Friday, October 31, 2008

What's wrong with Mounds?

Last year, two days after Halloween, I left southeast Missouri for the fine town of Columbia to check out a lead on a rental advertised on Craig's List. Close to downtown, close to a grocery store, historic yellow house, and I had to dodge the kids playing in the street. I knew it back then when I saw the pumpkins next door. This would be a great place to be on Halloween. A year later, excited about all of the trick or treaters -the fun costumes, the kids banging on the 80 year old door- I could barely focus on work today. Instead, I stared a lot at a small tray of cookies, cupcakes and Reese's peanut butter cups on my desk.

Thanks to some fine judging on the part of state leadership, I won the office costume contest this morning (where only three of us dressed up in an office of over 100. I felt a little like Pam from The Office who was the only one who wore a costume.) I stayed in full costume all day, making green tree frog noises on command, squatting on the ground and clumsily hopping to my colleague's cubicle. I had a fancy lunch with an important agency, clip clopping through downtown Jefferson City's Madison's Cafe in green SCUBA flippers.

I violated the speed limit to make it home in time to carve my strange little pumpkin, to finish decorating cupcakes, to touch up my green face paint which had chipped from all the smiling I did today, to spread out almost $60 worth of candy on a tray. 100 shimmering tea lights lined the banister and the walkway, every light in the house was on to attract trick or treaters like moths.

Sunset finally came, as did Hazel and her older sisters. She took her big Heath bar and then said that they were going to her "grandparents' neighborhood" for trick or treating. Kylie, a new kid on the street, came over dressed like a cat. She took her big Hershey's with Almonds and hopped into the running car to go to her "grandparents' neighborhood." Same story with the three kids from across the street who at least had the decency to stick around their own street long enough to devour the cupcakes I made. This "grandparents' neighborhood" must be a code word for "better off" or "wealthy" or "better candy." It just can't mean "safer." My neighborhood is quiet, populated with older homes, and full of kids. I hear them on other blocks and see them when I ride my bike to the gym, but none of them came down my street. I saw several cars throw kids out in front of single homes (which weren't nearly as lit up as mine. And they didn't have carved pumpkins or pumpkin lights!) to grab candy and rush back into the car, likely slated for the mythical "grandparents' neighborhood."

I think back to what Doug, age 40, said: "Well, when I was a kid, it didn't matter if a murderer, child molester or a ghost lived in the house. We still went there looking for candy." Is it a culture of fear that has kept the trick or treaters from my block, what with its cute homes and recently full occupancy? Are people really that scared to send their kids out anymore? Maybe its the fault of candy and nut allergies? (I was sent this horrible email generated by the state of Missouri recently that recommended handing out boxes of raisins or "non-food items like pencils" instead of candy for Halloween. Frightening.)

My mom was upset that she only had 25 trick or treaters this year in her neighborhood (that is probably a destination for kids in neighborhoods like mine). I was pretty shocked that only three other people in my office dressed up today (and no one downtown, in the grocery store, on the streets of Jefferson City). So I'm joining the Social Planning Committee at work and then writing a letter to Paul, my City Councilman, to ask what I can do to make this neighborhood more like the grandparents' neighborhood. Do we need more lights? Organized block parties? More green space? The older neighbors are here, as is way too much leftover candy to make me comfortable in my own home. While I'm ranting to Paul, I might also ask him -as any nutty citizen would- why the kids of Columbia don't like the fine dark chocolate coconut confection called Mounds.


Erin said...

ooh, I wish I could have gotten some of those cupcakes. YUM! One thing that takes away from neighborhood trick-or-treating is the "trunk-or-treat". This seems to have become a tradition in some places and I wish I could keep my kids away from it. Everyboday just drives to the church parking lot and trick-or-treats to all the cars. Safe and easy. Kids also go to malls. But I so prefer seeing my neighbors and making the kids do a little walking at least for their candy. We have an awesome cul-de-sac next to us where all the houses were decked out with lanterns and lights. It was so fun to meet some of my neighbors that I have never met.

goooooood girl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Allison Vaughn said...

Erin, you're a great mom. We need more parents in the world like you and Nathan. Actually, at the end of the street, there's this church that advertised a "Trunk of Treats," and I had no idea what it was. I guess THAT's where the kids were. Unfair, man. Unfair. You guys live in a great neighborhood. Mine will only get better as more people return to the city to be closer to everything.

Ted said...

You are just the cutest thing!

I just discovered "trunk-or-treat" 2 nights ago. My wife said be there at 6 - I thought it was some school function. Then I got there and saw all these SUVs lined up with their hatches open and the parents anxiously standing next to their car hoping everyone noticed how much more professionally and expensively they decorated their car than the others. I found my wife at our car, and she handed me a bowl and said, "here, give out candy." So I put on my Tina Turner wig and waited for the kids to charm me with their jokes and stunts. The kids walked up in their professionally tailored and expensive costumes, held out the bag - and just stood there dumbfoundedly waiting for me to chuck a piece of candy in their bag before they went off to the next car. I wasn't gonna give it up - I said, "what do you say?" Most of them grudgingly muttered "Trick or Treat," a few were like "Uh, I don't know." "Well," I said, "you've gotta say or do something - what about a joke?" They were dumbstruck. I was dumbstruck. I felt cheated. I wanted to say, "What is wrong with everybody, don't you know how to go trick or treating?" But I kept it to myself, and inside I felt like another small part of what I remember from my childhood just died.

Next Halloween, I'm bringing the kids to your neighborhood.

all my best -- ted

Allison Vaughn said...

I know, what's with this...I could hear kids at the end of the block, but I can't believe they were trick or treating out of cars. Wow. Keshon asked me if I wanted to hear his joke, which was "trick or treat smell my feet." He didn't quite know the rest of it, but I give the kids on the block an A for shouting Trick or Treat! at my door. Tina Turner wig. I bet you looked great!

pablo said...

You made a fine froggie!

Allison Vaughn said...

Why, thank you. Costumes are a very big deal in New Orleans. Mine would have passed, but only barely. No glitter, no sequins, nothing political. I saw a Day of the Dead skeleton riding a Cannondale on Broadway today, which just made my day! (well, and all the extra heath bars...)