My trick-or-treating days are now behind me. In fact, I haven't been trick-or-treating in the traditional sense since The Mall Incident, when my family's celebration of Halloween was drastically changed and a tradition that we still observe today was spawned.
When I was 3, my parents decided to take me "trick-or-treating" in the Washington Square Mall for the first time. I've always been a bit sensitive when it comes to things like extreme gore -- especially of the stabbing variety, so, as you can imagine, this sensitivity and some of the costumes that people were wearing in the mall did not make for a good combination.
I can still remember the shock of seeing a boy strolling nonchalantly through the halls, just going about his business as if nothing was up, while a rusty knife protruded obtrusively from his head. I sensed that something was wrong with this picture; there was a discrepancy.
Another character had a mask that gave the appearance of actual blood spilling down his face. Then there were the clowns. As these people, and many others donning similarly troubling costumes, walked past me, I began crying and screaming "don't let them look at me! Don't let them look at ME!" as if my parents could actually prevent people from looking at me.
I didn't mean to be rude; it's just that all of the impalement and bloodshed seemed so real to my young and uncorrupted mind. It troubled me to think that these people didn't appear to be in the least bit bothered by the fore-mentioned state of their bodies.
Personally, I would find a knife in the head to be a hindrance; but then again, that's just me.
That was the last time I ever went trick-or-treating in town. After The Mall Incident, we reverted back to simply stopping at about half-a-dozen houses around the lake, and we have continued to do so since.
I have found it interesting to observe my brothers perpetuate a tradition that I was once thoughtful enough to start, and pray that next year, when I'll likely be their chauffeur, they won't insist on going to town. I'm not ready to revisit those old haunts of my childhood (even though I'm sure they'd be more than happy to see me): Old Knifey and Mr. Blister and the Blood Man. Not yet.
Besides, even though we may stop at a relatively few number of houses on our route, the amount of candy we end up with is equal to, or possibly even greater than, that which is collected by a city-going trick-or-treater.
I'm sure the quality is even better -- lots of chocolate. It's been my experience that in the country, people tend to be quite generous when it comes to candy portions, handing out large bags of the goods to every member of my family, even those of us who aren't dressed up, and appearing hurt when we try to refuse them.
Even better, considering that we know the residents of every house we stop at, usually on a deeply personal level, there's little risk that any poisoned homemade candy or apples with razor blades in them will be included in the haul.
But my favorite part of the Kitzmann Halloween Tradition (as I now christen it) is the opportunity for interaction with friends and family that it presents.
For example, at one house we make a point of stopping at every year, a lady and her son who have long been wonderful friends of ours, besides giving us the biggest candy supply of anyone, always tells us we're "such good neighbors" and entertain us with stories of how life was on Island Lake in the '70s when they first moved to the neighborhood.
We always end our trick-or-treating at the Hideaway, a resort, where we fill our bellies with great hamburgers. If we're lucky, my dad and the owner, Al, will get into a heated discussion about politics that lasts until the wee hours.
Halloween has a reputation for controversy. Some people find it to be sacrilegious and a worship of evil and shun the holiday; while others, like Knifey, embrace it for the same reason. In our family, though, it's a time to gather with neighbors and spend times with friends that we only see once or twice a year who enjoy our company even if some of us no longer arrive in costume.
As if that weren't enough, we get to enjoy a galactic sugar rush in the process.
Nathan Kitzmann is a sophomore at Detroit Lakes High School.