Halloween 2009

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Halloween this year was like it always is on my street. Little kids start coming with their parents while the sun is still out. Older kids come late. At 10:30 a 20-year-old girl rang the doorbell as I was heading for bed.

Trick or treat, she said. I told her I was out of candy.

My neighborhood in Normal Heights becomes a great thoroughfare on Halloween. Most of the kids seem to come from other neighborhoods where they might feel less safe at night or where there are lots of apartment buildings. My street is lined with small single-family homes and it’s greatly desired by trick-or-treaters and their parents. I see minivans pull up on the corner and disgorge bunches of kids dressed as ghouls.

So I buy tons of Halloween candy and I always run out. We welcome the dress-up parade by carving pumpkins and lighting candles. I love Halloween. And I don’t just say that because my wife and I have two kids.

Halloween is the only day of the year when neighbors (I call them neighbors whether they come in minivans or not) come up to your door to say hello. The only currency they want is a piece of candy. But it’s not about the candy. It’s about the fun, the adventure and the exchange of community spirit.

Why does this happen so rarely? People in California don’t go caroling at Christmas. Is that because the holiday is not ecumenical (mustn’t offend Jews and Muslims)? Maybe it’s because people in this state stopped learning to sing when Prop 13 killed off grade school music classes. Or maybe it’s because we just don’t bother to create a neighborhood community.

The life and shape of our communities have changed over the years as political customs and technology have moved them to and fro. Today, a lot of people are more at home on the Internet than they are in their local neighborhood park… that’s assuming they have a local neighborhood park.

I can’t predict the future, but I will celebrate human interaction when it happens on the street and on the front porch, as long as it’s not somebody just coming by to ask for money. Sorry. I still have a “no soliciting” sign next to my front door.

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