We were boys on a mission.
It was Halloween night, and my dad was late picking us up. We stood waiting and waiting for him. But it was the pre-cell phone era, so all we could do was tap our feet impatiently and mutter under our breath.
Dad finally showed up – a miscommunication apparently – and got us home just before the unofficial start time for trick-or-treating in my neighborhood. We quickly changed into our costumes, grabbed old pillow cases to hold our candy and started running from house to house.
We said it was all about the candy. We didn’t care about dress up. We had no patience for a costume that would slow us down. We had no interest in wowing our friends with our creativity.
Yup, it was all about the chocolate. That’s what we told ourselves and anyone who asked. And at the time…
But now looking back maybe it was about something more.
+ + +
“Thanks for coming,” my wife said to the trick-or-treaters who came to the house. There were two of them. Little kids. Dressed up as superheroes.
“You don’t thank them,” I called out, “they’re supposed to thank you.”
She did not respond. The two trick-or-treaters were the first of six who came to our home on Halloween. That’s right – six. Things got so desperate that my wife requested that one of my sons ring the doorbell when he got home (he and I had to run an errand).
Meanwhile, the bags of candy sat in a bowl waiting to be given away.
But there were no witches or firemen, Harry Potters or Wonder Women, scary clowns or dinosaurs. Our house and block stayed quiet. At least Leila, our dog, was happy. She had little barking to do and was free to continue her usual routine of napping.
+ + +
On Halloween night, the street was lit up. Every house had their porch light on, so trick-or-treaters could make their way safely to the chocolate-laden promise land.
Children were everywhere. The only parents around were of those whose children were too small to go on their own. We knocked on each other’s door having no doubt that our costume would be appreciated, and we would be rewarded.
+ + +
We dropped our youngest off at his friend’s house. He and some others were being driven, by the parent of another friend, to a different neighborhood in town. Apparently, it’s the place to be. It’s a buzz of activity on Halloween night.
Meanwhile, on the streets of the rest of the neighborhoods, the only hint of Halloween is the sporadic decorations that don the homes. Pumpkins, witches, skeletons, and spiderwebs that look more lonely than scary on a desolate Halloween.
+ + +
My wife and I were talking a couple of months back.
“I think our neighbor directly across the street passed away.”
“What makes you say that?”
“There were a lot of cars at the house for a few days. And lately I’ve noticed they have so many things on trash day. I think they’re emptying out the house.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed that too.”
We’ve been in our house for 10 years. There are eight houses on our block.
The first winter we were here I helped this neighbor with the shoveling. It was a big snow, and I thought I would do them a favor. The husband started giving me directions and didn’t bother with a thank you. It was the last time I helped – let their kids come and do it, I figured.
And that was our only interaction.
I know nothing about them. If the wife was standing in front of me, I would not recognize her. Brown eyes blue eyes, chubby or thin – I have no idea what she looks like.
+ + +
I miss Halloween. I miss seeing trick-or-treaters, the kids in their costumes. I miss giving out candy (I do like the leftovers).
I miss getting to know my neighbors.