Horror Writers Association Blog

Halloween Haunts: Full Circle Halloween by Yvonne Navarro

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When I was a kid…

You know what the first thought that popped into my head was when I typed that?

“Get off my lawn!”

Which is not at all where I want this to go.

In Chicago, in the 1960s and 1970s—there, I’ve dated myself and so what—kids used to go trick-or-treating pretty much fearless. Late into the night, too—I remember knocking on doors at close to ten p.m. (and yeah, the adults who opened were pretty grumpy). The year to year weather was varied: if Halloween fell on a Saturday or Sunday, you could be laughing and running on a sixty degree, sunny afternoon, or tromping through cold, early evening snow in boots with your carefully constructed costume beneath a hat, scarf, mittens and heavy coat.

In sixth grade, I sat in a lady’s kitchen with a group of kids and watched as she wrapped homemade popcorn balls to go with the cups of hot chocolate she passed out. With my mom’s warnings to never go into a stranger’s house in my head I never quite relaxed, although I felt safety in numbers because I’d followed six or seven neighborhood kids who seemed to know her into her apartment.

Then the Halloween candy hit the proverbial fan. Stories were all over about poisoned Halloween candy in New York and razor blades in apples in New Jersey. Back then almost everybody got the morning paper, turned on the evening news, or listened to the broadcasts on their car radios, and those tales hit all over the country literally overnight. (As an aside, the poisoned candy was largely not true, and the razor blades? Most of them were put into the apples by kids themselves, trying to propagate the urban myth.) Gone were the days of rummaging through my trick or treat bag and stuffing my face while I walked, and I certainly couldn’t run to my room and pig out when I got home anymore. I, and every other kid I knew, was under strict orders that my mom would go through the bag and decide what I could eat and what would be thrown out. If it even looked suspicious—homemade—it went right into the trash. There went a good forty percent of my haul. By osmosis, I learned to be just as afraid of my Halloween treats as my parents were, just as wary of those adults who would smilingly give out free candy to begging kids. Every door that opened made me wonder what hid behind those grins and comments of “Ooooh, so scary!” or “Hey, what a great costume!” This was just an extension of the perpetual drill of “Don’t ever take candy from strangers!” (So true—when I was 8 years old, a guy tried to lure me to his car.)

Time passed, as it always does, and post-Halloween candy culling became a way of life that never went away. As I grew older and became the treat-giver instead of the treat-getter, it remained integrated in my thoughts and actions: the candy I chose for the yearly giveaway had to be professionally and individually wrapped, and also something familiar—no weird, fun stuff that the basic everyday parent would think view as suspect. And absolutely no more homemade popcorn balls.

Fast forward.

Because of conventions and other travel, The Husband and I aren’t always home for Halloween, but when we are, we decorate and pass out candy—Smarties, my personal favorite in case there are leftovers. We live in a neighborhood with hundreds of kids (I am not kidding) which we thought would be a great and fun thing when we had the house built. After a few years of Halloween torment, we might have had a change of heart but still gamely answer the doorbell 3,247 times one day a year.

The best Halloween we ever had was in 2016, when besties Eunice and Greg Magill came and stayed with us for a long and fabulous Halloween weekend. Eunice took one look at my thin decorations and said, “Oh no—you can and will do better than this!” She found the rest of our stash in our under-stair closet and pulled out every box we had (because no one throws out old Halloween decorations—if you do, shame on you!). Well known as the Halloween Queen, Eunice turned our “pretty good” decorating job into “Fabulous!” so quickly I couldn’t even keep up. Even our Great Danes got poured into glow-in-the-dark skeleton suits. When the little monsters—er, trick or treaters—came, Eunice and I, along with Skeletor Grimmy, our largest Dane, were on the porch to greet them. Sooooo many kids, hour after hour, and no, I did not have any Smarties left for myself.

Now it’s 2021. We’re post-2020, the Year of Covid, and yet…

We’re not.

Our front porch is fenced in so I can sit out there with the dogs and the bird while I drink my morning coffee and read. Last Halloween The Husband and I zip-tied the gate shut to keep trick or treaters away from the doorbell. We hung a cardboard sign on the gate that said “Sorry, not this year. Because COVID.”

Thanks to the Delta variant and the people who believe personal rights mean they or their kids don’t have to get vaccinated or wear a mask so that others won’t get sick, COVID numbers are climbing back up. Adults give it to their kids, kids give it to adults, and round and round we go. This is not the place to go into details about COVID or beliefs or politics. What I will say is that even though The Husband and I are vaccinated, just like in 2020, we’re probably not going to have Halloween.

In the 1960s, the kids were afraid of the adults.

In 2021, we’re afraid of the kids.

 

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