Halloween’s Darkest Hours

Ryan as a clown and Rachel as "Able Baker Charlie" from the Richard Scarry Books, 1989.

Ryan as a clown and Rachel as “Able Baker Charlie” from the Richard Scarry Books, 1989.

It’s dusk on October 31, and for the first time in decades, we won’t be turning on the porch light for trick-or-treaters. It has been years since we had more than a few visitors, and we could have justified bowing out some time during the last millennium. Living on a dark street with no streetlights or sidewalks, we are in forbidden territory for wee princesses, jedis and older ghouls. When a family with three young children still lived next door we knew we’d get at least a few visitors. Alas, they moved to California and we can no longer count on them. And even our kids never trick-or-treated close to home; we always drove them to neighborhoods with sidewalks.

But the most important factor in our decision to close is that our 15-year-old is not doing Halloween this year. Too much homework, a diminished taste for candy, and a long day of school and after-school activities have made John decide to throw in the towel (or the pillowcase). While his friend Zack called a few weeks ago to try to get him interested in prowling a few neighborhoods, John has officially retired from trick or treating. This will be the first time that none of our children has gone trick-or-treating from our home, since all but John are grown and flown.

So the pumpkin went uncarved this year, and I have to say that my hands, with their creeping arthritis, won’t miss scraping out pumpkin guts with an ice cream scoop. I think about all the thought we gave to pumpkins in the past, all the faces we dreamed up, all the candles we lit, all for naught because nobody came. Yes I am relieved but also feeling a little regret.

John as "Batista," a favorite wrestler, 2010.

John as “Batista,” a favorite wrestler, 2010.

Halloween used to be a big deal. I remember dressing my daughter Rachel as a bunny, when she was just a year old, and looking forward to showing her off around the neighborhood, but she fell fast asleep on my shoulder by the second house. At our former home in Pennsylvania, in a densely populated neighborhood, close to 80 trick or treaters would visit each year. When I had more youthful energy I’d make up Halloween party bags with homemade cookies for the kids and set out spiked cider, cheese and crackers, and pumpkin bread for their grateful chaperones. As I look through old photos I see the march of time: from baby bunnies, gypsies and clowns to “Scream” masks, cross-dressers, slashers, wrestlers and pimps. In grade school my daughter Rachel dressed as a football player and son Ryan as a cheerleader. Ten years later Ryan borrowed my longest white coat, added a big hat and trick-or-treated as a pimp. Our son Ben went out one year dressed as a bag of trash, and somewhere we have tape from a camera that doesn’t work anymore that shows a toddler John whacking Ben with a pitchfork that year. Despite a half-hearted clucking about violent-looking costumes I always enjoyed the creativity the kids brought to Halloween.

Jesse and Rachel, around 1987.

Jesse and Rachel, around 1987.

But all six have moved on, and no neighborhood kids have taken their place. So tonight we’ll catch up on all the shows we missed because of the World Series (go Sox!!!) and maybe watch Young Frankenstein again. But we will take one last wistful look at the ghosts of Halloweens past.


Football player and cheerleader, around 1994.

9 thoughts on “Halloween’s Darkest Hours

  1. Now that we live in an over 55 community there are no Trick or Treaters, I must say I miss the times when we lived in Valley Stream and we got over 80 or 90 rings at our door bell! The little ones with their cute creative costumes and the parents and family pets who also joined in made it all that more fun. Yes, things have changed but I do miss the days when we sat on our front steps and gave out candy.

    • I do too! I remember being a working mom and dog tired at the end of the Halloween day, but still making up bags of homemade cookies. (And eating half a bag of candy corn myself.) The littlest ones were the cutest, I agree.

  2. We don’t get nearly as many trick or treaters as we did in past years, but ever since Terry and I started handing out full size candy bars again the numbers have picked up. The older ones sometimes try to double back for a second handout, but we’re on to their wily ways. I’m off to turn out the porch light now – my Snickers stash is starting to dwindle.

  3. I live on a busy main road and we never get any trick or treaters either. It’s not as big in the UK but when I lived in the countryside in a little village I had loads of kids knock the door!
    I’m a bit of a big kid though so always carve a pumpkin and make soup with it anyway.It’s my sort of grown up celebration of Halloween.
    Times change and things move on I think it’s ok to have a more relaxed, grown up Halloween 🙂

  4. Cathy, very sweet sentiments.

  5. Cathy,

    The top photo is priceless!! Loved reading this one as we are having the same experience with Halloween. We never know if it is worth stocking up on the candy and of course never judge it right. Last year we had two families visit. This year we did better with six or more and it was fun chatting with our neighbors and the precious little ones they brought in costume.

    However, we chose more wisely this time and purchased “Nestlé” mini chocolates and so do not mind the leftovers. Tom will be happy!!! But my waistline will not!!

    We are so looking forward to our visit!!

    Gene had his last visit to a doctor today – more when we return, but for now he is cleared to go, thank goodness!!



    Sent from my iPad


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