One of the first oddities I noticed about living in this town was the fascination with Halloween. Many folk here decorate for Halloween in much grander style than they do for Christmas. They even have the largest nighttime parade in the state of Pennsylvania, often taking over three hours to traverse a mile or so of city street, filled with local participants, princesses, bands, fire companies, floats and much more. All throwing candy to the kids, more than they even get at trick-or-treat.
Over all the years I’ve had children, we attended the parade to see D’s Miramar float (actually drove the truck for it one year), M’s high school show corps and majorette groups, B with the wrestling cheerleaders atop a fire truck, S with marching band, my ex with his volunteer fire group, the Cabana Boy with his vintage toy shop entry, then I was even in a couple years, on various floats.
So over our nearly 20 years here, some family member has been in the parade probably 14 of them. As you can imagine, because of the parade’s late date, the weather is always a tossup. Maybe three times in those years, it’s been warm. Half the time it’s been tolerable to sit on the street and watch, as long as you have a big thermos of hot cocoa or coffee. The rest it’s cold, windy and rainy and…well, late October weather.
We have developed an alternative tradition at our house for those times when we really don’t feel like sitting in the cold and wet. Because the parade is broadcast on the local cable, we go to the store and buy bags of candy and eat it while we watch in warmth and comfort. Not quite the same experience, but you don’t have to walk three blocks to the Burger King and wait for the only public bathroom for six blocks with half the other parents and their kids.
This year, we chose several parade standards to signify the time to throw candy at each other. I thought these would be fairly common, so they were safe: fire truck, marching band, and Democratic signs (added because the local political candidates and parties always figure in big–it’s two weeks before the election, y’all!).
I added a provision that if they saw Republican signs, they could steal a candy from someone else. (Okay, maybe over the line, but I got a jolly from it.)
As the first fire truck went by, the Cabana Boy and I, seated on the couch, toasty warm, tossed handfuls of candy to get everyone started. Little Miss only got a few, but she quietly ate hers, leaving a trail of papers on the floor. The Captain got into the throwing, but for some reason he thought his Milky Ways were bullets and he nearly put some eyes out. Ditto Boy gleefully raked in handfuls of the treats and gloated over his large piles.
For some reason, there were a lot of gaps in the parade as it moved along the street, during which the announcers rambled about nothing, the children’s attention span wandered, and the candy slowly dwindled. We never got to either political party, but the ZemZem guys were cool. Finally we bargained out of parade-watching altogether with an offer to toss all the rest of the candy in a grand finale and switch to Ghostbusters II.
So the children were perhaps cheated out of the live experience; instead we had an evening at home together bolstered by two bags of peanut butter cups. Not as scary as a haunted house, perhaps, but a fine old tradition.
With any luck, it will rain again next year too.