I was probably fifteen or sixteen years old, too old for trick-or-treating for sure. But I was hangin’ on to my childhood in many ways. We had moved from our home on Old Clairton Road to the Pleasant Hills Apartments down on East Bruceton Road. Our lives had changed rather dramatically. Mom was working more than full time. Dad had disappeared. George was gone to college. Ann Marie was working at Giant Eagle Supermarket, and when she wasn’t in school or working, she was dutifully studying or keeping the apartment tidied up.
That was the year I was on a quest to earn money for my own pair of ski’s, so I posted my availability on the bulletin board in the Laundry Room of the apartment building. I took all sorts of odd jobs: I cooked dinner three times a week for the Soboslays up on the 3rd floor, cleaned for that lady on the 9th floor, and did laundry for two other older residents. I also sold Avon. Going door to door in an apartment building is pretty slick. Knock-Knock…"Avon Calling."
Libby had a steady gig tending kids. Lib was the queen of babysitting. We all babysat, and if Lib was already booked people would settle for me, but the real mistress of tending was my younger sister, Libby. Everyone loved her. Everyone still loves her!
One of her regulars was the Meyer family up on the second floor. Becky, the mom, was like a Young Women’s leader to Lib, though she wasn’t Mormon and wasn’t in Young Women’s. But she loved and nurtured and adored Libby.
That autumn, when school was in full swing and things settled into a semi-schedule; when the leaves that cushion the hillsides of southwestern PA turned crimson and gold, I got the bright idea that I wanted to give Trick or Treating one last Hurrah. I think I was mostly craving chocolate and didn’t want to spend any of my ski money on it. I decided we might just get away with trick or treating if we went completely incognito. So, after pondering, I decided we should go as a horse. A two man horse. Two girl horse, to be more accurate. Having no supplies for horse-making on hand, I concluded we could be a fine white stallion and use an old white sheet for the fabric. Really, I thought to myself, how hard can it be? I laid the sheet down in the hallway outside our apartment and free handed a drawing of a horse, sans legs. I sure wish I had a picture of it to show you. Obviously I was not a seamstress and had no idea how fabric does its job in covering our bodies. It wasn’t long before I found out that I had bit off more than I could chew. I cut it out, and started to sew by hand. Do you have any idea how big a horse body is? We ended up using two sheets. Without permission, I presume. I’d sewn about one hour and decided we needed someone who knew how to handle a sewing machine to help us. So we scooped up the fabric and a skein of yarn and headed up the stairwell to Becky Meyer’s apartment.
Becky cleaned off her kitchen counter and pulled out her machine. I don’t recall much more about the process of making the horse. I think Becky took pity and made what she could out of what we gave her. I think we played with the kids until it got real late and we had to go home.
After that, all I remember is that we ended up with a rather primitive looking horse on Halloween. We tried it on in Becky’s place, thanked her, and scurried down the stairs, waiting for the sun to make its way down in the western sky.
I’m not sure why I had this craving to go out one last time on Halloween night. Maybe it was that I missed having a house, where costumed children crunch across the leaves in the yard, gather on the front porch, ring the doorbell and shout Trick or Treat through their thin plastic masks, their breath all steamy behind the little mouth holes. Maybe I wanted to at least have a basket of Hershey’s bars to hand out. No one trick or treated in the apartments. Not enough kids.
I’m not sure what the reasoning was, but there we were on Halloween night, alone in our apartment, Lib and I, figuring out who was going to be the head and who had to …not be the head.
The apartment building sits pretty far from any houses. We gathered up our fabric horse and took off down the street past the Municipal Building and up toward the residential part of East Bruceton. In the dark shadows, away from any street lights, we poured that old white sheet of a stallion over our teenage bodies and tried walking. We started out with me in the lead. Poor Libby really didn’t want to do this anyway. She always has been a good sport to go along with my wild ideas. But her back was killing her so we traded places. The front wasn’t all that much better, since she had to lean over a bit still, her hands holding the base of the horse head. I bent myself to a 90 degree angle, my hands on Libby’s hips, my eyes looking straight down to the sidewalk, totally trusting Libby’s lead. The problem was that Libby really couldn’t see. So here’s the picture for you: two gals, too old to be trick or treating, trying not to be recognized, clomping along the street, our feet not catching the rhythm, our backs throbbing with pain, looking like a drunken horse going sideways up the sidewalk, the horse head swaying back and forth as Lib attempted to get any vision of where we were. We drifted into the grass, back onto the sidewalk, slipped off the curb onto the street. I, from my downward vantage point, had to yell at her to turn, we were missing the walkway to the first house. We finally made it to one doorstop, grabbed the edges of the fabric to make ourselves look legitimately equine, and then tried to figure out how we were going to ring the doorbell. I ducked out of the back, rang the bell, and scurried back under the horse tent. They gave us one candy bar.
We clopped back out to the street, up to the next house, went through the same process, clopped back out to the street and decided we needed a break. We sat on the curb, one headless horse and one sweaty headed horse’s *%&@;# ... exhausted on the side of the road, other younger trick or treaters scurrying past us with their little pumpkin buckets and pillow cases laden with the goods.
We unwrapped our two candy bars, chomped them down, and decided to go home.
I don’t think we ever wore that horse costume again. I’m not sure, I’ll have to ask Lib if she remembers.
That was my last day Trick of Treating, until I had kids of my own. Now THAT’s the way to trick or treat! Take really little kids! All you have to do is dip your hand into their cute little pumpkin buckets, give them a little snuggle and a kiss and tell them thanks for sharing.
Poor Lib suffers to this day with a bad back. I live with guilt….the awful guilt of awakening the pain that would haunt her the rest of her life on that chilly October night in Pleasant Hills PA. All for a measly piece of chocolate.