“YOU can’t be too careful,” you say, shaking your head. Well, I believe you can. And Hallowe’en is the time when the genuine goblins and gremlins of carefulness are let out of their cages to hobble and caution everybody else.
What ever happened to the carefree days of our youth when, like Huck Finn and Pippi Longstocking, we did all sorts of idiotic things and never got busted for them? Remember when children fell off the monkey bars and hurt themselves but monkey bars weren’t instantly wrenched down and banned, with monkeys themselves punished for seducing young minds?
You saw more scabby knees back then, and maybe a few more stitches. There were even (gasp) freckle-faced kids in those halcyon decades before zealots began slathering sunscreen over every tender young pore.
You could also ride your bicycle without wearing a hideous helmet. You felt free and footloose on that bike, not like some kind of tortured, bulging-brained alien desperate to save money on bus fare.
Ah, things were better then. (No matter when you’re talking about, weren’t they always?)
Now Hallowe’en 2008 is shaping up to be even less fun than ever before. This past week, one of the U.S. P.R. firms that mysteriously put me on their radar sent a helpful news release announcing a fresh essential for our children to tote along in their plastic jack-o-lanterns on Friday.
You can rest assured, it’s not cigarettes. Nope -- it’s a cell phone. “Experts” apparently recommend that trick-or-treaters carry mobiles this year (and, presumably, all years from now on) as an “inexpensive way for parents to have peace of mind.”
I actually recall an old-fashioned way for parents to have peace of mind concerning their little Hallowe’eners: They’d go out with the kids themselves, and nick all the suspicious-looking apples.
As it turns out, though, “injuries and pedestrian accidents” are a much bigger risk than tainted treats, according to the news release.
I hear your cry, fellow mums and dads. “Wait a second -- then all that noise about evil-doers slipping tiny razor blades into boxed raisins and pouring cement into their homemade Rice Krispie squares was bogus?”
Not if you listen to Canada Safety online, which still states firmly, “All candy should be inspected by an adult to make sure that no one has tampered with it. If it looks suspicious, the police should be contacted.” To which I can only say, “Dudes! Why not call in the bomb squad while you’re at it? That apple look like it gwine ex-plode!”
But back to the American-cell-phones-for-All-Hallows-Eve advocates. “Make sure your child takes a cell phone … and knows how to use it – in case he or she is separated from a group or suffers an injury while trick-or-treating,” says the release. Honestly, I’m not sure how hard it is for a supervising parent to keep track of three small children dressed as monsters who are trailing systematically up a street, knocking on every doorbell in sequence, and waiting patiently for handouts, but I suppose some might find it a challenge.
Apparently 36 million tykes will take to the streets in the U.S. this year, and the professional worrywarts at the educational and advocacy group COMCARE Emergency Response Alliance imagine they’ll hit the same cul-de-sac simultaneously. In addition to the advice regarding cell phones, the release provides eight tips to ensure no pint-sized Madonna or metre-high Freddy Krueger is momentarily without hyperactive hand-holding by Mum and Dad.
I guess a good parent would commit the aforementioned Hallowe’en safety strategies to memory, but I’ve got a soap opera to watch. Y & R’s Victor Newman is due for a good bash on the head and a subsequent return to his senses some time soon…. Oh! Show’s over. I’m back now. Right -- I was trying to get a handle on this Hallowe’en thing. Gosh, it sure is slippery. How will I keep my child from spontaneously combusting, or floating up into space without a real oxygen supply, or whatever?
Maybe I should consult a different source than those cited above. Ah! Here’s something useful. “Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible,” the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention solemnly advises -- bad news for the Sesame Street Machete Shop and Handgun Emporium. And after the owner set up that terrific animatronic window display, too.
Wait a second. What’s this they say? Instead of going trick-or-treating, I could host a party for my glass kids and their equally fragile buddies? That way, I could protect them from my evil neighbours with their poisonous treats, flammable pumpkins and creepy goodwill.
The party wouldn’t have to be too elaborate, either -- I’ve seen the Martha Stewart Living Hallowe’en issues. I’d just have to scatter 30 or 40 battery-powered jack-o-lanterns around the place, crank up the fog machine (not for too long -- remember, asthma!), make some pizzas featuring witch-shaped tofu pepperoni (real pepperoni is awfully salty!), and, for the sugar-free punch, freeze a non-allergenic medical glove full of bottled water so it looks like a floating hand. That’d be that, right? And so much easier than walking Junior and friends around adjoining streets so generous locals can give them free candy.
Not that easy, though, according to the killjoys. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention informs me that if I’m having a Hallowe’en party, I should organize games “as an opportunity for kids to get their daily dose of 60 minutes of physical activity.” These young punks may have donned their masks and hoop skirts, their platform shoes and disco Afros, in eager anticipation of their yearly sugar high. But they ought to be steered toward strenuous jumping jacks and improving crunches. After all, if they don’t complete their hour of exercise at the one party they attend in six months, they’re sure to catch the disease known as obesity.
And that, my friends, is truly scary stuff.