How I learned to appreciate Halloween

I’m not a big fan of Halloween. I tried for a while because I felt like that’s why “good moms” are supposed to do. I bought a box full of spiders, webs and a few window cling-ons. I encouraged my kids to express their interests and creativity through their costumes. I volunteered at the classroom parties, made the cookies or put together games for the kids to play.

One year, after I watched the Martha Stewart Halloween show, and we made less than perfect glitter pumpkins and Halloween lasagna. Instead of long lasagna noodles, Martha used rigatoni noodles and called them “rigaboni” noodles. Oh! the joy! This meal has been the highlight of Halloween in our family for over seven years.

Although I trashed the box of Halloween decorations about three moves ago, each year between three birthdays, soccer season and just general busyness, we get ready for the big day.

And it is a big day. Making sure they have costumes for school. Going to their parades and parties. Coming home to make the Halloween lasagna. And then leaving to get pillowcases of candy in winter jackets. The whole day is so exhausting for me.

By far, Halloween is my least favorite “holiday.” All we celebrate is huge amounts of candy which plague our “after-school” snack for weeks.

This was the first year my teenager left to trick-or-treat with her friend. We took the other two over to a friend’s house so my son could be with his best friend. Fortunately, it stopped raining long enough for us to make it to the house with cotton candy.

I enjoyed being with my friends for the first hour of the warm, fall evening. I felt like we were in the trick-or-treat scene from E.T. with crazy kids running door-to-door while parents greeted each other with witty Halloween exchanges. Before I knew it, my annoyance with Halloween melted.

While I instructed my kids to say thank you, I noticed that Halloween is really the only time we freely open our doors to our neighbors. My kids knew two families along the path. Every other door they approached was an entrance to the home of a stranger. And on Halloween, the strangers greeted them with a smile, and gave them a treat.

It was a small interaction. For the kids each door was just another treat. And for the person handing out the candy, each child was another costume. But for me, this Halloween, I felt like I could celebrate a simpler time when neighbors were friends.

After my grandpa died in 1978, my grandma left our small town of Clinton, Ind. to volunteer at JAARS in North Carolina. When she visited us in Clinton, she took me along “visiting.” Although we knew our playmates who lived nearby, we were taught to only go places we were invited, so randomly stopping at a her friends’ homes to spend hours talking was something which made me uncomfortable.

But we’d walk down the street, knocking on door after door to be greeted by smiles, an invitation to come inside and treats during our time together.

Honestly, the thought of doing something like that today is foreign. With busy schedules and distant friendships, just dropping by to take the time to just sit down with another in the community to catch up on life is something which may have died with my grandma.

This year, Halloween made me reflect on how I answer my door with guard and curiosity when people approach it. It made me think about how I approach my friends’ homes to get or give something rather than just share conversation. Yes-it’s true- this year I turned a fun-light hearted “holiday” into a life lesson.

In a few years, my children will be over trick-or-treating. Other children will march in the parades, and our homemade costumes will be a pleasant memory. But as our Halloween candy disappears this year, I hope I remember it’s always important to open my door with cheer and share treats as friends visit.

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I may do it all, but I have not done it all.

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