Hello! I’m still out here. My blog break is mostly going to continue through November, though, because National Novel Writing Month will help me write the first draft of Book Six in the Tales of Telmaja series.
For those who are interested in my fiction writing but not following the Tales of Telmaja Facebook page (all 1.5 of you), I can report that a) I have finished the first draft of Book Five in the Tales of Telmaja series, b) I have finished the first draft of the as-yet untitled Young Adult mermaid/vampire novel, and c) I am almost finished with the initial editing pass for Book Three in the Tales of Telmaja series (Advance Reader Team: expect an email from me before the end of the week).
Now: why am I posting? Well, it’s sort of been an And Sometimes Tea tradition to kvetch a bit about Halloween, and while I was going to give it a miss this year, something turned up to raise my redheaded ire (right on schedule).
No, this year it’s not a Catholic Mommy Blogosphere Cat Fight (e.g., “Trick-or-treat!” “All Saints’ Party!” “Trick-or-treat!” “All Saints’ Party!” “Both!” “Shut up, crazy overachiever!” etc.). It’s just another exhibit in the Why I Think Halloween Has Gotten Crazy display.
The starting point was this alleged letter allegedly sent to Dear Prudence at Slate, in which the alleged writer allegedly complains about having to give out treats to the poor kids who inundate the rich neighborhood full of one-percenters where he lives every October 31. I say “alleged” because some of the letters sent to Dear Prudence rather defy reality, and this does seem like one of them. At the very least it allows Prudence to bristle with righteous indignation and tell the writer to get to Costco (tm) and quit being a cheapskate (she doesn’t actually say “Republican,” but it’s implied).
Now, nobody could possibly complain about dear Prue’s advice in this instance because the deck is clearly stacked against the richy-rich writer who apparently spends Halloween channeling the spirit of the as-yet unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge. Lost in the narrative, though, is a really good question: wasn’t trick-or-treating always a local, neighborhood, community event? Wasn’t it always about your kids getting ooohed and ahhhed at by the neighbors while you reciprocated when their sweet little ones showed up at your door looking for candy?
I live in a far-from-rich neighborhood with modest homes that are squeezed rather close together. And the fact that our houses are squeezed close together, along with the fact that we have sidewalks and really short driveways, means that every Halloween we get the phenomenon of “drive and dump” trick-or-treating.
The way “drive and dump” trick-or-treating works is simple: parents drive their kids to our neighborhood, dump the kids at one end of the street, drive, engines idling, to the other end, and pick the kids up in order to drive them to the next street. Once the kids have raced through our neighborhood with the help of the driving parent, they head to the next neighborhood where the houses are close together, and there are sidewalks and short driveways. In this way in the three or four hours of trick-or-treating they can hit hundreds of houses and collect huge amounts of candy, presumably so their parents won’t have to purchase lunchbox snacks until the child is in graduate school, or something.
If this were simply about letting poor kids from the nearby apartment complexes get a chance to experience “real” trick or treating, I think most people would smile and buy some extra candy. But that’s not what this is. This is trick-or-treating, contact sports style. This is yet another manifestation of a culture based on materialistic greed. This is trick-or-treating with an underlying message--coming from parents, not kids--that you haven’t really “won” the game of trick-or-treating unless you gather three or four times the amount of candy and treats that you handed out at your own home.
If you even hand out treats at your own home, that is--because sometimes when one parent is driving the kids, the other leaps out of the car to walk with the kids from house to house, urging them along quickly so they can cover the most ground possible before it gets too late and those “stingy” people start turning off their porch lights.
Truth is, I suspect that it has been this phenomenon, more than anything, that has made more and more people in my neighborhood decide not to turn the porch lights on in the first place. And then a vicious cycle ensues--because if fewer people are participating in the trick-or-treat thing, then the houses where you can get candy are father and father apart, so your parents will have to drive you someplace, and so on and so forth.
I can’t remember ever being driven someplace to go trick-or-treating. Then again, I didn’t trick-or-treat any later than the eighth grade (if then), because when I was a child trick-or-treating was for the little kids. I remember helping to take my younger siblings a couple of times, but those of us who were the guardians didn’t carry bags or pillowcases and certainly didn’t ask for candy--but the increase in the age of trick-or-treaters is a subject for an entirely different rant, so we’ll leave it at that.