This past Thursday, I took my youngest daughter trick or treating.
I walked around the neighborhood with our beagle, Charlie, in tow as my daughter skipped, walked, and sprinted from door to door in the hope of filling her bag with candy. (Older sister, being too cool to be seen with mom and baby sister, opted to walk with friends.)
I have to confess that I love this holiday. Admittedly, it’s more about the chocolate I forage for after the kids have gone to bed rather than the costumes and scary movies, but still…
As Abby ran from door to door, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of participants, which seemed, to me at least, a much greater percentage than I’ve noticed in past years. What was so disturbing, however, was the apparent lack of any attempt on the part of the homeowner to hide in their house with the lights out – the universal symbol to children indicating there is no candy at this residence. This year, people seemed to be more blatant in their unwillingness to toss a piece of candy into the bag of the children who ring their doorbell constantly for the two hours allotted by our town.
Though my parents always opted to participate in Halloween and each year purchased the required forty bags of candy that were set aside and labeled for distribution, I knew of a few families in our neighborhood who opted out of this ritual. Those neighbors would follow Non-Participatory Halloween Protocal and come home from work early, park their cars in the garage, keep all the lights off and slink upstairs to a bedroom where they would watch television from behind sealed drapes. Only the slightes hint of the glow from the boob-tube would be visible to the children meandering by. It was obvious these homes were not to be bothered, and that was ok. We knew our bags would be full by the end of the night.
This year, as Abby and I canvassed our neighborhood, I noticed there was none of the “pretend we’re not home so the kids don’t ring the doorbell” charade going on. There were houses with several cars parked in the driveway, yet when the doorbell was rung, no one would answer. To make matters worse, there would be a front porch light on, indicating there was candy to be found inside. At one house, the lights were off, but activity inside could be seen from the front door. Again, cars were parked in the driveway, but this time, the garage door was open! I don’t know about you but if I”m pretending not to be home, my garage door is shut.
At yet another house, my daughter walked up to the well-lit front door, rang it and waited, only to be denied, once again, a piece of candy. As we were heading to the next house, a gentleman came out of the house and began to walk across the lawn to his neighbors, leaving the front door open!
Now, while I don’t think anyone should have to participate in Halloween and spend a week’s salary on candy to be given out to kids you don’t even know, but if you’re not going to participate, at least make it clear to the kids. Hide inside with the lights out!
Or, you can do what one family in my neighborhood did: They taped a sign on their front door that simply said, “Sorry, No candy.”
I’ll be they didn’t have to listen to their doorbell ring all night.
Donna Small is the author of two novels, “Just Between Friends” and “A Ripple in the Water,” both from available from Second Wind Publishing