Even though I know it won’t be long before people start putting up outdoor Christmas decorations, I can’t help but feel a little sad when Halloween decorations come down. Because I love little golf-ball-headed ghosts waving spookily from bare tree branches. Plastic plug-in jack-o-lanterns and real pumpkin jack-o-lanterns. Porches draped with huge fake spider webs. And colorful Halloween inflatables that dwarf the houses they sit in front of.
I’ve never much gone in for festooning my own yard at Halloween, unless you count the live spiders who call my porches home. I used to stuff orange trash bags with leaves and set them at the end of the driveway, but my mischief-making dogs quickly convinced me that such an effort was futile.
Maybe that’s why I love other people’s yards so much.
I’ve spent the past three Halloweens visiting my Kentucky grandkids. They live in a neighborhood perfect for trick-or-treating. Quiet streets, charming old houses built close together and sidewalks on both sides of the road.
Both children are old enough to walk now, though little June–disguised as a ladybug on Halloween night–didn’t make it far before wanting to be carried. Three-year-old Eli, reluctantly dressed as a doctor in a white coat with a plastic stethoscope around his neck, was eager to have his treat bag filled. His mama, much to her credit, is not a fan of junk food. But last Halloween she surprised us all by letting Eli eat two full-size Reese’s peanut butter cups. Before supper.
He’s been counting down the days to this Halloween ever since.
Theirs is a neighborhood where folks give out the good stuff. No sugar-free Lifesavers or off-brand bubble gum or mini-boxes of raisins here. Trick-or-treat for half an hour and you’ll come home with a bag full of candy bars. Guaranteed. And, lucky for me, both Eli and June are too young to be trusted not to choke on peanuts.
Meaning something had to be done with every one of their Snickers bars.
But it would seem that a couple of the neighbors forgot to do their candy shopping. One substituted lunchbox-size bags of Cheetos and Fritos. Stranger than that, the man who lives at the end of the street gave each trick-or-treater a raw potato. I’m not making this up.
My favorite Halloween story happened right here in Cookeville, at a small discount retailer near the heart of downtown. I was there to buy a birthday card and a big sack of dog food, so I needed a buggy. Which were all jammed together at the front of the store. And I do mean jammed.
The woman who entered the store ahead of me looked to be about my age, though she didn’t dress like it. Use your imagination to fill in the details. She headed straight for the buggies and began trying to jerk one loose from the herd. She failed. The straps and buckles on the buggy she wanted were tangled up with the straps and buckles on other buggies and she couldn’t separate them. Know why? Her hands and arms, all the way up to the elbow, were covered in thick brown fur. Her fingernails were wolf claws. And it was still two days until Halloween.
Proving that it’s not all that hard to find a subject for a newspaper column. All you have to do is pay attention and then write things down.
(November 8, 2015)