For the wife and me, one of the selling points of our home was the neighborhood. There’s no thru-traffic and it has sidewalks, honest-to-God sidewalks. It also has plenty of children sprinkled about its 200 homes. We can count on about 50 kids on Halloween. That equates to 30 or 40 rings of the door bell that drive my dogs insane. To keep some peace in the place, I’ve taken to sitting outside and meeting the kids in the driveway on Halloween night.
This year, I sat for about three minutes before the fallen leaves and pine needles started calling me. I figured I was going to be out there for a couple of hours and had plenty of time to rake between the attacks from the little goblins so I grabbed a rake.
This seemed to throw the little costumed buggers off their candy scam. They didn’t know what to make of creepy chore man raking his yard by floodlight. Obviously, kids want to get as close to chores as they do to flesh-eating zombies. When I would catch a gaggle of them debating whether to approach the house, I’d shake my rake at them and tell them the trick was they had to put a handful of leaves in the trash can for their treat. One group of older girls (older in Halloween terms means about 12), surprised me while I had my 40 gallon trash can in tow. I promptly thrust the can in their direction and said, “Trick or treat! My bag is bigger than yours so fill it up!”
I did almost have one taker on my offer to work. I little five-year-old boy was feeling pretty tired and sat down in my driveway. While his dad was trying to pursued him to move on, I told him if he stayed he’d have to help rake leaves. He said, “OK.” I gave him an extra piece of candy for his willing spirit.
The thing that impresses me about Halloween, at least around these Southern parts, is that parents use it to teach kids manners. There is a prescribed formula here when begging for candy which includes a cajoling parent in the background saying, “What do you say?” at the end of the sweet transaction. Without fail, every clink in a plastic pumpkin is met with a mask-muffled, “Thank you.”
One additional lesson taught this year was English. The Hispanic parents were not only teaching their kids manners, but English, too. Or maybe the kids were teaching the parents. I’m not sure how that went, but they all had great costumes. After all, Mexico goes all out for el día del muerto. Hispanic dad had full-on, movie-worthy skeleton make-up like he was an extra in a Tarentino film.
God, I love America. Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses and we’ll all dress up, eat candy, and get drunk together. Next year, when a little Mexican kid shows up at your door with a made-in-China plastic pumpkin, begging for candy in the finest Anglo-Saxon tradition, give of your chocolate freely. There’s nothing like a good holiday to give us a common touch-point and remind us all to say, “Thank you.”