I can recall October 31, 1992, quite vividly. My daughter, Paris, was five, our son, Jordan, was three, and my baby, Capri, was only five months old. While Paris knew all about costumes and free candy, my husband, Frank, and I made sure she also knew why our family didn't celebrate Halloween.
Earlier that month, we'd politely informed Paris's kindergarten teacher she wouldn't be participating in any songs or activities that involved jack-o-lanterns, witches, black cats, or goblins. And we'd reassured Paris she could get candy from us any day of the year. Nonetheless, not wanting to seem unfriendly to our neighbors, I readied bags of candy to pass out to the other children who populated our tree-lined street.
At 4:30 P.M., our first flock of visitors arrived: Snow White, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Yogi Bear with Boo Boo (brothers in real life), a ballerina, and a sailor. They looked so cute! Then, just before dark, the doorbell rang five times—obviously an impatient trick-or-treater. There at my open door stood a herd of about a dozen eager children, cautiously watched from the street by moms I'd met at PTA meetings. As my two children distributed the candy, I cradled the baby and stepped past the crowded doorway and onto the stoop.
"Hi, Ellie!" shouted Debbie, the PTA president. "We haven't seen you at any meetings recently. We're starting to plan for the spring fair. Let me know which booth you'd like to man. I recall you have some talent!"
I continued to burp the newborn and assured Debbie I'd attend the next meeting. Then, as I headed into the house, Debbie called out, "Hey, why aren't your kids trick-or-treating? No costume? No candy? No fun?"
I swallowed hard. She and her entourage were waiting—and wondering. Their herd of kids had run to the next house, the women had grown quiet, and for a moment, I could hear the autumn air.
"Well, we don't really celebrate Halloween. It's, ugh, a bit complicated."
They turned and walked away, but not before Debbie threw up her arms and shouted back with raw emotion, "But they're only children!"
"They're only children." Debbie's words provoked in me a strange sense of sorrow for myself and my kids. After all, Frank's one of four children, and I'm one of five. Growing up, we trick-or-treated our heads off—and it was fun.
Granted, those were different days. Safety was not an issue. And the evil that some now associate with Halloween didn't seem to exist. Today we live in a more hostile, less predictable world. Still, Debbie's retort kept echoing in my mind.