose friendship I treasure. She was concerned about the rushing around I’m constantly subjecting myself to, and when was I going to learn to say no.

A good deal of the rushing around involves getting my daughter to dance class and driving her to and from play dates.

And yes, the word play date is very much a 21st century phenomenon, as those of us born of a certain time did not have play dates. We picked up the phone and asked our friends to play or, more likely, simply walked to a friend’s house, knocked on the door and the playing began several minutes later. And if your friend was not available, his or her mother told you so and off you went to go and play with someone else.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying I feel very nostalgic for my childhood and while I love much of what we take for granted today, I miss the simple, unplugged pleasures, the things so many children don’t get the chance to enjoy.

But on Wednesday night, all of us had the chance to experience that simple, unplugged pleasure that is Halloween.

In the grand scheme of things, going door to door and collecting candy is not a particularly noble endeavour. But walking through my neighbourhood last night with a friend, her two kids and my daughter, it was as though we had gone back in time 40 years. Kids squealing with delight, actually walking, not being driven, racing from one house to the next, as adults answering the doors exclaimed over their costumes, and the kids rushing from the porch with shouts of, “Thank you,” and “happy Halloween!”

The lousy weather stayed away and it was a beautiful fall evening, as grown-ups chatted at the ends of driveways while our kids raced to front doors. There was a sense of camaraderie amongst all of the parents, a feeling of getting to know your neighbours, a feeling of times gone by.

Like most kids, I loved Halloween, as much for the candy as for the chance to run around at night — on a school night, no less — and hang out with my friends.

And so it was on Wednesday night. That same feeling of joy in staying out late on a school night, laughing and chatting and yes, collecting a kilo or two of candy and chips, and the fun of ringing the bell on a particularly spooky looking house, all decked out for Halloween, with the door answered by a real “witch,” a homeowner getting into the spirit of the night.

And then of course, the sheer joy of getting home, racing into the living room and dumping the loot out onto the floor.

And for chocoholics like me, of course, it’s the sheer joy of carefully swiping a few mini chocolate bars while the tired kid is sound asleep.

How wonderful it would be to be able to take that old-fashioned, neighbourly feeling and extend it throughout the year. Hard to believe a night dedicated to ghosts, goblins and witches would be so filled with good cheer.

I guess it’s time to throw the pumpkins in the compost and dig out the Christmas decorations.

—Katherine Mortimer is the lifestyles editor for The Morning Star