A Charlie Brown Halloween?

For many adults, it seems that they either love Halloween or they just don’t like it and try to avoid it. For me, Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. This probably has something to do with my birthday falling near Halloween so all of my birthday parties growing up were Halloween-themed and often costume parties. And nothing was more fun than trick-or-treating. Before going out, I would transform myself into whatever I wanted to be that year – costumes were serious business. 

Then I, together with a bunch of friends would go roaming door to door, singing in chorus, “trick or treat” and hoping for anything other than apples and raisins to be dropped in my bag. We proceeded through the neighborhoods for hours – literally until our legs were falling off – or so to speak. Arriving home late, I would then empty my over-filled bag onto our kitchen table and my mother would carefully separate anything suspicious looking and the rest was cleared for consumption. In the days ahead, I munched on the treats I had worked so hard to get except the raisins which I hated. And as the years went on, I continued to trick-or-treat in high school and then in college, even though some people would question “aren’t you a little too old to be doing that?

Ready for Halloween or Pie, Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved
Ready for Halloween or Pie, Photo courtesy of Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

A couple of years ago, I moved to a house in a cool neighborhood in Los Angeles that I was convinced would be great for Halloween. I was excited at the prospect of having lots of trick-or-treaters visiting our home. Or so I thought. Last year, to my surprise, we had no trick-or-treaters. In my denial, I decided that we had gotten home a bit too late that night and had missed them all. But this year, I knew it would be different and I was going to be ready.

So a couple of weeks before Halloween, I decorated the outside of the house as if I was competing for the “best scariest house on the block” award (I also decorated the inside too but that’s another story). I had plastic skeletons’ arms coming out of the planters, and witches’ legs were sticking up out of the ground as if she had had a bad landing. 

Shortly after moving into our house, I had purchased the obligatory plastic pink flamingos to go on the front lawn. However, this year, I couldn’t believe my luck when I found online, black plastic flamingo skeletons that I bought and strategically placed on the front lawn near a “dying” pink one. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I carved a jack-o’-lantern and placed it outside along with a Mexican terra-cotta jack-o’-lantern that I bought at  Sunset Nursery, a favorite of mine. I even had scary Halloween sound effects ready to go on my iPhone so as soon as I opened the door, the trick-or-treaters would think that they had come to a real haunted house. I was ready and eager with anticipation.

Jack o' Lantern, Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved
Jack o’ Lantern with bad acne, Photo courtesy of Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

The back story is that I actually thought that I would be missing most of the trick-or-treaters this year because I had a work obligation that would keep me from getting home much before 8:30 p.m. However, I was thrilled when the meeting unexpectedly cancelled and I knew I could be home by around 6 p.m., just in time for the beginning of a fun and frightful evening teeming with trick-or-treaters. I couldn’t wait!

Fighting the typical heavy Halloween traffic, and carefully following the directions for the fastest route home as promised by Waze, I arrived just after 6 p.m. I ran into the house to carve one more jack-o’-lantern which I decided was necessary to ensure a successful night. Then, I carefully lit the candles inside the two real jack-o’-lanterns and the one made of terra-cotta. They glowed with the spookiness of a ghosts eyes. I carefully checked the placement of the plastic skeletons’ arms and the witches’ legs to make sure everything was as realistic as possible. And of course, the black flamingo skeletons along with the dying pink one were lurking on the front lawn for unsuspecting kids in costumes to be freaked out by the spooky and icky sight. I had purchased bags of the “really good candy” assorted packets of different kinds of M&Ms — only the best at our house – which I placed in a large bowl right near the front door along with a dish of candy corn, a necessity at Halloween. With everything all set, I impatiently waited and stayed close to the front door, my heart beating faster than a bat’s wings.

Before I knew it, I noticed it was 630 p.m., then 7, then 7:15, then 8 p.m. and no trick-or-treaters. What in the heck was going on? I could hear giggles, fake screams and excited voices up the street so I was relieved to know that they were on their way. I waited with anticipation but still, there was no knock on the door. Was our house just too scary and creepy?

I suddenly decided that what I really needed was to hire a sign spinner – you know, those guys that stand on the street corners twirling signs to get your attention to buy new homes? I decided that a sign spinner standing at our corner near the adjacent main street would do the trick (no pun intended). “Hey everyone, there’s great trick-or-treating at the spooky house up the street with the best candy” the spinner would convince everyone driving by. So I quickly Googled “sign spinners Los Angeles” (I Google everything) and found a few companies to call. Dialing each as quickly as I could, I found that all of them were closed — at 8 p.m. on Halloween? Didn’t these companies know that their services might be needed for people like me in need of trick or treaters? Then I blamed myself, “why didn’t I think of this sooner? I should have had a sign spinner. Darn!

Jack O'Lantern "Scar Face" Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved
Jack O’Lantern “Scar Face”
Photo courtesy of Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

At about 815 p.m., I decided to investigate the lack of trick or treaters further so I took a walk up the street to where I had heard the giggles and pretend screams earlier in the evening. Just up the street from our house, there were still bunches of trick-or-treaters doing their thing. As I walked along, I got funny looks from some of the parents, and even one mom asked me where my costume was? Did she really think that I was actually trick-or-treating? (Yes, I had actually and finally given up trick-or-treating a number of years ago — at least 3). After they walked passed, I had to stop myself from running back after them to tell them (persuade them?) that there was great trick-or-treating just a half-block down the street. I continued to walk through the neighborhood admiring (with some envy) the other Halloween displays, feeling secretly glad there hadn’t been a decorating contest after all.  I just couldn’t figure out why these kids were not coming down our street.

Feeling defeated, I went back home still holding out a little hope that someone might arrive after all. Unfortunately, no one did. At about 10 p.m., holding my head low like Oz’s scarecrow after realizing he couldn’t scare a crow, I went outside to blow out the candles inside each of the jack-o’-lanterns. The real ones had that familiar burnt pumpkin smell that is so characteristic of the end of Halloween. Feeling like Charlie Brown, the lovable loser from the Peanuts cartoon, I shut off the lights, closed the door and plopped myself down on the couch and gazed mindlessly at whatever was on TV, binging on M&Ms, candy corn, and the pumpkin seeds I had baked earlier in the day.

As I sat there, I thought there’s always next year. Maybe I can decorate our house even better. But then, reality set in, like the overcast skies that blanket Los Angeles in June. So I reluctantly decided that next year, I will forget about Halloween. My bah-humbug friends were right. I will just sit inside our undecorated house with the lights out, watching TV as many of my friends do while ignoring any knocks on the front door in an effort to avoid Halloween altogether. I’m done. 

The next day, trying to numb my stinging disappointment from the evening before, and feeling like I had been all dressed up with nowhere to go, I wandered into a store to look around. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a large display of Halloween items that were 75% off. Hmmm, I thought. Maybe I should rethink this. So I purchased a few new cool Halloween decorations just in case. Now that’s a scary thought!