We moved into this house 22 years ago. I had a beautiful little girl, and was pregnant once again. The house seemed like a castle to us, after many years of wishing for a place of our own. The yard was wild, but we put up a swingset, and I planted a few shrubs and flowers. The neighbors were friendly, and there were a bunch of kids on the street. We settled in, we made friends, our family and our friendships both grew.
Halloween out here was wonderful. For years, Halloween was absolutely wonderful.
We used to buy a big pumpkin at the orchard nearby, and we’d carve it together, the kids and I. Katie would design the face, and Tim would plunge his chubby little hands inside and scream with glee as he pulled out the “guts”. Matt, who never liked the mess or the chaos of the holidays, would sit nearby, watching and commenting, but never taking part. We’d roast the seeds, put in a candle, and sit watching the scary, lopsided face of our Jack-o’lantern as he grinned through the big bay window.
I remember the sweet pie smell of the burning pumpkin top, the taste of the always burned seeds. I remember the magic in the eyes of my children.
On the big night, as Trick or Treat approached, Kate would adorn herself in swaths of pink and gold, Tim would be wrapped in crepe paper or painted white or shaped into a ghoul. Matt would put on one of his Dad’s old jackets and call himself “a guy”. We would grab plastic pumpkins, glowsticks and flashlights and out we would go.
Our neighborhood is very rural, and very spread out. To visit every house took at least two hours. The streets would be filled with children, laughing parents, strollers and excited dogs, pulling on leashes. The neighborhood was young, and happy and we all had a sense of looking to the future.
I remember the piles of candy, and the trading that would take place when we came home. One pack of “Sweeties” for one of “Reeses Pieces”. A “Mounds” for a “Snickers”.
I remember the warm baths to wash off the makeup, and the joyful recounting of every moment, as if I hadn’t been right there beside them. I remember how happy I was to be a part of it all.
And I remember the night closing in, and the safe, warm feeling of pulling the curtains closed when all of the festivities were over.
I remember. And I am sad.
When the economy collapsed, our town was badly hit. We are a working class community, with very little industry to employ us. Homes were bought and sold, and homes were filled with families.
When the economy collapsed, jobs were lost, mortgages were overwhelming, and homes were lost or abandoned. Our neighborhood has emptied, and the children are all either grown up or moved away.
For the past three Halloweens, we have had no one come to our door.
For the past three Halloweens, I have carved a pumpkin by myself, in honor of children everywhere. I have filled a bowl with candy, and waited patiently in my kitchen for the front doorbell to ring. No one came.
This year, I am more realistic. The house on our left is filled with a couple our age; their sons have grown up and moved away. The one across the street? The same. To our right are two houses which have been abandoned. Perhaps foreclosed on, perhaps simply too much to be maintained. Both are empty. Both are dark. One has been vandalized, and the gaping slider door on its deck lets in both rain and wind. It used to house our friends, and looking at it every day is a new heartbreak.
Our neighborhood is empty of children now. There are no big orange pumpkin bags filled with fall leaves. No Jack-o’lanterns on steps. No costumes, no candy. No magic.
I miss Halloween. I do. I have put out a bowl of candy corn, but there is no one to eat it. I have put up a little ghost candle, but I keep forgetting to light it.
I really miss the magic.