Vomitting-pumpkin I don't have a pumpkin yet actually.  But I need to get and carve one asap.  Due to living in the city, continuing infertility grief and my own other problems, I fell out of many holiday rituals.  In our old home I never welcomed trick-or-treaters because I didn't want to keep Halloween candy in the house, and sometimes I couldn't bear to look at their little faces.  It was a hassle anyway.  We lived in a townhouse behind a locked wall with a locked gate behind another gate and only the most determined trick-or-treaters found us.  Often the determined ones were from the "affordable housing" units on the next street over, they were easy to pick out on our street which was posh, and I was happy to load kids like that up with candy.  But I skipped Halloween altogether.

Now I live in a house on a suburban street and counting my car key, I carry four keys total.  Anybody can walk up to my front door.  Also, I have a bag full of candy in my cupboard.  This is a freaky thing due to my pregnancy nausea and sugar indifference.  Once in a while, maybe once every ten days, I feel like having a little chocolate bar or a Hershey kiss and one or two is all I want and that's it.  Before pregnancy I would have hoovered the bag in a day but it's been hanging around for weeks.  So I'm ready for trick-or-treaters but I don't think any are coming.

This is partly due to the "trunk-or-treating" trend which I am not happy about.  If you have talked to me in the past two weeks you have heard my trunk-or-treating rant and here it comes again.  If you aren't aware, trunk-or-treating is an event, often organized by churches, where adults station themselves next to their cars in a big parking lot, and the kids walk up to your open trunk to say "trick or treat" for their candy.  The kids love it because, as one said in a recent newspaper article, "you can go around a gazillion times and get lots more candy!"  The churches organized it to make Halloween more of a "family event" – it wasn't, before? – and in some cases, to discourage costumes that were too devil-ish or reflective of other bad influences.  In some cases I have heard of Biblical character costumes being enforced or encouraged.

Sigh.  I'm as saved as any other Christian but come on.  Running around a parking lot in broad daylight, yelling "trick or treat" which doesn't even make sense anymore, dressed like the Apostle Paul?  What could be more lame? 

Aside from suppressing the important creativity and make-believe aspect of Halloween, the saddest thing about this, to me, is the other reasons adults cite for the trunk-or-treat trend.  The little dears don't have to 1) walk as far as they would, going house-to-house; and 2) they don't have to "go to a stranger's home." 

Maybe I'll feel differently when my own perfect, adorable, exquisitely vulnerable child is in this position.  But right now I'm really sad about it because I'm the stranger!  I'm the new lady in the neighborhood and I would love to meet my neighbors.  I've got candy!  I'm not grieving!  I am close to being the silly grownup who has on a costume and has that scary Halloween recording playing when she opens the door.  And I'm a year away (God willing) from forcing my infant into a Halloween costume he doesn't like, can't possibly understand, but looks really cute in, and strollering him around every chance I get, this last week of October.  (Pumpkins and bees seem to be good for the 8-month old, yes?  Something round, something organic, from an Ann Geddes photograph, though I think those are kind of creepy, by the way.)

After sitting out Halloween for so long, I can now embrace it and I want to ride all the rides. 

When I was a kid, our Halloween was an all-day event, loosely organized by our neighborhood grownups, that included a costume parade and prizes in categories like "prettiest" (I never won this one) or "most original" costume (much more my style).  The creativity part was important, long before the candy part kicked in.  But it wasn't so much about candy, it was about adventure, and it was all about the neighborhood.

I remember trick or treating as a kid, the accompanying parent retreating ever farther into the yard as we got older. We always went after dark, or what was the point?  The really little kids went in the daylight and we pitied them.  I remember the thrill of fear as we approached the doors of our neighbors who we barely knew.  I remember peeking curiously into their houses, smelling their unfamiliar cooking smells, and how fun it was when these stern grownups actually talked to us about how scary we were! how cute we were! and how they couldn't even tell who we were and maybe we really were two witches and a dog and a robot.

Our parents were on guard.  Someone we knew was given an apple with a razor blade in it, at least that's what we were told, and our parents had to go through all our candy when the night was over.  We knew full well you didn't go into anybody's house, and we had to make sure we could walk in our costumes and see out of our masks.

I know that era is over.  It was half over when I was a kid.  We never "tricked" anybody.  We heard about soaping windows or egging houses but it was always the stuff of legend and we never did it. Ditto bobbing for apples.  I know that we roamed a suburban neighborhood with a freedom that today's kids rarely have, and that even a sealed bag of M&Ms can be tampered with.  But still, I am sad.  As usual, this reworking of Halloween threatens to get rid of the important stuff – the visiting of neighbors, the important fantasy and creativity elements of dress-up, the flirtation with scariness and fear within safe boundaries – and keeps the least important part: candy. 

I'm sure in a few years the practicality of trunk-or-treat will wear down my resistance and I'll be right there with my own munchkin(s), enjoying the convenience, hobnobbing with all the friends I will have made by then.  But I also hope that evil, dangerous, secular trick-or-treating hangs in there as well. 

And this my first year, I really I hope I get a few stragglers on Friday.  I'll have my pumpkin carved, a little more decorously than the one above, and we'll see.

Edited to add: a friend sent a link to her pastor's blog with more eloquent arguments than mine on the whole trunk-or-treating thing.

Pumpkin photo from www.celebrating-halloween.com – yeah, I wish I'd thought of it too.

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