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So it’s Halloween. I originally come from New Jersey. For the geographically handicapped, that’s up on the North East coast.

Halloween is great, because it’s the day when you can dress up as a pirate, or astronaut, or zombie, or whatever and play at it without people thinking you’re off your nut. Not only is it accepted, but it’s expected. And it works for adults, too. Up to a point.

To pull out the “I’m old and you have to listen to it” card, it’s a lot different now than when I was a kid. At least, that’s the way I remember it. Back then, in New Jersey, Halloween was very chilly. The leaves were changing colors. Kids were allowed to dress up in school. In fact, they encouraged it and had parades for the kids to show off their costumes. Now, it looks like a lot of schools aren’t allowing it. They definitely won’t allow masks.

Back then, there were hoards of kids roaming the neighborhood. It was better to set a chair down by the front door so you wouldn’t have to keep getting up to hand out candy. Groups of superheroes, greasers, spacemen, aliens, 1950’s poodle-skirt girls, faeries, and ghosts would appear, holding out bags and pillow cases, and then slip away into the night like a colorful fog. As the night grew older so would the kids, until you finally got the teenagers who just wanted candy and couldn’t be bothered to dab fake blood on their lips.

Even before I left New Jersey, I noticed that the amount of groups got smaller each year. Last year, I don’t think more than ten kids showed up to get some candy. They were all in costume, though. I think it’s great when parents go around with their young ones and they’re dressed up, too. But that’s very rare.

As far back as I can remember, there was always an element of fear concerning Halloween. Not the good kind of fear, where you walk with your small groups of friends wondering what that strange light ahead is on this fearful night, but the bad kind of fear. The one that makes your parents go through your candy looking for tell-tale pinpricks (and taking some choice bits for “testing”), razor blades in apples, throwing away anything homemade (I never ate a caramel popcorn ball although many showed up in my pillowcase). I was told to never go into a house, to always stay outside. I understand the reasons, but I wonder if my perception of a failing Halloween is due to those fears becoming worse.

Perhaps it’s just where I ended up living. Maybe in other areas Halloween is still the way I remember it. I’d be curious to know.