People like us — who live along a country road with no sidewalks or streetlights — on Halloween are like whaling widows from the 1700s, who keep the candle burning in the window night after night, waiting for their husbands who years ago were lost at sea.
Despite the fact that we live on Elm Street – an iconic name in horror movies — Halloween is a dud. No parent wants their child trick-or-treating on a winding road with no lights and plenty of blind turns; the type of road that Freddie Krueger would have relished.
Still, year after year we carve the pumpkins, buy bags of Reese’s peanut butter cups that end up in the freezer, and put on the lights, hoping that we will enjoy a classic Halloween, haunted by princesses, jedis, ninjas and ghouls. This year, as we gaze out the window at the chrysanthemums and corn stalks smothered by an early snow, does not look promising.
We can usually count on the three small children from the next house visiting early in the evening, before their parents drive them off to more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. And our son and his friends will load up on our candy before they too decamp for happier Halloween hunting grounds — where the homes are close together and a pillowcase can be filled in the time it takes to watch two episodes of Sponge Bob.
A few years ago was a banner year. We had a total of 12 trick-or-treaters: the three children from next door, then John and his pals. The doorbell did not ring for at least an hour, then lo! A half dozen teens appeared on our doorstep, all dressed as slashers. It was our friends’ son and his friends, They made pleasant conversation and helped themselves to some candy before getting down to business: inquiring politely if they could use our bathroom.
I guess we could just keep the lights off and not open up for Halloween. But I am still haunted by the memories of the Oldhams, the one household in my childhood neighborhood that did not open up. Their house and front path was spattered with burst eggs, which they’d hose off every Nov. 1. And old Eddie, may he rest in peace, would complain bitterly to my parents about “those G-D kids” and how “it’s a terrible world out there.”
Halloween is the only time I miss my former home in Pennsylvania, in a new development where everyone had small children. Back then I would make at least 80 candy bags and they would be gone within an hour. Neighborhood children would visit, and as they grew older they brought posses from other neighborhoods. We also had a spread for the adults accompanying the little ones: pumpkin bread, cheese and crackers and (most importantly) cider spiked with Laird’s Applejack. One of the dads, a school principal who always dressed in drag for Halloween, would down two glasses while the kids loaded up on candy; then took one for the road. Each year our home became more and more of a draw; I wonder why? 😉
But this year on Elm Street, where on any other day we’d savor the peace and the privacy, Halloween will be a lonely time. Still, we go through the motions and hope for the best.
Tonight we’ll carve the pumpkin like we always do. Tomorrow night we’ll find a used but still substantial candle and place it inside; then set the illuminated pumpkin on a rock by our driveway…in plain view of anyone who passes by. We’ll put on all the lights in front of the house, to make it look welcoming. And we’ll wait.