The Night Before Hanukkah

There’s nothing like the smell of hot apple cider on the stove, warmed up and waiting to go down smooth. The chill in the air contained to the outdoors, while frost coats the glass on the windows, straight from out of a Norman Rockwell painting. My fuzzy pajamas on all day long because there’s nothing … Continue reading The Night Before Hanukkah

Groundhog Day

You know the tradition. It’s Punxsutawney’s sole claim to fame. For just one day every February people from all over gather at Gobbler’s Knob to celebrate the town’s most prestigious citizen: Phil. The groundhog. Now, absolutely no one would know what a groundhog even looked like if it wasn’t for this time-honored tradition. Yes indeed, … Continue reading Groundhog Day


It’s that time of year again, and I know you’ve got a list. Maybe you’re checking it twice trying to figure out who gets large gifts, who gets small gifts, who just gets cards, and who gets nothing at all. I know you’re doing it because I am too, and it’s hard every single year … Continue reading Reciprocity

Tales of All Hallow’s Night

DSC_3154My first Halloween night in upstate New York was spent hiding from angry children.

The holiday was never one I really followed when I was growing up, coming as I did from an ultra-religious family where to speak of ghosts was tantamount to swearing. Indeed, even the classic cartoons giving homage to All Hallow’s Eve were banned from our home. The night itself was rife with little hoodlums scattering near and far in search of candy (the treats), or ways to deface houses and property (the tricks).

In our house we were always in well before nightfall, and the night was treated like just another night, with family games, wholesome television shows, and an early bedtime. The next day was always interesting, though, because some of the kids at school would have plastic baggies chock full of candy, and they would taunt those of us who had nothing. It made me a bit jealous to see them lord it up over us but my mother always told me all candy did was rot the teeth, and did I want rotten teeth? I most decidedly did not.

As the years went by the jealousy passed into the ether for the most part, but on occasion I would still see those kids wandering from door to door and wish I were them. But my mother was unrelenting so I stopped asking and decided it was my lot in life. Eventually, though, when 11th grade rolled around I guess Joy and I were old enough to make our own decision. Of course the irony of it all was that by then the novelty of the experience had mostly worn off for other adolescents. Teenagers were buying their own candy, or just trashing yards and egging houses instead of lugging baskets from door to door.

children-trick-or-treatingBut we decided to go for it anyway — me, Joy, and our friend Karen — rather spontaneous that year. You see, we were supposed to be heading to the church basketball game at our old elementary school. Rather than going straight there, though, we had our other friend drop us off 10 blocks away, and we followed the kids around Mt. Airy begging for candy. First, though, we had to make ourselves legit, and we all happened to be wearing ballcaps, so we called ourselves the Hat Squad. Then, at the first house we “hit,” the nice lady gave us all plastic shopping bags. And we were in business.

That remains the only time I ever went trick-or-treating in my life, at least for myself, and the memories of it were totally worth the wait, and the subsequent absence of it. Perhaps that’s all I needed, to know how it looked from the other side, just that once, and it was enough. Besides, going as an 11th grader was kind of hip in a weird way, but going as a 12th grader would have just been creepy. All I know is that the candy we got that filled up our plastic bags tasted better than any other candy I’d had before or that I’ve had since. Continue reading “Tales of All Hallow’s Night”