It’s my super favorite time of year at my delivery job! Where the night settles in just as my shift is starting, and I’m blindly feeling for doorbells and buzzers on dark porches where people have forgotten to leave the lights on for “service workers”, like me. When dead bodies, bloody brides and elaborate pumpkin arrangements are common sights, and there’s a 50/50 chance that the spiders are real.
Make that an 80/20 split.
Even though LA boasts a ball-busting sweltering start to Autumn, I manage to find my pumpkin spice. The light is different as the sun crosses the sky. There are crunchy fallen leaves on some streets. And the evenings cool down to a brisk 65 degrees. Even the wind in the trees softly whispers, “WHERE MY UGGS AT. I WANNA WEAR ‘EM WITH MY SHORTS AND MY AZTEC CAFTAN. OMG I CAN’T FIND MY PHONE.”
I grew up in PA with a chilly Trick-Or-Treat night. We’d find some rando clothes to create a costume, and hustle our neighbors for anything but apples and instant oatmeal! Here, the Halloween decorations are insane. I mean…Paris Hilton’s neighborhood? Pretty sure they give out $100 bills, and probably puppies…
I pulled up to a home in the Larchmont area. The houses there are massive, and brick, and almost as old as the giant trees reaching up from their sprawling lawns.
A 2-story, inflatable witch waved her rubber arms from the house across the street, like she was playing piano, or tossing a salad. I walked the stone path to my customer’s front door. A string of skull-n-chains lights illuminated my way, but didn’t keep a live spider from trapping me in its silken clothesline.
Great. Now all I can think about are spiders on my face. [BZZZZZZZ.] I rang the doorbell.
One of my regular customers answered. He is older and handsome and has an accent. We usually share a laugh about something, and he and his wife tip well.
“I like your decorations better than your neighbors’.” I said.
“Which neighbors?” He asked, almost conspiratorially.
“Those.” I pointed to piano witch. She was still going at it.
“OH! Don’t get me started…” He said in his accent, which makes even unrevealed gossip sound delicious. “You know, we’re going for ‘less is more’ this year, but we still have a few more things to add. We get a lot of Trick-or-Treaters, so, we like to do something fun.”
“Oh man. That must mean a lot of candy.” I say. Because candy is delicious. And I can imagine eating like 3 bags of Junior Mints myself, pretending to be holding it for the children.
“Well, we don’t do candy… This year, we’re handing out Glow-In-The-Dark bracelets.”
“How many kids come by here?”
TWENTY TWO HUNDRED CHILDREN!!
My mind flashed to this STUPID advice column I had recently read. I mean, the column is cool. The person writing in, was such a…. yeah. That word.
It was a letter to Dear Prudence on Slate.com. Y’know what? Here’s the whole thing:
I live in one of the wealthiest **neighborhoods in the country, but on one of the more “modest” streets—mostly doctors and lawyers and family business owners. (A few blocks away are billionaires, families with famous last names, media moguls, etc.) I have noticed that on Halloween, what seems like 75 percent of the trick-or-treaters are clearly not from this neighborhood. Kids arrive in overflowing cars from less fortunate areas. I feel this is inappropriate. Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children. Obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person, because what’s the big deal about making less fortunate kids happy on a holiday? But it just bugs me, because we already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Should Halloween be a neighborhood activity, or is it legitimately a free-for-all in which people hunt down the best candy grounds for their kids?
—Halloween for the 99 Percent
Prudence responded with aplomb and a bit of sass, but this person’s sniveling little Scrooge-y message stuck with me.
I mean, what a hard life, living in, say, the *ghetto of Beverly Hills! UGH, you’re just a millionaire heart surgeon with an unfamous last name, not a billionaire NBA player??!?! My GOD. How do you go on!?!
Listen, I’m pretty sure my neighbors are doing crack, but THEY’D GIVE CANDY TO ANYONE. And also other things, but that’s not the point.
My blood was on fire, just thinking about what kind of person would ever even have these thoughts, let alone write in for advice about it.
I decided to look up REAL Halloween. With some quick research, I found out that this whole candy-pocolypse originates a billion years ago in Medieval Britain, where broke kids would go to houses and receive gifts of wine, food, and money in exchange for praying for the souls of the household.
Souling, it was called. And it pretty much was a form of charity.
“OMG, your food.” I realized I had been holding my customer’s Chinese food this whole time, like I was gonna walk back out with it. I put it down on the table. “Twenty-two hundred kids! That’s… so many kids!”
“Yeah! They actually bus them in from other places, then they trick-or-treat around here. We love it. Loads of fun, and it’s a great chance to give to kids who don’t have as much.”
My heart exploded into infinity rainbow butterflies and I wanted to hug this family for a long time.
“That is awesome.” You guys. Are awesome.
I left, feeling like maybe there are people in these neighborhoods who do have souls. Who are aware of other people in the world. And who actually care about them.
At least for this one night.
I want to be able to give back like that, someday. To the tiny faces of cobbled-together superheroes and princesses, monsters and ghosts, some of them maybe too old to be doing this, but that’s not up to me…
I’ll be the lady dressed like Optimus Prime, with a bit of nougat between my teeth. Cuz. C’mon. It’s Halloween.
*There’s no ghetto in Beverly Hills.
**I so wish I knew their address.
Screenshot from E.T.