Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween Arlington Forest!

Dear neighborhood,

I love you. I just wanted you to know that. I love your children, who come bouncing from house to house, as high as a 10 year old can get on sugar. I love the ones who are nervous, the ones who are brave; The ones who, in some minds are too old to be doing this, but are trying to hold on to the joys of childhood for one more year. Rock on, 12 year olds, my candy basket welcomes you.

I love that most of them say trick or treat, and thank you. And the ones who don't aren't being rude, they're just usually 3 years old and still fascinated by the concept of candy, and a little afraid of the scary pumpkins. I love that the adults are wise adults, and while they go out with the younger children, they let the older ones run in bands, fearless in the night. I love that the older children ARE fearless... because they know that even though bad things do happen in the world, they are still young enough to have faith in the security of home and family and neighborhood.

Neighborhood. That's the key, really. We've got a good bunch of folks here. We've got families from all across the globe - some have been in the area for generations, some are still learning the language. I love that my kids are relatively colorblind. I know that won't last forever, but for now, it's working. I love that we have block parties. I love that the elementary school has a Halloween parade where the children - all the children - march through the neighborhood and to the senior center. That parents line the streets to watch, and the residents of the senior center welcome the children with oohs and aahs about their costumes, and the children are so excited to show themselves off.

I know that there are some bad people in the neighborhood - there are bad people everywhere. But I also know that the neighbors have eyes and that my children are known. And that if something happens, someone will say something. So I feel safe letting my child run with the other kids. I feel especially safe on Halloween, when there are parents everywhere. And I love that this night, that is supposed to be the scariest night of the year, is actually the safest night of the year. We send our children out with tales of axe murderers, of zombies and vampires. And they feel so brave, walking through the night, approaching strange houses and asking for treats. And that bit of bravery, their badge of courage is shown in the bag of candy. "Look how many houses I went to!" translated to "Look how many strangers I talked to!" A sentence that elicits fear in the mother, but pride in the child.

And I am proud. I'm proud of my child for overcoming her fear of strangers; of my neighbors - strangers to someone else's child - for being kind and welcoming; of the children who come fearlessly to my door, knowing that their parents raised them to not be afraid of everything in the dark; and most of all, of my neighborhood - the families that surround me with goodwill. The families I entrust my children to, however briefly.

So in your honor, dear neighborhood, I will not be checking the candy sacks. I will not be looking for poisoned apples and razorblades. I know that the urban myths are just one more thing designed to instill fear, and how there has never actually been a case of either razorblades or poison in an apple (outside of Snow White, that is). And I trust you.

Next year, let's hand out popcorn balls and toffee apples, and treats we've made from scratch. Let's show the world that even if they are afraid, we are not. Because we know that most of the fear in the world is manufactured, not based on reality. That we live in a safe word - safer than we have ever been. And our children are, for the most part, very safe. And the things we fear are not the things that endanger us (otherwise, we'd all be wearing costumes of cholesterol and high blood pressure, and drivers falling asleep at the wheel. And how do you even make a costume of heart disease, cancers and stroke, which account for 57% of all deaths in america?)

Our fears are unfounded, our children are safe. Our neighbors are good.

Our neighbors are very good.

And our candy is delicious.