Friday, October 31, 2014

TRICK or Treat.


I have to admit, I've never been a big "dress up" person, and Halloween's Fear Factor is more than I can usually bear.  (Read that as Fantasy Island gave me nightmares, so why would I EVER watch a slasher movie?)  I do enjoy the magical hours of 6 - 8 pm, however, on Ole Hallow's Eve.... 

Tonight I ran to the CVS, a full 90 minutes before Trick or Treat was scheduled to begin.  This has been my M.O. for years -- it keeps me from tasting "just one" peanut butter cup 36 times, and finally handing out nickels and dimes to the trick or treaters.  The line was insane -- and the shelves were nearly bare.  I grabbed the deluxe assortment of Skittles, Starbursts, Snickers and M and Ms -- the last bag that wasn't crap candy (like Maryjanes!  Who the HECK eats them?) -- and headed for home, after NOT paying $1.88 per bag, which was my anticipated sale price.  Oh well.  I guess telling half of my friends that I always wait to the last minute, go to the CVS, and score big was not a secret I should have shared.

As if on schedule, the first costume-clad brigade arrived at my door shortly after six.  Scoobydoo, Superwoman, and a cute little cowboy.  When I invited them to take 3 things each, you would have thought I'd handed them gold.  

Being on the giving end of the candy is the best part of this holiday.

Sometimes The Trick is Better Than the Treat....


A treasured possession handmade by Alex Pierce...
Picture me, sitting in a rocker, telling you about the old days.  Often when I tell stories like this, I start by saying, "You might think I'm older than dirt, but..." which my students know signals a "remember when" story from the yesteryear.

When I was a kid, Trick or Treat was an actual option.  I remember going to our neighbor's house, and Mr. Sherry would always say - "TRICK!"  "Go ahead and TRICK me!"  We'd look confused, shuffle our feet a bit, and he'd eventually laugh and give us each a FULL SIZED candy bar.  The year that I turned eight, and Halloween was closing in, I asked my father about this weird "TRICK" demand that came from Mr. Sherry each year. 

It was like my father had been waiting for this question for years. 

"Well, you get to play a trick on Mr. Sherry.  If you can really surprise him, he'll reward you. Let's get to work."

Down we went to the workbench, lined with dozens of babyfood jars filled with nuts and bolts and assorted screws and washers. My father helped me choose a few nuts of different sizes and weights, and then we hiked up three flights of steps to my mother's sewing room to survey her spools of thread.  This was the first time I'd ever seen my father messing with the sewing stuff.

"It has to be black, and STURDY", he told my mother.  She looked confused, but found some buttonhole twist that fit the bill.  We grabbed some clear scotch tape from the kitchen drawer and headed out to sit in the flowerbed in the front of the house -- after it got dark, to practice.

Mr. Sherry's house was identical to ours in layout -- a split level with a basement that had some visible windows in the front of the "Recreation Room" next to the garage.  The flowerbed was directly in front of those windows.  My father expertly instructed me in the fine art of the TRICK.  Tie a knot around a nut (say that three times fast...) and extend approximately 6 inches of thread.  Tie another BIG knot at the top and cut it free.    Tie the end of the spool of thread to the nut and roll the spool up against the nut to keep it from tangling.

Tape the BIG knot to the window, carefully keeping the nut from hitting the window. 

"It's best to put it along the side of the window behind the curtains,"  my father said. 

And then we unrolled the spool hiding several feet away behind a bush.  A gentle pull and release provided the perfect tap tap tap on the window to drive even the sanest neighbor a bit batty.

This was genius.  Pure genius.  I ran inside the house while my father demonstrated our physics project.  I'd hear the tapping, giggle uncontrollably like the maniacal child my father was creating here, and run back outside, as if I couldn't believe the cause/effect relationship we had created.

We disassembled the contraption and hid it on the workbench for the next night - OCTOBER 30th.

MISCHIEF NIGHT

For some reason, the folks in Lancaster County, where I live now, have no clue about Mischief Night, but outside Philadelphia where I grew up, it was almost as big a deal as Halloween itself.  I suppose it's been downplayed significantly over the years as the mischief went from pranks like ours to truly destructive mischief, but for that night in 1969 it was all in good fun.

I actually think that my father may have clued in Mr. Sherry to not truly alarm him -- they were good friends with one of those relationships that allowed Mr. Sherry to serve as surrogate parent in the neighborhood to my dad with life questions, and my father to play Mr. Fixit to Mr. Sherry's woes around the house.  

We taped.  We crouched, we tapped.  We stopped.  We tapped some more.  We saw the curtains open and close a few times and contained our giggles.  The porchlight went on, but we were in the shadows.  We tapped some more.

The next night when we shouted "Trick or Treat" and Mr. Sherry asked for a TRICK, we fessed up.  He laughed his deep belly laugh that was sort of like a "bowl full of jelly" kind of laugh, And came home with TWO full-sized candybars for our efforts.

The whole escapade probably lasted less than ten minutes, including taping and tapping, and un-taping, but it's stayed with me as a memory that arises every year at this time.

It's amazing how powerful Project Based Learning and a good Mentor can be on learning retention.