I have an early memory of trick-or-treating. I was around five or six years old, and we lived in Albury at the time. The neighbourhood was brand new, and there were loads of kids on our street. A gang of us got together and were sent off unsupervised to knock on strangers’ doors (ah, the 90s).
My siblings soon caught on that adults gave me extra lollies because I was small and cute, so they started shoving me to the front of the group every time we reached a new house. Back home, Mum confiscated the lollies and hid them away to be doled out gradually.
I remember reaching a few houses that were lit up inside, but no one answered the door despite our pleas of ‘trick or treat?’ At the time, my child brain wondered what could cause an adult to ignore kids asking for lollies.
Reader, I am now that adult.
Last week we received a flyer and a balloon in the mail from the parents in our townhouse complex who are coordinating Halloween for their kids. The flyer asked us to please put the balloon outside if we wanted to participate.
I threw the balloon away. I can honestly not think of anything worse than spending an evening where my peace is disrupted by children demanding lollies as part of an American holiday that is so far removed from its haunting pagan origins that it has no discernable relevance anymore.
As much as I would like to claim that my objection to Halloween is coming from some anti-consumerism/capitalism moral position, it’s more that I don’t like talking to strangers on a good day, and despite living among these people for almost three years, I still don’t know the names of any of my neighbours (although I do know the names of most of their dogs).
However, the flyer and balloon did make me pause and reflect on my reaction.
Despite often remarking on how sad it is that the neighbourhood bonds we enjoyed as kids don’t seem to exist in the same way anymore, I have also not made any effort to meet or engage with my current neighbours.
In fact, beyond a wave to people if I drive past them, I think I’ve only spoken in person to one neighbour since we moved in.
Despite this antisocial behaviour on my part, I do love the way the families in our complex have created such a nice shared community. The kids all seem to be friends, reminding me of my childhood of running around with the neighbourhood gang of kids, and maybe Halloween is just another way to breathe some life into what is ultimately a pretty barren place to grow up.
Complexes like ours, mostly concrete driveways, a few small green spaces, and rows and rows of small townhouses without much room for growing kids to hang out, could use every ounce of community building they can get.
Maybe Halloween is an opportunity for me to contribute to that goal and participate in the little neighbourhood within a neighbourhood that is our complex. This desire to be a good citizen is battling with my much stronger inclination to exercise the ‘introvert’ part of my ‘introvert/extrovert’ personality by keeping the lights low and hanging out with my dog and TikTok.
Or perhaps I should start saying hello to my neighbours when I see them. Sometimes baby steps are the better way to go …