By the end of my lifetime, Halloween will be dead. At least the trick-or-treating part will be over. I'm 36.
This prediction saddens me, as I have fond memories of my childhood Halloweens.
I grew up in a mixed-income, racially diverse San Antonio neighborhood. My brothers and I had a well-planned itinerary for Halloween. First, we'd trick-or-treat the houses within a three-block radius. Then we'd dump the candy and hit the elementary school carnival. Finally, a second round of trick-or-treating. Dad would let us go with flashlights and a stern warning to be home by 9.
Most neighbors were ready for us. One woman had a big black cauldron in her front yard. She donned a black dress, pointed hat, scary teeth and hairy moles, and with a cackle that raised our neck hairs, she ladled out candy to our outstretched bags. Scared us out of our wits.
I love that memory. She worked so hard to get into the spirit.
This year, my spirit was tested, perhaps to the breaking point.
My Durham neighborhood is also economically mixed and racially diverse, but few houses were well-lit on Halloween. Only about half of my trick-or-treaters were wearing costumes, or even were children.
Granted, I've seen some cute kids: princesses, Spidermen, cowboys, vampires, bumblebees, even Bob the Builder. But I've also given candy away to teenage moms, hoisting up uncostumed babies, adolescent biker boys with Wal-Mart bags, pre-teens demanding money and wandering gangs screaming "Trick or treat! Trick or treeeeeeat!"
I live alone. I'm intimidated by these teens, so I walk down my steps and greet trick-or-treaters in my yard. If something untoward happens, I have more open space to get away. I want to put up a big sign "No Costume—No Candy," but I haven't. I want to tell them they are too old to trick-or-treat, but I don't. I want to say something sarcastic to them, but I never do. I don't want them to remember my house or me. I don't trust them.
This year, I had the lowest of Halloween lows. A group of 10 teens, dressed in dark clothes, pants belted below their buttocks, chased from house to house, smoking cigarettes. I thought to myself "I am about to give Halloween candy out to smokers." Completely disgusting. But I smiled, gave them handfuls of sweets, and watched them race on to yell and bang at my neighbor's door.
That was it for me. I turned off my porch lights and all my interior house lights, making my dinner in the dark. Something I cherished had been permanently stained. I felt hopeless, just one woman living in a sweet old neighborhood, trying to keep a long-held tradition alive, but forced back into her little house of darkness.
Then—insult on top of insult—I sat down to watch TV with my dinner, and a Wal-Mart commercial came on—for Christmas. Four hours left in the night, and Halloween was truly dead.