Thursday, October 13, 2011

Be safe on Halloween

Jack-o-laternImage via WikipediaFor so many people, Halloween is their favorite day of the year.

Maybe I have just become a crotchety old woman, because I don’t necessary share that view. There may be a little of that, but mostly, I am just saddened by the way things have changed in my lifetime.

Halloween was a magical time for me

While I have fond childhood memories of Halloween and I loved participating in the seasonal festivities when my two children were young, times are very different today. Attitudes have changed. Horror and violence seems to permeate our society. The world is a much scarier place than it used to be. Much of the innocence during the time of my youth is gone.

Like all kids, trick-or-treating for me was just so much fun. Not only was it all about the candy and playing dress-up, but it was also all about endurance. Trick-or-treating reinforced the lesson that we must earn the things we want. There were no hours imposed back then, so we were able to go out from dawn until dusk, picking up as much candy as we could.

It was especially fun when Halloween fell on a Saturday. I can’t count how many times my older brother visually mapped a course for us so we could swing home to empty our bags, only to go out to fill them up again, without much back-tracking where we’d already been. When I was really little, we lived in the City of Chicago, in the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood.

I’ve seen those very neighborhoods where we used to innocently collect candy house-to-house, on the news. Gunshots are commonplace. Murder happens on a much-too frequent basis. It is certainly not the same place it was when I was a kid. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a child there today.

When I was seven, we moved to the suburbs. Safety was never a concern when I was a kid—at least that I was aware of. I recall some of those outings on Halloween. Once I was a sailor, dressing in my father’s old Navy uniform. Another time, I wore my cousin’s prom dress. I was a princess. We never considered buying a costume. We always used what we had; we always improvised.

Fun with the kids

Halloween was big when my kids were young too. I recall the parties at school when all the kids dressed up, usually in homemade costumes. Their grade school would hold a parade where all the costumed kids would walk dutifully around the school grounds. Some of the moms and neighborhood seniors would come to admire them. Then they would have a party in their classrooms. Some of the costumes were really clever.

We lived in a small town, where everyone knew each other. The neighbors pretty much watched over the kids. Homemade goodies still appeared in trick-or-treat bags. That isn’t advisable anymore. In fact, it is now recommended not to eat, say an apple, because people have actually placed razor blades inside them.

I think my dislike for Halloween began when my daughter came home from school one year with a tube of fake blood one of her friends had given her. She wanted me to put it on her face so she would look really scary. I refused. I told her there was no way I wanted to see her beautiful face covered in blood—fake or not.

Even when my kids outgrew it, Halloween was still fun for me. I worked for a local newspaper, so at times, I took pictures of some of the most interesting costumes.

I enjoyed watching some of the little kids amble up the steps of our big, front porch in their often over-sized costumes. Often times the little ones were accompanied by their parents. Seeing them had an atmosphere of being like visiting with neighbors. As the little hands reached into our big plastic pumpkin filled with candy bars, gum, and suckers, it was like they were on a mission. Most of them were polite and said thank you before they walked away. If they didn’t their parents would remind them.

Halloween started to lose its luster for me

Every year there were more and more kids. It was hard to judge how much candy to buy. It started to get really expensive. Almost every year we had to sneak to the local grocery store to buy another bag or two, just to get through the night. Sometimes the store ran out too. The designated time was usually only three hours, but in that time, it was often non-stop kids that came in droves. Many were unknown to me. Some were clearly not of an appropriate age for trick-or-treating. Not all of the kids originated in our town; they came from the country and even other towns, by car. The traffic became horrendous.

Finally when the porch light went out at the designated time, to signify that trick-or-treat was officially over, the little witches and goblins returned home to admire their stash.

That was when the trouble would begin. In our small town, when the police were summoned, it was usually for petty incidents of smashing pumpkins, stealing lawn decorations, or other types of mischief. But that isn’t always the case, according to crime statistics. There are real concerns for kids these days.

So many people are armed with weapons; some are concealed, some not. Not only does it seem that people are less protective of kids, but they are less tolerant of them as well. Violence is glorified on television, in video games, and in music. Horror is celebrated. We seem to be totally desensitized to violence in general. An unhealthy obsession with death and destruction seems to accompany Halloween.

I’m not certain when Casper the friendly ghost turned into Freddie Kreuger, but I know I just don’t like it. I abhor violence of any kind. Crimes have become more heinous than ever before. And crime statistic generally show an increase on Halloween.

I know kids today probably love Halloween as much as I did in my youth, but for me, the thrill has been replaced with extreme caution.

So how ever you plan to celebrate Halloween, please just stay safe.

Enhanced by Zemanta