Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Hate Halloween, or Do I?

I hate Halloween. There, I've said it.

While I'm at it, I hate the way we celebrate Easter as well, but that's a whole different ballgame.

Back to Halloween. As I've said. I hate it. I hate the candy, the costumes, the entire ritual of going door to door like mafia goons and extorting goodies.

My distaste for the celebration has a deep rooted cause in my childhood, I know.

First of all, candy was never a thing I developed a real taste for. I've always considered a candied or caramel apple the waste of a perfectly good apple. There are two or three candies I can abide, and then only on occasion. So the whole ritual didn't have a lot of attraction for me. Baked goods are a whole different set of temptations, but no one gives those out on Halloween, so what's the point? Most of my Halloween loot wound up being thrown away sometime around Thanksgiving.

Then there was the actual ritual itself. I grew up in the country and my folks wouldn't have dreamed of importing me to town to trick-or-treat. You went to your neighbors' homes. Wearing a coat over your costume. With your parents in tow. And they always had to visit a minute. Wow, great fun.

Sure, dressing up is fun when you're a kid. And I had fun putting together costumes for my children when they were small. But now people spend as much on a one-shot Halloween costume that a kid really doesn't care anything about as I do on Sunday clothes. And I absolutely never got adults dressing up and going to work. Really? I don't care how cool of a costume you can come up with, I don't want to see it when I come to your place of business.

All of that combined meant when I moved to Surry County, Halloween disappeared from my field of required celebrations, even if my kids were only 7 and 12. I didn't really know my neighbors and lived on a dead end road in the middle of nowhere with no other children, so I didn't have to prepare for other trick-or-treaters and I didn't really know where to take mine. That's it. No more Halloween.

I wonder if my children were irreparably scarred.

In the intervening years, I've participated in Halloween a few times at other people's homes and found some fun in it. There are neighborhoods where they get a lot of trick-or-treaters and throw parties to celebrate the occasion. I can get that. I also get decorating and trying to entertain the little visitors. I get trick-or-treating downtown.

Believe me, I get it. It's just one of those things I don't really enjoy personally. I dread the day when both of the girls' parents are working and I'm in charge of taking them trick-or-treating. I know it will happen, and I'll do it. But I won't pretend I'm looking forward to it.

Yet, I've already taken them to a fundraising Halloween event where I did find it entertaining to watch their reactions to the rambling zombies, witches and costumed dogs. And today we are butchering a poor innocent pumpkin so that it can glow through the night, so maybe I'll come around.

Despite my loathing for the day, there is one Halloween that I recall fondly after moving to my current home. Brace yourself kids, I'm going to tell the toilet paper tale. It's a night that made me famous in certain circles.

I had worked late and came home to find a strange vehicle parked on the side of the road just out of sight of the house. When we got to where we could see the house, we found all of our trees draped in toilet paper. Yep, my daughter was in high school and her friends were driving and we had been targeted for their Halloween celebration. It was a mess but one I didn't take lightly.

At that time I had a pit bull named Snickers that I had raised from birth who stayed in a lot. I went and got her on a leash, left her with my kids on the porch and walked back to the car. I could hear my not-so-little trick-or-treaters in the woods, so I knew they were listening.

"Okay, so you can come out now and clean up the mess, or I'm letting the air out of your tires," I said. That proclamation was greeted with more rustling, but no one 'fessing up. I took an ink pen and applied it to the valve, letting the air out of one tire. Once again I informed them of what I was doing and still no one appeared. I let the air out of a second tire, walked back to the house and joined my kids and dogs on the porch.

Soon a group of teenagers came walking down the road and turned up my driveway. Led by a fellow band member, whose car I had just disabled, they shambled up the driveway. "We thought we'd just change the tire rather than coming back," he confessed, "but there were two flats."

"I've got a tank of air," I said. "I'll refill your tires when this mess is cleaned up."

Soon most of the trees were bare of their Halloween d├ęcor and I fetched my air tank and refilled their tires. I'm sure they were more careful in the future. I know they came back and did it again on Veteran's Day, but with a guilty conscience, especially after they were subsequently pulled over by a state trooper.

At some point my daughter went with them on their ramblings with the only warning not to do real damage or get caught -- I'm not a total ogre.

Remembering that night, I wonder if I really hate Halloween quite as much as I think I do. Or if, like a lot of American celebrations, I hate what it has turned into -- the excess at every level from outrageous costumes to how much candy kids can collect when descending like locusts on some well-heeled neighborhoods.

I think three little girls and a bit of magic in their eyes, whether it is from watching people in costume when they are small, or from sneaking out to do a little harmless mischief when they are older, can make me like the night again.

Just don't expect me to decorate -- well, unless you ask real nice and remind me how much you love me.

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