Thursday, October 26, 2006

The ghost is out tonight

I think my house is haunted. I keep buying Halloween candy and putting it in a bowl by the front door, but for some reason, by the end of the week, that giant bowl is completely empty. Worse, I keep finding candy wrappers in my pockets. My cats are incapable of simply tearing open a Reese’s single without leaving claw marks and little tiny teeth-marks all over the wrapper, can’t work their way into my pockets, and so far have not suffered renal failure, so I know neither of them has consumed the many pounds of chocolate and peanut butter. None of my neighbors would want to reach into my house... they know how hazardous reaching past the cats would be, let alone that they would not dare risk exposing themselves to my housekeeping habits. I have found no evidence of burglars (not that I own anything worth stealing, anway). And, since I am the model of restraint, I therefore can assume only that no earthly presence has been nibbling at my tasty treats. It is ghosts.

These are the same other-worldly creatures who made my doors hang crooked, blew out the starter on my furnace, knocked the plaster down from my ceiling, who shook a branch down from my tree onto my porch roof, and saw to it that nobody claimed the contractors’ dumpster from out front of my house for more than two months. They are full of mischief, it seems.

But I’m not complaining. Except about the chocolates.

All Hallows’ Eve is about my favorite time of year. I love the smell of autumn, that peculiar mix of late rainfall and rapid plant decay and earth and frosty morning and hot cocoa. And, although I’m highly allergic to it, I even, sometimes, enjoy the smell of leaves burning -- for that second or two before I start coughing and wheezing. Besides the smell, the colors are always vivid and exciting, from the trees to the pumpkins to the children in costume.

And that last part is the best. I like to see kids having fun getting dressed up and showing themselves off. I like to hear them laugh and play. There are times I think I’d be happy for it to go on every night of the year. Some feel that way about Christmas, but I think Halloween is the ultimate day for the kid in all of us.

Naturally, since I want Halloween to be the happiest, most laughter-filled night of the year, I ask for everybody to be extra-careful on that day, and the few days leading up to it. You’ve probably heard all the advice a hundred times. If you have kids of your own, make sure that their costumes are safe, that they can see past any masks they are wearing, and that they otherwise practice safe trick-or-treating. Don’t let them wander willy-nilly from house to house. Monmouth is a small town, but it has its hazards, just like any other place on earth. If you can’t go with your children, know where they are going and with whom, and make sure there is reasonable supervision. Better still, take advantage of local parties, such as the one the police department sponsors. Take them to the nearest haunted house. Throw a party yourself. ( I know where you can rent a real black cat, if you need one for your decorations.)

And, those of us who have no kids of our own need to be extra-alert as we’re driving. Go slowly through residential areas, and pay attention to the slightest movement of shadows near the street. Be ready with the brakes. Remember that this is one night when common sense in children is even less common than usual.

With a little caution on all our parts, the laughter will continue to come from healthy, happy children, and they won’t be joining the poltergeists in my hallways, next year. If everybody does well, I may even get some more chocolates for the ghosts, as well as for the kids who are brave enough to reach past the spider web to ring my doorbell. And I’m sure the ghosts won’t put any more wrappers in my pockets or pounds of fat around my thighs and posterior.

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