Please let me scare those Halloween kids
A socially distant dad wishes that frightening kids isn't a thing of the past.
I have enjoyed holidays. Both vacations. I'm on my mother's hand a quarter Christmas elf, and Thanksgiving at my house topped 70 people. The Easter Bunny still appears as sparklers in July. If legal, I'd rent a groundhog day woodchuck.
Yet Halloween was my favorite. What might be better than a whole child-fearing holiday?
Every October, I recall vividly the excitement and horror of these special haunted neighborhood houses in my Bay Area suburbs. Soderberg building, down our driveway, and two blocks to the left. Every year, they converted their lawn into a cemetery, dressed in extravagant costumes to serve sweets from dry ice pot frothing.
That's now Halloween 101 but it blew our minds in the early 80s. I recall standing at their fence, looking at their gates, only trying to build up the nerve to step forward and ring the bell, as other children muttered that the Soderbergs were replaced by goblins or even hidden in the front yard.
Then there was Burton Valley 's huge white house, a 10-minute drive, but worth the effort. Next to the front door was a life-size scarecrow lying limp. When kids reached to knock, it jumped up and caught them, as it was the concealed homeowner. That mad man was sitting outside in the cold all night, trying to scare kids.
Classical. Possibly criminal, but classic.
I did all the usual 20-somethings Halloween stuff until I became an adult — I went to parties, came up with arcane pop-culture comparisons for costumes, and drank awful themed cocktails. But what I really wanted to do was scare some people. Christmas is about Earth harmony, Thanksgiving is about love and family, but Halloween is about giving kids nightmares. Not terrible nightmares, just let them win some Mars Bar.
Yet I was consistently stopped from sowing the fear I wanted. I stayed in a series of urban apartments after college, which are horrible places to field trick-or-treaters. Then I moved seven years to Mexico City. While there, I learnt about the Dead's Day, which is a profoundly spiritual time for many people, where they recall the relatives and friends who passed away and offered for them. And while I enjoyed pan de muerto and still laid an offering for my late grandparents every year, trick-or-treatment wasn't famous there, and I don't think everyone would be pleased if I had jumped out of a street dressed as a vampire to terrify their kids.
As I moved back to the U.S. with my own son, I landed in a Baltimore suburb with a front yard, a garden and a beautiful front maple. Finally, I figured the chance on October 31st to hear the sweet , sweet sounds of little kids crying. Immediately I started planning how to drop a full-size shrieking ghoul from the tree so it stopped just above children's heads.
But I haven't known local trick-or-treat politics. You know, the locals marked our street as a low-candy location, and nobody messed with it. Two streets, residents stood on their stoops all night with Starburst and Milky Ways cups, smiling and passing treatments to hundreds of princesses, superheroes, and Harry Potters.
What a wasteful opportunity. No hands stretched from the cemetery, no hurling ghosts in the trees, dry ice or lunging scarecrows. No kids crying.
Naturally, we have a pandemic to face this year. Children are more likely to stay home, and in their lives, I'm not sure anyone has the stomach for more terror. To make matters worse, I moved to a mountain house outside Boulder, Colo. The nearest thing I'll have to a trick-or-treater is the neighborhood black bear, who I doubt would like to be pursued by an ax-wielding clown. I feel like my kindergarten window is quickly closing.
Every December, people decry Christmas ads, how the holiday lost its sense. Ok, what's Halloween? There used to be a time when a dad could pose like the death angel, set up Hollywood special effects in his front yard, and make little kids tremble on the pavement. Without crying and internal scarring, Halloween is yet another saccharine Signature celebration.
So, if you're lucky enough to live on one of America's high-volume, candy-rich streets, feeling the weight of a rough year, just not sure you're going to put much work into Halloween, think of me. Here, alone in the woods with no tiny humans to terrorize, no need for my giant inflatable spider or ceramic skull set.
Even in politically divided, economically troubled and unstable times like this, we need to come together (in a socially distant way) to note that we are one nation, unified in a love to give out candy to make kids wet their Paw Patrol costumes. If you don't, do that for me.