I had a couple of thought-provoking conversations on Twitter today, which was good, because just the presence of the NaBloPoMo widget in my sidebar made me lock up entirely, a frozen ball of writer’s block. (The first day’s prompt did me no good, either. “What do you like best about writing” sounds perilously close to “What I did on my summer vacation”. But I digress).
Being as today I am taking the equivalent of a mental health day – only three extra kids! and one of them is asleep! and mine is playing alone in his room! so really that’s only two and they are playing together! – I’m going with the fun and easy topic of Hallowe’en, rather than the heavy and ugly-cry inducing discussion of why every woman in my circle, gorgeous & accomplished, every one, still feel insecure on some level because of whatever happened during their early teens.
Here are my boys, chomping at the bit to start trick or treating and totally DONE, MOM with having the annual pumpkin picture taken:
By 6:30 the pumpkins were lit, the pets were securely indoors, and the icy north wind we’ve had all week finally stopped. We grabbed our flashlight and bags and headed out.
This was our fourth year trick or treating in this neighbourhood. We don’t know most of our neighbours well. Or at all. We are in a rural area that is heavily populated with multi-generational families descended from fishermen; these days many are backyard mechanics or small-time drug dealers. They drive four-wheelers and have loud parties late into the night. Their daughters date guys ten years’ their senior and their sons drive drunk. They deride and fear “the city” as if it wasn’t a quick 15 minute drive away.
And they hate the “new people”. The new people who move out here for the surprisingly good school system, the proximity to town, the large yards and new community centre and relatively low property costs.
Most of our interactions with our neighbours when we first moved here were of the “get off my lawn or I’ll call the cops” variety. In our four years we’ve had a rock thrown through our window, gravel put in our gas tank, winter tires stolen out of our garage, at least one drunk pissing on our fence, and more noise complaints than I can remember.
Things have quieted more every year. Gradually, as they see that we are staying, that we mean to be a part of the good bits of this community (and there are so many!), the low-grade harassment is stopping. We even get smiling greetings occasionally.
Hallowe’en is the one day of the year when our many differences don’t seem to matter.
We knock on everyone’s door, if they have a porch light and a pumpkin. Even the door of the house that is the source of 99% of our complaints. And it’s funny. They remember us. They comment on how tall the boys are getting. We compare numbers of trick or treaters and exchange thoughts about the weather. We wish each other a good evening and part with smiles.
Last night we stopped and greeted more people than the year before. We bumped into Marie and her parents while out and about. We had hot dogs and hamburgers at one house. Ron knocked on every door (except one that had a creepy talking tombstone, he wasn’t going anywhere near anything that said it would “suck his soul”, no thank you) and Harry kept running ahead, casting spells with his wand and generally reveling in the abundance of treats that made his bag too heavy to carry 20 minutes out.
So much reminded me of my own childhood; the aroma of burned pumpkin, the unwritten rule that a lit porchlight means candy, the stuffy hot smell hitting you in the face on every doorstep, the excitement of getting to that one house that was distributing FULL-SIZED chocolate bars… my kids’ experience is so different from mine in many ways, but Hallowe’en is one time where I feel that I am giving them the same memories I treasure.
We never missed a Hallowe’en when I was a kid. Bad weather, illness, pregnancies, new babies, holiday-induced parental meltdowns – nothing stood in the way. I’ve trick or treated in snow, rain, unseasonable warmth, walking, driving, with family and with friends.
It’s not just about the candy. Or it shouldn’t be. It should be about community. I hate hearing about people who drive their kids to unfamiliar subdivisions just because the house-to-house walk is easier. In those cases, it IS about the candy, and it’s mercenary and awful. I’d rather the kids stay home, frankly.
For one night, all rules are broken, all bets are off. Kids stay up late, stuff their faces with sugar and trans-fats, play near lit candles, and talk to strangers over and over again.
As we made our way home, we pointed out constellations and sipped hot chocolate, walking slowly mostly for my sake but also because once we walked in our door, that primal feeling would be over for another year. As a kid I always found stopping so hard, not because there was more candy left uncollected but because there is no other night quite like it.
My boys clearly felt the same. Tired but happy, they scorned my offer of carte blanche with the treat bags, ate two things each, and staggered off to bed. Not far behind them I went too (after eating a Twix bar that tasted just as good as I remember).
I wonder sometimes if in a secular society Hallowe’en is replacing Christmas as the holiday where a community comes together. Perhaps that’s a post for a day when I don’t have a sugar hangover.