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Halloween Haunts: GIMME SOMETHING GOOD TO EAT: THE JOYS AND TERRORS OF A POST-PANDEMIC HALLOWEEN by Clay McLeod Chapman

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I was robbed of Halloween.

I’m forty three years old. This shouldn’t be about me. October 31st should be for my kids’ sake. But out of all the creature comforts coronavirus took from me in 2020, I’ll selfishly admit that trick or treating is at the very top of my list.

Our two sons are in the prime of their Halloweening. Every year, starting somewhere in the summer, our dinnertime conversations shift to what they’ll dress up as. We try on costumes as if we were getting ready for our own wedding day and I am the father of the brides of Frankenstein.

Our neighborhood has always been ripe with candy. We map out our trick or treating trajectory days in advance. We now know who has what treats to offer. Which houses to avoid.

We are, without a doubt, professional Halloweeners. It’s just what we do. It’s our sport. We have forsaken footballs for plastic jack o’ lanterns. We don’t toss the pigskin in the backyard for father-son bonding, we carve pumpkins.

This is my fault. Mostly my fault. I didn’t mean to impose my own sense of devotion to the spooky season on my kids. Honest. To a certain extent, I believe they have come by it quite naturally. Organically? Genetically? Maybe it’s in our blood… But I will say this for my own sake:

After a year of virtual learning, after eighteen months of our family hunkering down in our house and quarantining together, after creating our own homespun holidays such as Halftime Halloween, there’s nothing I’m more desperate to do back out in the real world than to go trick or treating again. Me. Not them.

Please, please, don’t take this away from me. Not again. Once was enough. Two years in a row just feels cruel.

I’ll admit I need this more than my kids probably do. Is that such a bad thing? Truth told, one of the bigger joys of being a father has been a second chance at re-experiencing particular childhood benchmarks, such as Halloween, only this time on the chaperone-side of things. Sure, it’s the fuddy-duddy end of the spectrum, but I’ll admit, I kind of prefer bearing witness to trick or treating rather than the actual process. I get to soak up the autumnal atmosphere as a parent rather than as a participant, which is fine—if not better. Here’s my chance to immerse myself in the sidewalk waltz, passing all the other costumed creatures on the block as we head house-to-house. It’s all there for me and I love it, absolutely love it, the downright vibe of the night, the rush of pint-sized ghouls slipping by, the walking tour of everyone else’s decorated lawns, taking the crisp fall air into my lungs and holding on to the aroma of dead leaves for as long as I can.

I need my children to support my own seasonal needs. Without them, I’m just a creepy dude wandering the block by himself and that’s just not a good look for me. They are my costume.

I—er, we—didn’t get to partake in this particular ritual in 2020. Our family hid inside, barricading ourselves in our house and trick or treating from room to room alone. It was as if we were ghosts haunting our own house, eager for release from the miasma of our home. We Have Always Trick or Treated in the Castle. The world beyond our windows offered viral tricks we weren’t ready to accept, so the season slipped away from us. Halloween whimpered in 2020.

Now it’s 2021. ‘Tis time, ‘tis time. Round about the block we go… It’s perfect: They’ll already be masked! No need to worry over transmissible water droplets from behind their latex skin!

I see my sons growing up and I can feel that clock already ticking… Once they’re too old to go trick or treating, that’ll be it for me. No more taking to the streets, no more escorting our kids through the neighborhood, no more waiting for them on the sidewalk as they ring the doorbell of our neighbors’ houses and chanting their familiar litany: Trick or treat!

My second life as a Halloweener will be over.

I’m not ready to let go.

This delta variant has me quaking, for sure. It’s grim, but I’ve worried over what would happen if our little rugrats were carriers, bringing bacteria to our neighbors as if it were the bubonic plague. Nobody wants to deliver that type of trick, when all we’re after is a treat.

If we have to sit another year out… well. So be it. I can be patient.

There’s always hope I’ll be a granddad one day.

 

Clay McLeod Chapman writes books, comic books, children books, podcasts and for film and television. His most recent horror novels include WHISPER DOWN THE LAND and THE REMAKING. You can find him at  www.claymcleodchapman.com.

2 comments on “Halloween Haunts: GIMME SOMETHING GOOD TO EAT: THE JOYS AND TERRORS OF A POST-PANDEMIC HALLOWEEN by Clay McLeod Chapman

  1. Fantastic essay. But do not dismay! I am not a father, and never have been, unfortunately. But I partake in Halloween as much as possible by ‘doing up’ our yard to the Halloween nines! People have asked, “Why bother when we get, like, three trick-or-treaters all night?”
    And ny answer, invariably, is: “I do it for me!”
    If you haven’t seen it yet, check out my yard haunt on my IG and FB pages–you just might love it!
    Happy Halloween, my friends!
    A.G. Mock

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