The Halloween you never knew you needed
My First Halloween as a Homeowner
It’s Halloween, Circa 2010. We’re sitting on our front porch swing in the dusk, our eyes wide and focused. We’re looking for children, neighbors, for any sign of life.
“There’s a group!” I whisper, leaning forward, ready to pounce.
Shiny silver wrappers from Snickers and Milky Way bars blink below me in a giant bowl. I can’t wait to serve the little… Witch? Vampire? Princess Skeleton? They’re still too far down the street to see. Our heads crane further and further toward the lone band of trick-or-treaters. That’s when we realize.
They’re heading in the other direction.
We watch as they shrink away, becoming black and pink blurs in our vision before disappearing into the night. We wait thirty more minutes, but there isn’t a Trick-or-Treater to be seen.
That is how, on my first Halloween as a homeowner, I went from eagerly awaiting Trick-or-Treaters, to eating way too many mini-Snickers bars on my new front porch, feeling defeated. It was an evening of the unexpected. I hadn’t expected to feel disappointed on such a fun holiday. Then, once I felt disappointed, I hadn’t expected guilt to creep into my subconscious. Guilt for only coming out of my house on Halloween; for not knowing if there were any kids on my block, or who my neighbors were, or where the people in each unlit house were on Halloween, anyway.
Over time I learned that there were hot blocks and cold blocks in our East Dallas neighborhood, cushioned between the livelier “M-Streets” to our west, and the family-oriented lawns of Lakewood to our east. We were kind of hit or miss from one street to the next when it came to Halloween. You were supposed to know people and get invited to parties—or throw one yourself. If you had kids (I didn’t), you took them to Halloween hotspots like Avalon Avenue, so hoppin’ it was blocked off with cones for miles of traffic-free trick-or-treating.
Braving the space beyond my front porch
These are things I would learn as I ventured out of the TV-watching, iPhone-browsing safety of our private den, and into the public of our front yard. After our first baby was born, I’d sit him on my lap and swing him on the front porch swing. That’s when I met Amy—or rather, saw Amy, my neighbor across the street. She would sometimes spread a blanket out on her front lawn for her babies.
I thought, “Yes!” This blonde neighbor seemed to be around my age with twin boys almost identical in age to my baby boy. So I’d awkwardly wave, wondering if she and her family were sort of like me and mine.
It took about a year before I finally left my front porch, walked over to her yard, and plopped myself and my kid on that blanket of hers, hoping she wouldn’t think it was weird. She didn’t.
Together, we discussed all kinds of things—parenthood; church; work; our love for coffee and red wine; our dreams of where we’d settle down or if we’d already found that place. We compared notes about life in our neighborhood and how we fit into it.
But from time to time, even with my newfound friend across the street, that feeling of guilt came back to me. It was no longer guilt for not knowing who my neighbors were, but guilt that it had taken me so long to reach out.
Creating a new normal
Why had it taken me so long to get up the nerve to walk across the street and befriend someone?
As kids, most of us are naturals at making friends in our neighborhood. In fact, when we’re young, Halloween isn’t far from our everyday norms: we’re always eager to knock on a neighbor’s door. But many of us lose that sense of friendliness as we age. It’s the isolated nuclear family syndrome. Instead of swinging through the gates of those ten-foot security fences to befriend neighbors, we’re building those fences around ourselves. A night like Halloween, when we open our doors to anyone who comes knocking, is far from our social norm as adults.
It’s true: Dino-bots, Disney princesses, and Axe-wielding zombies only come knocking once a year—and that’s a good thing. But it was a strange feeling to realize on my first grown-up Halloween that I pretty much only came out the one time, too.
What you need to do this Halloween
In the tradition of ending a personal story with a piece of advice, here’s mine to you: this Halloween, don’t be like Susan and Clay Phillips, circa 2010. If you’re new to your street, you still have a few days before Halloween to meet some people before they show up (or don’t!) on your doorstep to receive candy and get barked at by your dog. Text those neighbors you see out sometimes with their little one and tell them you’ve got an extra seat in your two-year-old’s wagon if they want to join you and your family for trick or treating. Offer your house as a starting point for the neighborhood kids to trick-or-treat together. Just reach out.
As a community, we can always be better about befriending others. And as Christians, we're not called to live a life isolated to our private families and homes. In fact, Jesus embodied just the opposite: he sacrificed the comforts of a private home to make people, themselves, his dwelling (and he, theirs).
Jesus didn’t wait for people to come to him; he went out to the people. We should do the same.