Running on Empty: Make time for family this Halloween

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The 31st of October was never my favorite holiday — the graphic scenes from horror films and too many nauseating lawn decorations spoil an otherwise gentle fall — but the kid-friendly, playful Halloween with its bright orange pumpkins and home spun scarecrows from our childhood is always worth resurrecting.

And of course, there’s candy.

For a few years, bereft of satisfying trick-or-treating neighborhoods, we rumbled over to an affluent neighborhood north of downtown known for full size candy bars on October’s most gluttonous night.

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But things had changed.

Shifting a block or two south, this neighborhood on a hill had transformed into a full-blown Halloween bash, complete with live band (yes, Monster Mash is a constant request) and old, black and white horror films on a white screen on a tiny lawn.

If you’ve lived in the area long, you’ve probably heard of it a time or two. It really is great.

It’s also stressful. And exhausting. And when you get home, children asleep in the back seat and treat bags bursting with sugar — getting them to bed was like unloading sacks of potatoes, silent inanimate objects wrestled into storage bins for the night — all you can do is groan that work awaits your tired legs tomorrow.

Then, we moved to a community with densely packed homes near the park. Suddenly, trick-or-treating our own neighborhood was possible.

Almost every family opened their door, smiling as they held out candy for costumed children. A stream of trick-or-treaters, cars shadowing ghouls and goblins and soldiers and princesses, flowed up the main strip.

We haven’t returned to the neighborhood on the hill since.

Sure, our children get less candy and they miss out on the live music and hastily constructed spook houses, but they get one treasured experience back.

Family time.

After trick-or-treating the last house, we walk home with plenty of time left for board games, festive cartoons, and the occasional late-night trick-or-treater.

And when it’s time for bed, small smiling faces share their favorite parts of the night, jabbering about what the Switch Witch will bring them (think Elf on the Shelf but for Halloween, trading a portion of their candy for a toy on Halloween night).

What we lose in candy we more than make up for in memories.

This Halloween, being the rabidly good parents you are, you’ll be tempted to motor over to “that one neighborhood” or rush your children back and forth, terrified they might actually – gasp! – miss out.

Resist.

Stay home. Trick-or-treat your own community. Say hello to your neighbors. And neighbors…buy candy. Turn your porch light on and open your door to the children excited to knock on it. Nothing is more disappointing on Halloween night than a dark doorstep.

But while you walk up and down giggling streets, watching your kids dart from step to step, remember that Halloween is like every other holiday on your calendar. A chance to get together and enjoy an evening you can all remember fondly ten, twenty, even thirty years from now.

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