thoughts from a mind
  Friday   October 31, 1997




The Usual Suspects

Boo. (I had to say that. Every other journal probably has "boo" in there somewhere, and who am I to buck a corny trend?)

Zoe's feeling much better now. Her fever is pretty much gone, so the antibiotics must be doing their job kicking corpuscle butt on her invading pee-loving beasties. So when you've had a miserably sick child who's only just starting to get over what's ailing her, what's the logical thing to do? Dress her up and take her out in public, that's what. So we did. Zoe went trick-or-treating tonight -- sort of. She was in her little mouse costume but she wasn't collecting candy. She had no idea what was going on. We did it primarily for Beth and me; we just wanted to show her off.

The outing was an eye-opener for me. Things sure have changed since I was a kid. Early in my childhood we lived on a farm in Wisconsin, and I can remember all us kids and our friends loading up in the back of a pick-up truck to drive over to the next town to go trick-or-treating. Out there in the boonies the houses were easily a mile apart, way too far for going door-to-door, especially when you consider the several-hundred-yard long private roads leading from the highway to each house. So we'd head over to the next town where there was an actual population and do our candy begging there. Later on I lived in not quite so rural areas in Florida, Tennessee and Colorado where we could do the begging bit in our own neighborhoods since the houses, while still a ways apart, weren't to hell and gone from one another. No matter where I was, though, and no matter how rural or urban the areas, we always went door to door at people's houses. Not so for Zoe.

We took her to the mall, and lots of other parents took their kids there too. I've never seen anything like it. The place was packed with costumed kids and camera-toting parents. All the stores were still open for business, but each one had an employee stationed at the door with a bucket of candy. The kids made their way up and down the mall, stopping at each store to call out "Trick or treat!" and pick up some loot. It was just like the way I did it as a kid, and completely different at the same time. While it was certainly a more efficient method for the kids to load up in bulk in a short time than I grew up with, it just felt wrong. Trick-or-treating is supposed to take place in the dark, in the wind, in the crisp fall air, not in an air-conditioned, well lit, carpeted mall. It was weird and it made me a little sad to think that this is what society has come to.

But as a parent I understand it...and even welcome it. I grew up a country boy, running barefoot in the fields and touching concrete and asphalt only when I went into town. I want Zoe to know some of that country life and experience that innocence, I don't want her to grow up thinking city streets and highrises are the way life is supposed to be. These things I might be able to do. I also want her to know the childish thrill of venturing out into the dark and cold in a Halloween costume and knocking on strange doors. This I can't do, not in this day and age.

So while our mall expedition tonight appalled me, it also drew me. When Zoe is old enough to understand what trick-or-treating is, she'll be doing it in a clean, well lit place. And since it will be all she's known, she'll think it's perfectly natural, the way things are supposed to be. She won't know what she's missing. But I will, and I'll be sad about it.

Boo. Hoo.





Copyright 1997
Chuck Atkins