I have another Halloween confession to make. No, it didn’t involve anyone’s underwear this time. But it’s still significant. I don’t want my kids to just have a great childhood, I want them to have my childhood. Some of our traditions are intended to share with them the magic of my youth. Do they appreciate? Not always. Take Halloween.
When I was about 10, we were deemed responsible enough to go out on our own. We roamed our neighborhood for hours. Classmates we encountered on our travels were absorbed into our group. We shared the inside skinny on which houses were giving out chocolate bars and which ones were giving out pennies. Handles on trick or treat bags gave out as the loot became too heavy. It was glorious.
For years, the experience of canvassing their very own neighborhood was denied to my children. Our first Halloween as a family of three saw us living in an apartment complex with a drug dealer next door. That year was more trick than treat. We visited a couple of neighbors with families, but that was it. Then we bought a house.
It was a darling house. So cute. And in a neighborhood that I wouldn’t go out in after dark if my house was on fire. Neither would anyone else, apparently, because we had fewer than 5 trick or treaters each year. For nine years, I sadly loaded my two children into our car on Halloween and drove to a better neighborhood. We walked among strangers, feeling guilty, like we didn’t belong. The treats were tasty (and safe), but we weren’t home. It broke my heart a little every time.
When our family was preparing to go from four members to five, we moved again, this time to a wonderful neighborhood. On our first Halloween in our new digs, the kids silently lined up at the car. I threw my arms around them and reminded them that this year, for the first time in our lives, we could trick or treat in our very own neighborhood. They were a little less than enthusiastic. Our neighborhood is uphill in every direction, houses are widely spaced, and driveways are daunting. I met with resistance. I tried to sell the idea with cheerful determination. Still they whined.
And then I got mad. I said something to the effect that we were staying put this year come hell or high water, and if they didn’t like it, they could stay home. Or whatever Mary Poppins would have said. This was our neighborhood! Our home turf! Time to claim the territory and make some memories! We would never drive anywhere to trick or treat! NEVER AGAIN!
Eagerly, my children and I summitted the first driveway. The lights on the front porch blazed in welcome. We knocked on the door and waited. And waited. No answer. We could see shadowy figures through the living room window, but no one came to the door. Baffled but determined, we went to the next house. Again, no one answered.
Not to be put off, we found another promising house, this one heavily decorated with pumpkins and sheaves of corn. My daughter led the charge to the front door. Someone answered. I may have given myself a high-five. And then the children came back, bags empty. My daughter reported “They said they don’t do trick or treating.” We shrugged it off and treated on. Three quarters of a mile later, their bags remained treatless. Frustrated and confused, we began the long walk home.
We met another neighbor on the way. He had a bowl of candy and offered my kids large handfuls. We asked if he knew why no one was answering their door. He looked surprised and explained that we live in Alleluia Alley. It’s safe, and quiet and full of the kindest people you’d ever want to meet, all of whom belong to the same denomination. One that does not celebrate Halloween. Oh.
In silence, I marched my ducklings up the hill. And loaded them into the car.
*** In my neighbors’ defense, it’s not that they are anti-Halloween, they just don’t celebrate it. Kind of like how the US doesn’t celebrate Boxing Day. It’s on the calendar, and it means something to somebody else, just not to them.