Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reflections of a Happy Halloween

Chelsea Market, New York City, 2006 /
Still one of my favorite Halloween pum

As a kid, there are some things you look forward to each year like Halloween. 

Last Thursday, over the course of two hours, the kids -- white, black, Asian, Hispanic -- were out in great numbers in our Oakland neighborhood, a microcosm of the city at large, full of enthusiasm and dressed in wonderful and creative -- even traditional -- costumes. 

Dressing up as a ghost or witch is still quite popular as well as going trick-or-treating decked out as a super hero like Batman, Spiderman or Superman. Darth Vader and Harry Potter still garner a lot of attention, thanks to their movie-star appeal, and both remain among my favorites. As a kid, I remember dressing up as an astronaut one year back when kids wanted to grow up to be astronauts and fly to the moon. 

This year, we were surprised when a girl and a boy, both about 11 or 12-years-old, came to our door, together, dressed as a carton of milk and a jar of pickles. Maybe, they were influenced just a little bit by Trader Joe's, one of our local grocery stores? I don't remember if the boy's label said soy, low fat or skim, but any of them would have been appropriate by Bay Area standards. Of course, it's always cute to see little kids dress up as lovely and cuddly tigers and dinosaurs, too. Whether homemade or store bought, imaginative costumes are what make Halloween a special occasion.

Lots of parental chaperones were present on this pleasant, autumn Halloween evening -- some in costume -- and we saw a few toting their pet dogs (a few in costume -- think "hot dog") and baby strollers for the littlest ones, too. Some kids were timid and shy, especially the youngest ones -- being coached by their parents, who were standing at the bottom step of our porch, to say "trick or treat", then "thank you" -- while others were very eager and outgoing. A group of five middle school-aged girls shouted out "trick or treat!" in unison as they came giggling up our walkway for all to hear loud and clear.

Halloween has definitely turned into a family event -- a sporting event, maybe? -- and this year, handing out 200 mini chocolate bar candies, as we did, was not enough! Credit the weather, which was nice and dry, and the San Francisco Giants for not being in the World Series like they were in 2010 when Halloween coincided with Game 4 against the Texas Rangers -- and the result is our neighborhood was quite lively with trick or treaters, more so than in most years. We could have easily given out 50 more candies.

As it turned out, we had about two dozen See's peppermint candies in reserve that we used as a fall back after our chocolate candies ran out, and when those candies were all doled out and there were still a handful of eager kids shouting "trick or treat" at our front door, we dragged out our piggy bank and gave out handfuls of nickels and dimes, determined not to leave anyone disappointed. And, surprisingly, the kids who received pocket change were just as happy and content with their "treat" as those who earlier in the evening received a Kit Kat, Twix or Milky Way candy bar.

Once the crowds had thinned, we turned out the lights, shut the front door, and took a walk through our neighborhood so we could admire Halloween decorations and absorb the evening's festive atmosphere, which included a lively and vocal pirate-themed house down the block from us that drew lots of curious attention. 

Finally, almost back to our front door, we were invited in by our neighbors across the cul-de-sac for a glass of Napa Valley red wine, a dessert of tasty baklava from a local Mediterranean bakery and good conversation about Halloweens past when our neighbor's children (one, who's now a college-aged freshman, and the other is a freshman in high school) used to dress up in the most creative and colorful costumes and go out trick or treating.

Looking back on this festive evening, less than a week after it all unfolded, left me in a happy, reflective mood. Indeed, it was a happy Halloween -- one of the most enjoyable evenings of the year -- and I look forward to the next one.

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