Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

A Story About the Awkward Dance of Halloween Guilt and Fitting In

 

My new neighborhood reminds me of the opening credits in Desperate Housewives.  Behind the beautiful front doors, the manicured lawns, and the gentle southern curb appeal, most certainly lurk all kinds of stories with a sharper edge. Or at least that’s what I’m hoping.

Recently transplanted to southern Texas, by way of Ashland, Oregon, we don’t really know anyone yet. Aside from walking our dog, our days consist of digging through unending boxes and looking for a place to put things. Consequently there is no television hooked up yet to numb our brains at the end of the day. So Dean and I spend our evenings sitting on the front porch, talking in whispers and wonderings about this new place we’ve moved to.

Directly across the street from us is Richard. (All names have been changed in order to cover my ass and protect the innocent.) Richard walks Domino, a black Portuguese water dog.  On the day that we first said “hi” to one another, I commented about the plethora of inflatable ghosts and goblins, dozens of pumpkins and skeletons that seemed to be reproducing themselves on his front lawn. It’s a veritable blow up doll convention out there.

“My wife,” he said. And then followed it with “Wait until Christmas,” a comment that left me with a little shudder.

The man has three daughters and a wife who is obviously determined to give her kids happy childhood memories.  But as the object of my fascination, Kinky Friedman, once said “A happy childhood is the worst preparation for life.”

The neighbor next door to them have two boys.  They throw the football in the evening causing Dean to recount his childhood: always in a relationship with a ball game with other boys — football, baseball, basketball, come over for a catch, kind of days. I never tire of those stories, imagining my 67-year-old husband as an 11-year-old with fresh eyes, a dimpled grin and a fair amount of mischief that he never lost.

Stella is the mother to those boys. I met her when she was walking Lennon, named after John. If not for my dog Jeter, it might take me months to meet and greet the neighbors, but a goofy Labrador retriever is a ticket to an introduction. A few minutes of canine sniffing gives time for an exchange of names and a sincere welcome to the neighborhood. Stella’s yard is decorated for Halloween too, but not crazy over the top, over compensating for something decorated, like Richard’s yard.

Dean and I speculate about the lives here, the intersection of old and young, reckless and measured, all of it with a Texan texture and the smell of barbecue in the air. Welcome to Austin, a fun and foreign land.

“Do you think that we’ve bought enough Halloween trick or treat stuff to give out” I ask him.

“It doesn’t matter. The neighborhood kids are going to hate you anyway because you’re giving out little bags of pretzels and popcorn. You know the holiday is all about the candy, right?”

“What about healthy treats?” He rolls his eyes. “Am I going to be that old woman whose trees the kids in the neighborhood wrap in toilet paper because she doesn’t give out Snickers at Halloween?”

He shrugs. “Maybe.”

I’d hate to wake up to that the morning after. Especially since we just gave our yard got some autumn love this past week, a toned down version of Halloween blow up dolls. We planted winter-hardy pansies and mini snapdragon.  I placed three baskets of mums on our porch and an autumn wreath on the front door. I put out a couple of pumpkins. I confess to putting out fake ones, having dealt with the carnage wrought by aggressive squirrels over the years. It all looks very tasteful and welcoming. Then again, maybe my decor is screaming that I’m giving out stupid bags of popcorn for Halloween.

A car pulls into a driveway a few doors down from us and I wave. The driver waves back. “Have you met her?” Dean asks me.

“No, I just want to be friendly in case all the neighborhood kids wind up hating me for giving them pretzels and popcorn for Halloween.”

“Or if you write about this on your blog.”

“That will take longer to discover than the fact that I’m not giving out candy,” I say.

We sit in silence, lost in our thoughts about the lives of polite people in a polite neighborhood that is showing signs of straining at the seams from too many blow-up dolls. Not giving out candy could potentially add to the strain. I’m pissed off that fitting in means so much to me. I hate blow-up dolls and I hate the idea of loading up kids with sugar. But my stomach lurches and before the evening is over, I know I will succumb. I’ll  run to Costco tomorrow and buy a bunch of candy to mix in with the healthy treats. That and a glass of hard cider should assuage the Halloween guilt and discomfort.

Happy Halloween!

Author:

Novelist, essayist, blogger, wife, dog-mommy, dancer, dreamer, grateful.

11 thoughts on “A Story About the Awkward Dance of Halloween Guilt and Fitting In

  1. As one of the only childfree couples on our cul de sac, I must underline the importance of placating the kids in the neighborhood. Don’t forget, in a few years when they become licensed drivers, they’ll be deciding whether or not to do doughnuts in your front yard. I recommend FULL BARS of Snickers!

  2. Hahahaha! Delightfully devilish stories! You are such a fun writer! I’d hate you for your popcorn and prezel treats if I was a kid. Almost as bad as pencils! Here’s to fitting in!

  3. I agree about the blow up figures whether its pumpkins or Santa. I think they look tacky. If you want to know your neighbours buy a dog. Since I’ve walked my daughters puppy I’ve met so many new people. Its a world all of its own. Great descriptive post. I feel like I live next door to you.

  4. Oh my God pretzels and popcorn you are doing I just hope that the blowup dolls don’t start walking and knock on your door if they do get a ticket back to Ashland and will welcome you with open arms sounds like you guys are unpacking and need to get that TV up and running but yes thanks to Jeter you are getting that social ticket into knowing your neighbors which is great I did talk to Gerry not talk to her but in got an email that said you were getting lots of rain and that there was some flooding around you but she said you were protected because your neighborhood has its own water source so stay friends with those people next-door all right love to talk to him to get back and we are still having a great time but the weather has turned we’re interpreter and it is pouring rain here but we did manage to take a tour up to the rock and dodge the monkeys take care love to you Jenni

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    1. Okay, the run on sentence, sans punctuation, sent from your i-phone while traipsing through Europe, is just too precious. Whew! The rain has subsided. We’re gathering with our neighbors in the cul-de-sac on Halloween to hang out and watch the kids — also indulge in a little grown-up liquid treat. Life is good, but just in case the blow-up dolls knock on my door, rest assured that I’d buy a ticket back to Ashland. Love. Safe travels and Happy Halloween.

  5. So sorry I missed this before Hallowe’en, but nevertheless, here is my ‘hello’, at least in time to wish you a happy life in your new digs! Inflatable holiday figures have taken over the more sedate (and attractive) decorations of the past. They are a curse, and some people think that bigger is better, so we are now driving down streets in which inflatable beings dip and dive toward us as we travel along. Sort of makes your inflatable pumpkin seem tame! Happy belated Hallowe’en, Stephanie!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.