TODAY'S PAPER
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Scattered Clouds 41° Good Evening
OpinionOpEd

Days when Halloween was a big deal

Chris Giammatteo in his firefighter outfit at his

Chris Giammatteo in his firefighter outfit at his house in Levittown 10/31/1994. Photo Credit: Giammatteo Family Photo

The two women stared warily at the furtive-looking man, wondering why he lurked in the shadows of the road. It had just become dark and Halloween brought out the strangers in odd costumes along with the younger trick-or-treaters and their parents. The guy appeared to be someone to keep an eye on.

The furtive man was me. And the two women out there for trick-or-treating with their boys were actually people my wife and I knew because our children attended Sunrise Drive Elementary School together in Sayville.

What they didn't realize is that our two boys, Chris, then 10, and Scott, 5, were trick-or-treating at an adjacent home. It had a huge front yard, so I stood back near the road to give them space but keep them in view. In the spreading dusk, the ladies did not recognize me.

When we passed each other and I said hello, they looked sheepish and laughed. They apologized unnecessarily and said they thought I looked suspicious, out alone without any kids. We all had a good laugh, but it was a point well taken on Halloween. It can be a fun family day, but everybody should be vigilant to keep kids safe.

Halloween was a big deal at our house. The week before, we bought pumpkins to carve jack-o'-lanterns. I watched and took pictures. I am artistically challenged and had no desire to destroy pumpkins. We'd light them and put them on the front stoop.

When our boys were young, I usually left work early to go trick-or-treating with them and my wife. Chris wore a fireman's costume when he was about 3, equipped with plastic ax and yellow boots. He loved that costume so much he wore it year-round and the boots began to smell so rancid we forbade him from bringing them inside.

Sometimes, I manned the front door of our house. Chris put on spooky music. I loved seeing the little ones decked out as cops or superheroes. We usually gave out Twizzlers or Kit-Kats. My wife wanted to give out pretzels one year, but Chris and Scott said that would be lame. Sadly, in later years, many kids stopped saying trick-or-treat. Younger ones appeared too shy and older kids seemed to think it was uncool.

Some years, we would go trick-or-treating in my brother-in-law's neighborhood in West Sayville, then return to our area and for another hour.

Chris hit every house in the neighborhood until Dad, Mom and little brother were exhausted. Scott liked trick-or-treating but had limits. Once he felt he had enough candy, he was done. Scott would share his booty with Mom and Dad, but Chris only shared pretzels. He would keep the sweets for himself, though we helped ourselves when he wasn't looking.

I'm old-fashioned and always felt the day should belong to younger children. When I grew up, it was rare to see a teenager trick-or-treating. They were more likely to toss toilet paper around and have shaving cream fights. Today, older kids go around with pillowcases and get some treats, too. I have no problem with that, as long as everyone behaves. Everybody loves candy, and a little shaving cream never hurt anyone.

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