Election Day and Halloween

Today is election day, 2014, a “mid-term” election, which means the presidency is not on the ballot. Typically the turnout is low in mid-term elections, and this one seems to be low here in Tennessee, though there seem to be key races for the Senate in Kentucky, North Carolina and Iowa, perhaps others.

At one time I cared more about elections than I do now. Now, perhaps because I’m older, I have the feeling that elections don’t matter as much as they once did. Not to me, anyway.

Last week was Halloween. It did not seem to matter as much either. We had a total of three kids, two that we solicited, that is, asked their parents to bring them by, and one little Asian guy in a cape that showed up unbidden, with a mom and perhaps a grandmother in tow.

I woke up Halloween morning thinking about carving a pumpkin. That afternoon we did. I cut the top and removed the entrails, preserving the seeds, and Maggie drew the face and did the fine cutting after I removed the big pieces. It turned out nice, and looked inviting on the porch wall. Maggie and I enjoyed it, and Jeanie toasted the seeds. They’re edible, though they stop short of being tasty.

We got to talking about Halloweens past. I remember as a child, when we lived on a long, middle class street in Kingsport, we always got a steady stream of trick-or-treaters from before dark until 10 or even later. My mom made special treats for the neighborhood kids, who came early and usually were identifiable. Dad, on the other hand, seemed to take more interest later on, when kids in makeshift costumes or drawn-on masks came by. He treated them well. He acted like he was glad to see them, which I think he really was. He asked them where they lived, and chatted briefly, complimenting costumes, or good attitudes. He usually advised them to be careful on the way home. I think he was thankful on one level that he could afford to give a couple of pieces of candy to as many as would come by. Mom saw to it that we didn’t run out.

Maggie says that the way Americans celebrate Halloween is unique, and to me very (small D) democratic. She said Halloween means in America that any kid can put on a costume and knock on any door and expect to be given a piece of candy. In my youth, kids still “tricked” if they were not treated, usually making some sort of mess, soaping windows, what have you. Setting leaves on fire was a threat some years. It didn’t happen to us that I remember but it happened sometimes.

I guess that at least partly explains why Dad was so friendly. On most Halloween nights, he had two brand-new cars parked in front of our house. Dad was a Lincoln-Mercury dealer and we did not have a garage. He and mom and later my brother and sister and I parked in front, unless one of us kids parked in the side yard. Dad talked about a garage a few times, but I think he figured that our pretty cars were a good advertisement for his business. We lived on a corner and parents bringing or picking up their kids at the high school or the dancing school saw dad’s cars each day. A couple of extra bags of candy were good insurance against his cars being vandalized, come to think of it.

This realization comes kind of late. I may have realized it at one time, and perhaps he even stated it, but I have long since forgotten.

I still like Maggie’s observation about how any kid can knock on any door at Halloween, though. It’s still true. Some people don’t like it, but I do. A couple of years ago we were visited by a caravan of cars from Mosheim, the town west of Greeneville. We live on the east side in Tusculum, but our streets are safer than much of Mosheim.

We were not prepared for the number of kids who showed up, and Jeanie had to scrounge and find anything that would substitute, nuts or fruit, maybe. Finally, when we were down to a tiny bowl-ful of treats, she went outside and announced it. She said we were about to run out, and because of that, asked the big kids to let the little kids go first. It was magical the way they complied. Bigger kids formed a line and passed the word along: “Little kids first, just little kids, they’re running out.” They were good-natured about it. Little kids were happy, and the self-identified big kids seemed happy too.

Did I mention that my wife is a kid-whisperer? She has the ability to make kids want to do the right think. It’s magical. But that’s another story.