Return to American Halloween

Aiden is approaching Halloween like it’s his job. “So… 8 more days? We need to plan our route. I’m going to bring 4 pillowcases and fill each one. Mom, who is staying home to give out candy? Sorry, I think you need to stay home. Someone has to do it. Dad’s more… you know.”

I think he means fun? For some reason I’m shocked. I love Halloween! I protest and tell him about the weeks that used to go into my own Halloween preparations, our trips to the rich neighborhoods where full size candy bars were distributed; my commitment to canvasing the neighborhood as long as possible, despite the fact that in Vermont it was usually snowing and we had to wear winter jackets over the costumes we had spent so long planning. He is unmoved.

Takoma Park’s Halloween parade took place a week before the big day, and was a practice run for the real deal.


This is some serious method acting.

Aiden strategized some more as we headed to a friend’s house for dinner after the parade. “So, I think Sam needs to change his costume. It doesn’t have the cuteness factor. Sam, I think you should be a policeman or a fireman.”

“No, I want to be a coat hanger.”

I point out that there will be dozens of firemen out there and the randomness of Sam’s costume (i.e. the 7 coat hangers hanging off him, looking like he got tangled up a closet, which I think is how he landed on this idea in the first place) will gain him some points. Grown-ups like originality. Aiden’s zombie executive is sure to strike a chord in this neighborhood. And apparently I have gotten caught up in his logic that their costumes will have an impact on the amount of candy they’ll receive.

He goes on to ask, “ And Madeline, what are her advantages?” He answers his own question, “She’s got the cuteness factor, and she’s fast. I think we could make it to a lot of places. Dad, which way do you think we should go?” Andrew suggests they skip Maple Avenue because the houses are farther apart. What!? He’s crazy; Maple is the heart of the action! Everyone will be home on Maple, if not dressed up and waiting on their porches, and prepared with buckets of candy. There are houses on Maple that stage elaborate theatrical performances. Skip Maple?! Again, I can’t believe I have been relegated to Halloween home duty.

Halloween 2012 was the saddest I have ever seen Aiden. Colombia celebrates Halloween, but they kind of miss the point. It’s more about sexy costumes for adults than chocolate for kids. I will never forget the image of Aiden sobbing into his plastic jack-o-lantern bucket, empty except for 3 sad hard candies. Hard candy?! Come on, Colombia, after dinner mints do not a Halloween make.

Since then, Aiden has been dreaming about the day we would be back for a Takoma Park Halloween. That’s a lot of pressure for any town, and he has been concerned something might go wrong. He started worrying about the weather a few weeks ago, but he’s past that now. He told me there could be a tsunami or a tornado and he would still go trick-or-treating. No, the weather is not the problem. The biggest threat we’re facing now that we’re back in the Halloween promised land? Teal pumpkins.


Teal pumpkins show that you have non-food treats, and raise awareness about food allergies. Are we really not aware of the prevalence of food allergies?! I briefly considered having an ambulance standing by the first time I gave my child peanut butter. Not that he would eat much peanut butter, because it was not allowed in preschool. I know a number of kids with serious food allergies, and they have to be very careful about what they eat. It’s a real pain. I assume their parents will be going through their Halloween candy at the end of the night, scouring it for allergens, just like our parents searched our candy for razor blades. (That was a thing, right?) We didn’t need special colored pumpkins to indicate the houses with razor blade free treats. Or did we? Maybe I blocked that out.

One neighborhood listserv member posted that she is participating in the teal pumpkin project and will have “non-good items available.” The typo says it all. I have seen a candy-free Halloween and it is not good. It was very, very sad. Aiden is aware of the sugar-free threat on the horizon and he is not amused. I literally saw him wringing his hands, considering the possibilities. This is the stuff of nightmares. The thought of a street lined with teal pumpkins… truly terrifying.


Nightmare Pumpkin








Be afraid. Be very afraid.



Happy Halloween!