Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Halloween Download

“Morning,” my 86 year-old neighbor said retrieving his Wall Street Journal from the driveway.
“Hi Harold!” I said plucking my LA Times from the sidewalk. “Did you have many trick-or-treaters?
“Not a one.”
“I’m sorry.”
“And it was the best Halloween ever.”

Some neighborhoods embrace Christmas with plastic Santas and a herd of reindeer gallivanting across the lawn, others celebrate Hanukkah with blue lights and menorahs as big as mountains, and others celebrate Halloween with cobwebs, spooky witches and gravestones listing your name and “RIP”. My neighborhood did none of these things. The holidays—those beginning with trick-or-treating, continuing to Turkey Day, progressing to the busy-ness of Christmas-Hanukkah-and Kwanzaa only to collapse on New Year’s Day from decoration exhaustion—totally skipped my neighborhood.

Instead my ‘hood preferred summer fun, like pool parties, white wine and Speedos, which was just fine with Harold. This was not to say that Harold hosted our local pool parties or sported a swim suit. On second thought, if he ever donned a Speedo, that would cure the neighborhood of its pool fiestas.

Instead it meant that Harold didn’t like celebrating the scariest holiday, decorating his house for it, or handing out candy free-of-charge because Harold was… a Halloween Scrooge.

Growing up I loved Halloween, its costumes, and earning a stash of chocolate that would last until Easter. So now it was time for payback and making it possible for my neighborhood’s kids to enjoy the spookiest day of the year. My plan for Halloween included: 1) Buying candy—big chocolate bars bars for every kid with teeth. 2) Getting my costume—a Sassy Cowgirl—because I had to be costumed up to hand out treats and “sassy” sure is scary. And 3) Decorating the exterior of The House, which is the national sign to kids: “Get FREE SUGAR here!”

Since our front door was tucked against the house, kids coming from Jerry’s or Charles and Stephen’s house wouldn’t be able to see or find our front door. Therefore I wanted to decorate The House two weeks before Halloween so kids walking through the neighborhood would see that we would be handing out goodies on October 31st. Due to life however, I didn’t get the exterior decorated two weeks before Halloween, or two days before Halloween or even two minutes. Finally at 6:15 PM on Halloween night, Mr. Wonderful set out three carved pumpkins and I hung lights and spooky spiders outside. We weren’t the only ones opening late for business. Across the street Charles and Stephen quickly hung strings of spooky ghost lamps and on the corner Jerry swapped the white light bulb in the lamp beside his front door for a red one. Harold didn’t do anything, of course.

Ding dong. I opened the door to find eight kids standing at the front door dressed as Iron Man, Captain America and Super Woman.
“Trick or Treat!” they screamed in unison. Mr. Wonderful gave each one a big chocolate bar and the kids were blown out of the water. “Look how big this candy bar is!” they screamed in unison.
This Sassy Cowgirl loved it. Handing out candy as an adult was as fun as getting it as a kid.

The doorbell kept ringing and the kids who got huge candy bars from us showed their friends, “Look how big this candy bar is!” Which made this Sassy Cowgirl happy.

Then the doorbell ringing stopped. Why? I had more big chocolate bars to hand out. There’s nothing sadder than a half-full bowl of candy on November 1st for a Sassy Cowgirl.

The next day I compared numbers with the neighbors. I had the fewest trick-or-treaters, Charles and Stephen had more than me and Jerry had the most of all. But they were equally disappointed. Why had so few kids visited our houses for candy?

“Our houses weren’t decorated for Halloween early enough,” I said stamping my foot.
“Our neighborhood isn’t known for trick-or-treating,” Charles said scratching his beard.
“The kids trick-or-treated in another neighborhood,” Jerry said with a shrug.
“They can’t find our front door,” I said shaking my head.
“… Interesting theory,” Charles and Jerry said giving me a look that said it wasn’t “interesting” but borderline “wacko”.

After several days of eating chocolate candy leftovers, I made some realizations: 1) We don’t have a tradition of celebrating trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. 2) Since we didn’t decorate our exteriors early enough to tell the neighborhood kids and their parents that we would be distributing candy; 3) The kids made other plans and went to neighborhoods that were decorated and had traditions of handing out candy. And 4) They couldn’t find our front door. We were all right.

Several days later while removing groceries from my car trunk, some kids walked past our house and I heard one say, “That’s where they hand out the really big candy bars.”
The Sassy Cowgirl in me smiled. That’s how you start a Halloween tradition: do something the kids will remember all year long.
“But,” another kid said “where’s the front door?” 

Although we couldn’t change things for this Halloween, we could make changes to get more kids for next Halloween by: 1) Decorating the exteriors of our houses earlier; 2) Handing out great treats; and 3) Making the location of the front door super-duper obvious.

Hey, kids! Just wait until next year!