Back in the day, there were two holidays on the calendar you drew a red circle around if you were a kid. One was Christmas, for obvious reasons. The other was Halloween. It was the day of sugar highs to end all sugar highs, when nobody said you couldn’t have another candy bar or cupcake, and you ate all the treats you could swallow, even if – far back in your mind – there was the memory of the all-night bellyache you had the previous year. Nobody with any self-respect would buy a costume. That was only for the little kids, who were too young to realize their parents were dressing them up as adorable kittens and fat pumpkins. Older kids – third through sixth grades were the prime trick-or-treating years – took delight in creating our own outfits from stuff we found around home – or, if our mother was handy, something she could run up quickly on the sewing machine using some dish towels, an old sheet or a discarded suit from Grandpa. My twin younger brothers always dressed alike – usually as hoboes (big pants, big hats, cork-blackened faces) or ghosts (old pillowcases with two eyeholes cut in them). One year, though, they took first prize at their elementary school dressed in a single giant jacket, buttoned tightly around both of them. They carried a sign: “The Two-Headed Man.” My favorite Halloween was the one I dressed as a gypsy, or what my mom and I thought gypsies looked like, from what we had seen in the movies. I wore a voluminous purple skirt of my mother’s, with some kind of peasant blouse, a scarf tied around my hair and my mother’s big gold earrings. With a slash of bright red lipstick, I was ready. My second favorite – the year “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was released – was as a Jane Russell look-alike. I really wanted to go as Marilyn Monroe, but my best friend was the blonde so she got to go as Marilyn. I was a far-distant second, with my brown hair piled up on one side of my head, lipstick laid on heavy, my training bra stuffed with my father’s white socks to make me look as sexy as a mousy, plump preteen could look. That year, as I recall, the two of us ventured far out of our neighborhood. We got lost and it grew later and later, and we started to panic as people turned off their porch lights. Finally, we spotted my dad’s truck; he had come to rescue us. After that, trick-or-treating became a group effort: The littler kids would go with the bigger, older kids, and they would look out for us. Torture us is what they actually did, with tickle fights and ghost stories that made us want to run home to our mothers. And they taught us to soap windows and TP houses and bushes, and blamed it on us little kids when they were caught. But the one thing we would hang on for was a visit to a house a couple of blocks away where a grandmotherly woman – gray hair in a bun, sturdy shoes, apron covering her housedress – would lay out a spread the likes of which today’s kids can only imagine. She’d invite us into her living room, where she had pushed the dining room table up against the wall, covered it with an orange tablecloth and added big black spiders and cobwebs. On the table were fresh-made doughnuts, hot from the frying pan and sticky with sugar and cinnamon, along with hot apple cider, apple turnovers and platters of homemade fudge. Today, nobody would go to the trouble of setting out such a spread. And if they did, nobody would allow their children to go inside. But there was no fear then, when you could trust your neighbors – even the ones you didn’t know well – and Halloween was strictly for fun. [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.And on top of that, you got to dress up like your favorite superhero or fairy princess or movie cowboy or whatever your fantasy was. And – the greatest thing of all – you got to go out by yourself after dark, an occurrence reserved the rest of the year only for adults. There were no worries then about razor blades in apples, no talk of having Halloween candy X-rayed at the local hospital, no fear of some pervert grabbing a little kid off the street. It was sheer fun, just for kids. The adults stayed in the background, remembering their own Halloweens, and some, perhaps, even playing their own pranks. My father, for instance, refused to hand out candy unless the greedy trick-or-treater danced for him first. The fun started early in the day. Kids all wore their costumes to school, where we’d have a costume parade so everyone could get a good look at their handiwork – or, more likely, their mother’s handiwork – generally late-night magic worked with a couple of burned corks, a pillowcase, a length of rope and maybe a little lipstick or your dad’s fishing hat.