Saturday, October 31, 2009

often halloween is the start of the cold and rainy season, and you have to wear several layers, the last one rainproof, to be really comfortable out on the street, but tonight it was warmer, clear, with a big sunset and a full moon. i happened to be at the center of trick-or-treat action in our small town, with hordes of kids and their parents walking up and down this one street that is a long gentle hill at the end, and has a sharp curve in the middle of it. side streets hit it from all angles, making corners for people to cross; people sat in their idling cars sometimes as their kids went up and down the street trick-or-treating.

people come from miles around to trick-or-treat this neighborhood, because it's stable, and the houses aren't too far apart, and it gets a show-time atmosphere after a while; some people are tourists, who just come to see all the kids. some wear security vests as if the city wants to make sure it doesn't get out of hand.

i am traveling with a 4-year-old who has several friends of similar ages; he also meets several others that he knows, and in general learns the ritual pretty well. say "trick-or-treat;" get candy; say thank-you, happy halloween, run around with friends; it's a pretty good evening for him. some kids have trouble with various aspects of it.

on the way out the door i'd grabbed an iron-man mask and a large orange sheet, and although they don't go together perfectly, it stops a lot of people in their tracks, or they make wide loops around me. i see shock in some kids' eyes; it's as if they know and recognize iron-man, but don't believe he'd be there in their street. some openly challenge me and i just tell them, hey, parents don't have to wear anything anyway, unless they really want to; i just wore this; you don't have to like it. i am with an african family at some point, and of course, they're somewhat taken aback by the whole scene. hordes of kids in the street, crossing it, ringing doorbells; parents following them around; everyone psrticipating in a kind of street party. i try to interpret it for them. it used to be that neighbors would connect with kids this day, after a year of chasing them out of their rose garden, etc., and say, i know you, you live near here, you sure have grown. a kid would check in with the neighbors, so to speak, and be rewarded with a large bag of candy which would then last a while into the cold season. several things happened though. we got a lot of neighborhoods where you couldn't trick-or-treat well, even if you wanted to; too many students, too dangerous. or. people moved way out in the country where you had to walk miles between houses. all these kids now come to this neighborhood, if they really want a sack of candy. we just happened to be there because we knew people.

if i thought trick-or-treating was dead, i'd only have to come to this neighborhood, to see that it is in fact live and well, and being practiced by everyone from the rightful celebrants, 3-8 years old, to plenty of others, dressed in all kinds of costumes, from skeleton to football player. most of the costumes are store-bought. in our group, the kids take advantage of the fact that the parents are talking to each other, and start in on the candy; the idea is to see how much you can eat. the parents try to control it, but know it's hopeless, and besides, their hearts are only half in it at most; they also were kids once, and knew that this was just about as good as it got, for kids. parents who are too busy talking to each other, but still there if someone really scary came around, like a ghost. all the candy you can haul in, given generously, ss if all the kids were good all year, and really needed it to grow.

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