Saturday, November 3, 2012

With Halloween, the Holy Days Have Begun

Now that Halloween has come, I feel that special loving happiness that I feel during the holidays. I realize that for me, the holiday season begins with Halloween (and doesn't stop until after Valentine's Day).

I really do enjoy having trick or treaters. I've probably said this before, but here is my perception: It must be amazing for children to have the understanding regarding Christmas and Santa Claus that there is a being whose entire purpose in life is making and delivering toys to children. The implications of that are huge, in my opinion. I think it opens children up to the concept of a benevolent universe that CAN work to support, provide, and love them. Of course, then, later they learn that that "Santa Claus" was a myth, that it is the parents who do it all. But myths really are symbols of a deep reality, so the Santa Claus myth is actually the truth,
and it is the PARENTS who support, provide for, and love the children, and that the entire created beingness of the Universe is an entity filled with love and wonder. In every way parents (the good ones, anyway) are Santa Claus, and so all this wonder and love begins in the home, and then can go forth out into the world from there.

I realized that Halloween in our culture is like an appetizer for Christmas, which is why I view it as the beginning of the "holidays", and I consider what must it be like for children to realize that on one day a year, they can dress up according to their fantasies and go around knocking on people's doors and the people in there will give them candy! Willingly! In my view, this supports the idea of a welcoming, accepting, giving, and generous neighborhood, something we want there to be for our children (and for us). So, in a way, Halloween brings the neighborhood together, if only for one brief night, but it is hoped that it can continue, and expand, on from there. How are the children treated there, by brightly lit houses, fun decorations, doors opened wide by smiling adults, and delicious candy proffered? Or darkened streets, scowling neighbors, a "get out of here" attitude, or a stingy demeanor? Or maybe one might wonder how certain people are then viewed--THOSE people are NICE, whereas THOSE people are MEAN. I think all this makes a difference in how children feel about the place where they grow up, and where they live, and about their culture as a whole, which is something I think we want them to care about and feel a part of.

All this is a positive spin on it, which I know that many others don't share. As loving as he was, my father didn't share in it, for example. He viewed it as something forced, and unhealthy. "If I had my way," he'd say, "Halloween would be eliminated." Huh? And yet I remember being a little boy, having so much fun when he took me out trick or treating Halloween night, creeping around in the delicious autumnal dark, smelling the smell of the fallen leaves, seeing the warmth of the invitation of the various houses, being with him on that special night. I don't even really remember the candy, were we even allowed to eat it? But what I was getting out of it was not the candy, but everything else. So when, and why, did Dad turn into such a humbug?

Others just see it all as unhealthy--"Children shouldn't have so much sugar." Others see it as "unChristian" (even though it actually has very Christian roots), "Idolizing zombies and monsters and other evil things." Others see it as supporting an "entitlement" mentality..."What, if we don't hand out the candy that we are forced to buy, what will they do, damage our house?" Then there are those who see evil everywhere out there. "The child molesters will be out on the prowl. In costumes, people can hide. Be careful of the things people give you--poisoned candy; laxative, or needles, or other hazards baked into cookies, don't take
anything that hasn't been commercially produced and wrapped and sealed."

Then there is the fear on the other side. I know someone who told me that she and her husband turn out almost ALL of the lights and hover in the farthest back room in the house. "We don't want anybody knocking on our door, we pretend to not be at home, you have no idea who is standing there and what they really want." You know, casing the joint, or they will bring out a gun from behind the folds of a ghost costume and come into your home to rob, rape, or kill you. I even felt MYSELF being a little afraid (although it didn't stop me at all and I didn't even peek through the little scope in the door before opening it...what would that have shown me, anyway?), imagining the possibility of a crowd of 20 teenagers suddenly flash-mobbing their way into my apartment and taking away everything valuable they could carry like how gangs of teenage blacks have done to 7-11 stores in Washington, DC and Las Vegas. Sure, that COULD happen, already society seems on the brink of ripping apart at the seams, and a sure sign of that total breakdown IS something like that person hovering in a hidden back room on Halloween night. But I still believe in "what my actions will manifest" and so far, I want my actions to support a loving, cohesive society, not people cowering in fear.

A couple of years ago, I read a book on "The Coming Race War", where "the color of your skin will be your uniform". While the author's arguments seemed to have a lot of validity (mostly based on how differing cultures tear themselves apart elsewhere in the world, and particularly in Africa which is, of course, continuously happening all over that continent), I didn't happen to believe that our American culture would fall to that. Sure, a hundred and fifty years ago we had slavery, but we also had the
Underground Railroad, and the Emancipation Proclamation, and then in the 60s we had the Civil Rights movement, which wasn't "blacks forcing civil rights on the rest of us," but "our culture indicating that the time for this was way overdue", and thus, we now have it. "But if it DOES come to a 'race war'," I said to myself, "then I guess I am dead, because there is no way I can see myself walking down the street and seeing a black or Hispanic person and automatically pulling out a gun and shooting them. So maybe they will just shoot me first." Of course I decided that my actions
would not support the manifestation of a race war, but will support, instead, that such a thing is ridiculous. [What actions would support the manifestation of a race war? The author's advice was to prepare for it by moving to safety right now away from the areas that would become the post-war Hispanic country (California and the Southwest), the post-war Black country (the South) (the two areas that I like best in the continental U.S.), and live, instead in the post-war White country (Christians in the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest, Jews in the Northeast--yeah, put all the white people in the cold, rainy, unsunny north zone), but I appreciate attempting to understand the points of view of all different kinds of people, and anyway, I am always interested in reading about geography!].

So, to me, Halloween is a kind of holy day and I do my part by getting
into it.

My apartment was clearly welcoming, I had all the blinds open and all the lights on, I had beautiful holiday lights strung along the railing of my balcony (they were purple when I bought them last year, at a Halloween store, because I figured I could leave them up after Halloween and turn them on for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and whenever I have a party...but being outside all year, the purple color faded off so now they are just white, or clear, but that is fine), I had a large plastic half-pumpkin face that fits over the outside light that is next to my door and glows invitingly, and I had a skeleton poster on my door that said "Trick or Treat!". So it was obvious even from the street this place was open for business. And then when it was time for me to go to bed, I took down the pumpkin and the poster and turned off all the lights and shut all the blinds. Now closed! Actually, I had no more trick or treaters after about 9:00.

I did have one kind of peculiar and possibly scary visitor, my very last one, actually. He had a rather cute rhythmic knock, like he was playing a tune, and when I opened the door, who should I see standing there but one lone adult male, not even in costume, or it didn't look like a costume (who knows how he normally dressed)...he looked kind of like a rock star, very skinny, probably stoned. He was standing, smoking a cigarette, and acted kind of embarrassed. What on earth was he doing? Well, the only legitimate reason that I could see was that he was trick or treating, maybe he had nostalgia for his childhood Halloween, or maybe he just wanted to get some free candy, or was suffering from the munchies from being stoned (I am sure he WAS stoned). Anyway, while he did seem kind of embarrassed, like he needed to explain himself but just couldn’t quite, so he mumbled something I didn't get, it didn't matter to me; in my mind, he had a perfect right to go trick or treating like anybody else and if he wanted some candy, why not? So I said, "Hi, trick or treat, here," and held out my candy bowl like I did for the kids, "you can choose five of your favorites," and he carefully studied them and picked out one by one his five, nodded his thanks and then went on his merry way. He certainly wasn't casing the joint, he hardly even looked past the threshold, I think he was simply legitimately out there getting himself some candy. And, honestly, I like that...I like it that he felt free enough to participate in this thing.

Reading on Facebook later that evening, there were some Facebook friends complaining about adults carrying a candy bag of their own. These Facebook friends thought that that was ridiculous, that the candy was only for kids. With me, I offered my candy to the adults, too, not one of them assumed that they could have it, though, until I offered it, and very few took me up on it (but those who did were happy about it). Halfway through the evening (when, unfortunately, it was too late to do anything about it), I came up with an idea that I would like to do next year, and that is to specifically have something to hand out to the adults accompanying their kids: a bowl filled with a huge variety of those cute single-drink-size liquor bottles like you get on airplanes or have in hotel mini-bars. I happen to really like those, myself (but, you know, I admit that I like liquor and no, I am not an alcoholic), so I think it would be very fun to offer those to the adults, "Choose your favorite, or something new to try, for yourself." But I don't know, maybe that would be a bad idea for various reasons, I will have to think about it. But so far, I like that idea.

It was interesting to experience the behavior of the kids. Almost all of them were polite and appreciative, except for just one, maybe two cases.

The very first group of trick or treaters I had were loud, noisy, and energetic junior-high-aged boys. I had heard them shouting boisterously and running around in the complex before they got to my door. They were obvious residents of the complex, because residents were the ones who started early, and also were the ones (at that age) who were not accompanied by adults. My personality is such that I LIKE that exuberance in kids rather than despising it; they are kids being kids, which in my view is how they are supposed to be. If I didn't like the reality of that, then I wouldn't live in an apartment complex that is mostly composed of families (nor would I work in a school). Heck, at this stage in my life, I could even live in an assisted living complex filled with nothing but fuddy-duddy over-the-hill types, but, no....

Anyway, I opened the door and saw three "faceless" boys standing there, two in those full head-to-toe "blue man" body-stocking costumes (with other stuff over that) and one of them with a very bloody, fanged wolf-man kind of mask on. They were kind of a shock to see when I opened the door, which I knew they wanted it to be, and I shared that with them, "You guys really ARE scary-looking, wow!" I then held out the candy bowl, saying that each one could choose five of their favorite ones. The tallest of
the boys said, "FIVE, are you sure?" "Yes," I said, "five." "Wow," he said, and then he carefully sorted through them and chose five, counting them out, "One, two, three...." Another of the boys sprang at one of them, held it up, and said, "This one is my FAVORITE kind!" They were actually SO nice and polite, and I said to one of them in the full-on body stocking, "Isn't it scary to wear that? I think I would feel claustrophobic inside there." You know, it's like being shut up inside a hood. He gave me what in my world-view is a true hero's answer, instead of a fake one, "Naw, it isn't scary, you can completely see through it, it doesn't make you feel shut up." The fake hero answer would be, "Yeah, it's scary, but I can handle it." True heroes tell you how YOU can do it, don't set themselves up on a pedestal. So those boys were winners, to me.

Interestingly, counting out five was kind of difficult for some of the kids, especially if they were very young. Their mother or their older sibling had to encourage them each step of the way. "You've now taken one, you can choose another one." And that would continue all the way to the fifth one. But even for some of the older ones, it was kind of like the difficulty of walking and chewing gum at the same time...they had to both CHOOSE and COUNT this to five. Everyone seemed to want to make sure that I saw each one as they chose them, like I was a policeman watching to make sure they took only FIVE (if I paid any attention at all, it was to make sure they got their entire five, which some of them seemed to not believe they could get). One girl got kind of messed up and after choosing three, ended up simply grabbing a handful in frustration, and then after she did it, looked up at me in shock and said, "I just took a whole handful!" and started to put some back, but I stopped her, "No,
that's okay, you keep them!" She seemed grateful that I didn't yell at her or something. I didn’t care, I just wanted them to be happy.

I did begin to worry that I might run out before the evening was over, for if a group of say, six, came to my door, they would then walk away with 30 pieces of candy. I had gotten one bag that said it had a 100 pieces and two other bags each that said they had 40. But at the rate of, say, "30" with one group, I would have only enough for about six of such groups. Of course, most "groups" weren't that large (composed of just two or three kids), but some of them were. So at the point (briefly), I cut it down to three pieces, and while all but one of those kids seemed quite happy with the three, one slightly older girl, my one clear rude visitor of the evening, said, "The people downstairs are giving out five." Imagine! But she succeeded in making me feel bad, because I had been giving out five, myself, before this group came. But
if she felt that her comment was going to make me give her more, it didn't work; her rudeness made me adamant that she was lucky to even get the three. But I did want to give two more to the nicer girls who were with her, but no, they all got only three.

As it turned out, the counts on the packages were inaccurate (or falsely indicative), and there were way more in those bags than what they said (which would have had the effect of making you buy many more bags). Maybe by "pieces" they meant some kind of a "serving", such as maybe "three" counted as a "serving", so the actual number of "pieces" was 300, or they were counting a certain weight...I really don't know (I probably should have figured it out). But I ended up counting how many I had left and realized that I was highly unlikely to run out with giving out five, so I went back to that.

It ended up that I had had WAY more than I needed. When Halloween was over, I still had nearly half of them left. So now what do I do with them? While it would be nice to "keep" them for next year, I knew that would be impossible; one way or another, I would end up eating them and I did not need to do that (proof of that, this morning, I found myself wishing that I had kept around a few of them, but I am thankful that I had not). And I wasn't sure if they even would be any good, kept around for a year. So I took them to school the next day, and divided them into four shares that effectively got rid of them. One share I put in a bowl in our building's kitchen for administrative employees to have, and that bowl was emptied within the first thirty minutes. Two other shares I gave for the stash of two teachers I know, one of whom keeps them in a teacher's workroom where the teachers in that group carefully enjoy them one at a time during breaks (I admire their control), and the other of whom has
a secret stash that she uses, shhh, to reward her students from time to time. The fourth share I put in our school's "left-over Halloween candy drive" bin, which either goes to disadvantaged children or maybe is sent to the troops overseas (I'm not really sure WHERE it goes). Anyway, that candy will find good use outside of my home.

So now I have Thanksgiving to look forward to, which has its own special charms that I enjoy. The weather outside has joined in the celebration, giving me that feeling of cozy comfort (fireplaces, candlelight, and sweaters or jackets) and the feeling of being embraced by a force bigger than I am. While it pulls you within, it also directs your heart to outside of yourself, so I am appreciative, thankful, and grateful for all that we have.

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