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November 1st, 2006

I used to love Halloween. It’s a holiday all about monsters and scary stuff. It’s an excuse to dress up silly, eat candy, and watch lots of old movies.

When I was a kid, the neighbor across the street always dressed up as something different each year, and it was an annual matter of speculation what form she would take the next October. My most vivid memory was of the year she played a witch and another neighbor down the block was an imposing Martian. It inspired me to desire to set up haunted housekeeping once I was established in my own home.

Things worked out well in my previous house in Champaign. I built a bunch of foam core tombstones inscribed with various puns, in-jokes and pop culture references, and dressed up every year. By the time we moved from that neighborhood, we were getting some 90 kids, and it seemed that many around looked forward to my own little sideshow.

Sadly, that was not to be in my new neighborhood. The streets are too dark, and there aren’t many kids around. The most we’ve ever had was 35, and one year it dropped to a mere handful.

I tried to keep my Halloween spirit alive, but it seemed too much work to set up all the props and burden myself with a costume for the sake of a dozen or so kids. I’ve made a token effort the past few years, but this time I did the previously unthinkable: I didn’t even dress up.

Last night, we got sixteen kids. No Supermen, as I’d hoped, but we did get four young boys in suits. When I asked what they were supposed to be, I was floored to be told (in a Liverpool accent, no less) that they were The Beatles! That was pretty cool.

One odd girl came to the door and commented that I was mixing up my holidays, pointing to the fake vulture I’d affixed to the wicker chair on the porch. She had thought that it was a turkey! Man, the school system these days…

It’s nice to know that there are still some trick-or-treaters around, but I guess I’m finally resigned to the fact that while we remain in our current neighborhood, Halloween will be lame at best. And that’s a tough blow; some time back, I realized that I had come to treat Halloween the way a lot of folks view Christmas, as some sort of unobtainable, perfect vision of a holiday. Anything short of that left me depressed.

While I refuse to give up entirely on Halloween, it struck me that last night I had finally settled in and accepted that I was not going to be the landlord of Spook Central; rather I would be just another adult with a bowl of candy and a plastic skeleton dangling on the porch. I suppose that’s not so bad. And at least I’ve still got some Snickers left over.

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