Halloween is magic for so many reasons. It’s not just the night that all the ghosts and goblins and other spooky residents of this or some other world are supposed to come out and play with us mere mortals, but it is a night that we can all be goofy and experience a little bit of the fun of childhood. I love it.
When I was a child I looked forward to Halloween so much, and not just because I loved candy so much I wanted to marry it when I grew up. As someone who frequently felt like an outsider, it was the one night of the year that I felt like part of a community.
I knew all of the neighborhood kids. It was the type of neighborhood we lived in. We all played all the time, and our mothers policed us from their kitchen windows. Once I snuck out of the house when I was recovering from the chicken pox so I could take a little gander around the neighborhood and see what was going on. I was exploding with stir craziness after a whole week of confinement to my bed, and I just needed 5 minutes of exploration of our community yard sale that was occurring that very day. It wasn’t more than 5 seconds before Mrs. SanMartin called my mother to inform me that her pock-faced daughter had escaped quarantine.
A kid couldn’t get away with anything there. I hated it. But a kid also felt safe and part of a greater whole. I loved it.
Somehow the world seemed a little less scary at Queens Gate. But, the world was still a scary place, and very lonely for a girl like me. Even when playing with my neighbors, whom I loved dearly, I felt different and just a little bit excluded. Halloween was different. Everyone was in costume. And even though you knew who everyone was under all the latex and plastic and face paint, that night we were all somebody totally different. And the same. We were all part of “the group.”
This year was Azita’s first official Halloween. Last year we dressed her up and walked her around a little, but she was just starting to walk and was definitely not talking. It was pleasant and nice, but this year was completely different.
For weeks before Halloween, I coached her to say “Trick or Treat.” Not once did she utter the words. I had little hope for any trick or treating, but just dressing her up and walking around would be fun enough.
Then the night arrived and we began our walk. Just as everything was covered with darkness and the candles were lit and the spooky soundtracks began playing, we made it to the the block at the end of the street, where we would focus the night’s fun. We walked up the street slowly, Azita marveling at the decorations. The kids began to come out of their houses, readying themselves for the night’s festivities, shouting to their neighborhood buddies down the street. The parents gathered on front stoops, beer or coffee in hand, catching up on life, preparing to hand out candy and escort the children.
Everyone seemed so close-knit, so friendly, so much a part of a community. I was filled with the same warm and fuzzy feeling, the same sense of belonging, that I felt as a child. And now I was sharing it with a child of my own. My face was plastered with a smile for the entire night.
When we finally made it to the end of the street and crossed to walk up the other side, Azita suddenly stopped in front a driveway. After an hour of watching other kids run up to doors she finally tugged at my arm, pulling me towards the front door of the house, where a friendly fellow with glasses and white hair manned his post. We walked slowly, cautiously, finally making it up to the bottom step. The kindly old man bent over to eye level. “What do we have here? Aren’t you a cute little pumpkin,” he said.
Azita stared at him not saying a word. Then he held out the bowl of candy. And, softly, just slightly louder than a whisper, Azita said, “Trick or treat.” The thing I tried, unsuccessfully, to get her to say for so many weeks. Halloween really is magic.