It’s the wrong time of year for that saying but I can’t help but feel grouchy and listless about the upcoming Halloween. I don’t have any kids at home so why bother? I briefly look over my boxes of Halloween décor that have been tucked away in a garage cabinet. “Bleh!” I don’t feel like decorating. “The Great Pumpkin, Shmumpkin…Who cares?” And I close the cabinet door. This is when empty-nesting sucks.
Later that night …
I am in a deep sleep when I awake to the smell of candy corn and Snoopy, dressed as a WWI flying ace, floating above my bed. He motions me to come with him and hands me essential flight gear that includes a flying cap and goggles. “Not the most attractive look” I think to myself, “But, what the hell, it’s Snoopy!” and we are off on his dog house through the mist of the night…
Looking down I see myself as a young mother in a montage of scenes with my family and friends embracing the spirit of Halloween. “Ah, yes”, I do remember the fun we had carving pumpkins, decorating the house and trick or treating. And then Snoopy points down to my children’s old preschool. This is truly my fondest memory of Halloween past – the preschool Halloween parade. Why? Because at that darling age you can pretty much dress them up in any costume of your choosing and they will think it’s great.
The music to good ole favorites like the “Monster Mash” blasts through the sound system and then class by class the preschoolers march in succession in a circle around the school grounds. They are a little dazed by all the attention of camera wielding parents, but none the less, they are certain this is their camera-ready, crowning moment to shine.
Amongst the tiny paraders are always beautiful princesses, padded–up muscular super heroes, and an assortment of cats, dogs and purple dinosaurs. And yet you can always spot a future Quentin Tarantino or Lady Gaga by his/her “I gotta be me” attitude that leads to the child wearing a truly creepy costume. The kid in a puffy clown outfit with a fake knife coming out of his head comes to mind, as well as the girl (with a clear disregard for school rules banning anything gory) who proudly struts her stuff dressed as a gothic vampire, complete with hideously long fangs and copious amounts of ketchup running down her face and onto the front of her flowing gauzy, once white nightgown.
The school parade is followed up by the big night of trick or treating. Such fond memories…We would walk our children around the neighborhood enjoying the homes that were decorated by super Halloween enthusiasts complete with sound systems putting forth moans and screams, fog machines and cemetery headstones. I remember the classics like: “Here Lies Mozart, Decomposing.” And my hubby’s favorite “Beneath this stone my wife doth lie, now she’s at rest and so am I.”
We would come home and dump out the pounds of candy on the floor. And what may be called dubious parenting by some, we never the less, allowed our kids to gorge on their booty until they were no longer showing signs of life, laid out on the floor surrounded by their mounds of candy wrappers, succumbing to their sugar comas. After their night of gluttony, our boys weren’t so keen on candy any more and most of their stock pile would remain untouched and I would, using my sneaky mommy ninja skills, dispose of the candy when no one was looking.
Yup, I smile remembering…those were the days of Happy Halloween… Then Snoopy turns to give me an intense stare and we fly off to another fog filled place that has no silly soundtrack or laughter or fun…It is my present day house on this forthcoming Halloween. Darkness surrounds it and the gloom is palpable. There is no frightful yet welcoming décor. There is not a pumpkin in sight. A group of trick or treaters walks up the driveway and stops. I can hear a disenchanted voice exclaim, “This house is empty. They aren’t home”. One kid encourages another to go look on the doorstep for a possible communal bowl of candy left by most caring homeowners that happen to be away on Halloween night. “No, there is nothing”. Disappointed, the group turns away. “The mean cat lady is next door. At least she will give us a pencil or sticker”, one kid exclaims.“No! Don’t go there!” I yell down to the kids. I feel horrible. This is so wrong. Snoopy shakes his head and we whisk off to…
At this point I wake up and realize I don’t need any more visions of Halloween past, present or future. I know that, just as my husband and I relied on our neighbors to help bring the Halloween spirit to our children, we need to Pay it Forward and do the same for all the youngsters in our neighborhood.
Although at times I still loathe to admit it, we have become the older couple on our street, having lived and raised children in our house for twenty plus years. We see young families moving in all the time. We spy them walking their kids to school and taking them to the park and doing all those things we used to do with our own children. It is now so evident to me that our roles have changed in the community. And in the case of Halloween, we are more supporters of the traditions than first-hand doers. And that is o.k. It is time to embrace this new identity and stop being such a grumpy, no Halloween spirit, ninnymuggins.
“Bring on Halloween!” I say. And in the words of Peanuts Character, Linus Van Pelt, “Welcome Great Pumpkin!”
This time of year the weather cools and folks start decoratin’
with gourds and skeletons and bats, the fear starts generatin’
in the hearts of trick-or-treaters that the pickens will be light,
in the hearts of parents of these kids that the freaks come out at night.
But what is ever better than the sight of a costumed child
who upon receiving treats has graced you with their smile.
So why bother with this Halloween when you have no kids at home?
Because of other children even if they aren’t your own.