SideLines: I just couldn’t resist a Halloween column

I wasn’t going to write anything about it this year. Halloween, I reasoned, is just for kids. But then I saw a really cool Halloween display and, once again, the mood sort of drifted over me like an afternoon fog.

I wonder why towns don’t have house-decorating contests for Halloween like they do for Christmas.

When I was growing up, Halloween was the big night for kids, ranking right behind Christmas and your birthday. It used to be the only time you could load up on candy. Now, you can get candy practically anywhere, which is ironic since so many people are health-conscious these days.

My cousins would come in from the country and, along with some neighborhood kids, we formed our own little trick-or-treat posse, scouring the neighborhood for all the best goodies. Although we didn’t think we needed them, our mothers always tagged along at a respectful distance.

When I got too old – meaning too cool – to trick-or-treat, I took my sister. My parents never knew this, but there was a fee for my services: a Tootsie Roll for a small block, a Milky Way or Snickers for a long one. Being my only sister, she got the sibling rate, which was a piece of candy for both sides of the street instead of just one side. Whatever it was, it had to be covered in chocolate. Licorice or, heaven forbid, anything healthy, she was stuck with.

When I was in high school, I would prowl the darkened streets with friends, threatening vengeance on teachers we were convinced had it in for us. (Even if we had known where they lived, we wouldn’t have known what to do, but, being teenagers, we just felt the need to be out.)

Over the years, I’ve spent Halloween in some interesting places. One time a friend and I joined a Halloween parade in New Orleans. We were dressed as normal people. Considering how some were made up, we drew a surprising number of looks.

Many Halloweens I’ve had to work, but the last couple of years I’ve been able to stay home. I decorate my front porch a little, then dress up – always tastefully, of course, because I don’t want to scare any little kids. Several people in my neighborhood do this. Next door is a young couple with a couple of kids, who can’t go out until their mother gets home from work, just after dark. As they wait, the father and children sit on their front porch, handing out candy.

The little girl, about 5 years old, hasn’t quite grasped the whole thing yet. Rather than wait for trick-or-treaters to come to her, she dashes out to them, greeting them loudly with her own shouts of “trick or treat.” During lulls on our side of the block, she’ll shout out to those on the other side: “Hi, ghost!” “Hi, witch!” “Hi, spooky spook!” (Just for that, I always save the biggest pieces of candy I have for her and her brother.)

As an adult, I totally understand why some object to Halloween. But the kid in me doesn’t care. Halloween is what you make it. Of course, I can say that because I live in a safe community. Personally, I choose to make Halloween a fun night were you can use your imagination to the fullest. We can be ourselves the rest of the year.

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