October 31 in a small town

Halloween is in my top 10 list of things I love about living in a small town. Growing up in the country, trick-or-treating was a social occasion. Trick-or-treating by foot across the countryside meant you could visit maybe four houses before dark. So, we trick-or-treated by car. My parents would drive my brother and I to the houses of a few neighbors and relatives. It ended up totaling about eight houses on average. While at each house the adults would ooo and ahhh over costumes and then chat, while kids (usually just my brother and I and maybe a cousin or two) would play.

I grew up never understanding the concept of canvassing an entire neighborhood block-by-block, working a grid pattern, and having a back-up bag for all the candy loot. The advice was — reach as many houses as possible, don’t waste time chatting, and wear comfortable shoes. I would hear stories from classmates whose parents would drive them into town to trick-or-treat in certain neighborhoods. They would regale with stories of working through hordes of other children in search of full-sized candy bars.

I could care less about the candy after a while. I’d pick out my favorites (chocolate) and put the rest, usually hard candies and suckers, in my closet for later. Sometimes I would try to trade a bunch of Jolly Ranchers to my brother for his remaining chocolate. One day, as a teenager, I decided to clean out my entire closet and found two bags of hard candy still waiting for me. They had been in there for years.

As a young adult I would look forward to dressing up with friends and hitting all the Halloween Costume Contests. The year I hand-made a Geisha costume with kimono details I had researched for weeks, and ever-so-carefully applied white makeup to my entire face and neck, I lost out to a literal pack of Oompa Loompas. The year I made a Cleopatra costume I lost out to a Santa-Nurse (I didn’t even know there was such a thing). I actually never won anything but it was fun to make costumes.

Halloween seems to be one of those times of year where time may actually stop. Fully present parents walk children from house to house, gathering sweet treats, and taking in all the creative costumes. Passing out candy and watching children’s faces light up; worries and stress put on pause. Most everyone seems to be in a jovial mood. I’ve never had a bad Halloween experience but some have been a little lackluster, of my own doing. Some years later, when I bought a house in town, I totally forgot about Halloween altogether. Working three jobs at the time it must have just slipped my mind. There were a couple of years I didn’t have enough money to purchase candy so I would hide inside with the porch light off, reading a book, trying to pretend I was at Kmart when kids still knocked on the door.

Now that I have kids of my own I enjoy the event through a different perspective. I love when people get into the spirit and create haunted houses in their garage for kids to walk through, or dress up in costume to pass out candy. I enjoy seeing the parade of unique costumes. Some are so creative I think they should win an award. Last year I saw an angler fish, a headless boy walking with his head in a jar, and Dr. Loomis (a parent) escorting a mini Michael Meyers (the kid).

Halloween is one of those nostalgic memories that can be relived every year, no matter how old you get. From trick-or treating through the Downtown, Trunk-or-Treating behind City Hall, to a Zombie Pub Crawl and a visit to the Pumpkin & Lights Display on Ferncliff Drive there is something about Halloween that everyone can enjoy. It’s as much a part of fall as apple cider and corn mazes. To me Halloween means time with family and friends, creativity, and smiles. Halloween in a small town is a treat. So my question for you is; what are you dressing up as for Halloween?

Mary Beth Stutzman’s Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.