For most, Halloween was always about finding the right costume (or having your parents fashion one out of what’s easy and affordable), going to parties, counting the great candy grab (when you’re younger), counting the number of cocktails you’ve imbibed in over the evening (when you’re older), and perhaps at all ages finding a little mischief to get involved in.
On that final one I cannot go too deep into detail, fearing that from my much younger years there may still be a statute of limitations that has yet to run it’s course. The late Roy Cox and his mustard colored Chevy pickup would have been able to tell hysterical and hair-raising tales.
For me, the adult years didn’t feature a lot of costuming and cocktails. As a television and radio sports reporter, this time of season was always about football. I was the lead stringer for almost every broadcast radio network during the 80’s and 90’s, and thus I was tethered to a phone in the Press Box at the Orange Bowl, later at Joe Robbie Stadium, (and it is with zero apologies I call it by it’s rightful name without the attendant overriding sponsorship).
Halloween was never a big deal. There were times when costumes were put into play, and always with what I had readily available. I wore enough makeup on the set at the television networks I worked for, so I wasn’t about to slap more on in my free time.
Then, along comes 2020.
The year of COVID-19. The year where politically, economically, and socially America finds itself closer to a second civil war then ever before. Where racism, fear, hate, lies, propaganda, fraud, wanton destruction of common sense and the inability to simply talk with one another completely evaporated.
The year we plunged ourselves into a dark and despicable abyss that, sadly, I don’t believe we will crawl out of for many years. Perhaps to the point where in what remains of my life, America will have turned itself so far inside-out there will be no recognizing what emerges on the other side.
Along comes a day that is celebrated with images of dark magic, witches cauldrons in full steam, werewolves prowling the countryside, evil tidings wished upon others by the use of calling on demonic forces, and a full moon lending that final touch to the painting so potentially bizarre that in comparison a Picasso would be little more than a paint-by-numbers Crayola fest.
Halloween 2020 will historically remain the perfect distraction for everything that has hammered us into submission. Sure, we’ve had other real holidays pass by the board, but none of them had the necessary nonsense we truly craved.
When my next door neighbor hung really well done ghosts from the tree in front of their house, the house down the street brought out the monstrous inflatable grinning cat with the head swinging from side to side, and another house was adorned with headstones featuring the names of certain politicians and celebrities, I had no real choice.
We were going to take our chances that here in the pandemic era, there would be trick or treaters. For those hardy souls, there would be candy, and I would be there to meet and greet every single one.
Out went the high top dining table, our ceramic pumpkin with an intense LED light inside and a full bowl of candy completing the simple set-up.
Holding court a good 6 feet from the sidewalk, my greeting costume was befitting the year, the moment, and my own special interests.
Sitting in my low beach chair, plastic (and unbreakable) red Solo cup holding a necessary potion at my side, smartphone dishing out perfect evening island style tunes, (because I couldn’t find anything Halloween dedicated on the various services), sporting my Boston Bruins “Zedeno Chara” Captains jersey and accompanying Bruins chapeau.
Picture included here as proof, of course. OK, granted. It’s not the photo any media person wants to share, but this is about being real instead of playing the ego game.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. A number of communities already indicated they wouldn’t be hitting the streets this year because of COVID-19. I couldn’t blame them. The safety of our kids and those around us takes precedence. Hell, it was only free candy being tossed out.
Slowly, they arrived. Little girls dressed as unicorns and princesses. Little boys dressed as “Ghostbusters”, (with a perfect face mask updating the costume) and super heroes. Parents with their own costumes or just happy to be along for the walk. Older kids bopping by in something a little more risque and the girls LOCKED into their smartphones.
My favorite was the three boys, one of whom was doing the inline skates, another on his Razor, and a third just beating feet. I complimented the mobile movers and asked their buddy why no wheels?
“Hey, exercise is more important when you’re out hunting candy”, was the reply.
My favorite kid of the evening.
Everyone was smiling and enjoying the moment. Parents were thrilled to have their kids out and about, every single one of them wearing a mask. Kids reaching in for one piece of candy and I urged them to put that claw in there and come out with a few pieces of chocolate treasure. Greeting everyone and urging them all to become hockey and Bruins fans.
Can’t lose sight of those recruitment moments when they come around.
Then, the grandkids emerged from the house. Grandma, Mom and Dad there to complete the picture. A gorgeous little princess and the perfect masked super hero. Off they went into the night, later to return with well-stocked bags of goodies.
I sat back, sipped my concoction, looked to the full moon and drank in a moment so needed in this year of horror tales.
For the first time in months, life felt………….right.
A light drizzle started to fall, and I could hear the occasional big drop hitting the bill of my cap. My legs were starting to show a light sheen of moisture. My prized jersey was starting to hold in the rain.
I took off my cap, tilted my head back, and let the heavens fall on my face.
While it didn’t wash away the events of the last several months, it did dispatch some of the emotional dust and grime of all that has been so negative.
After about 2 hours, the kids had returned. Dinner was ready. Both my neighbor and I were closing for business. Much of the candy had been handed out, and with it, plenty of smiles and light moments everyone do desperately needed.
In the end, it wasn’t much. A couple of hours, 50-60 people braving the COVID-19 Halloween night. Less than what we’ve had in past years.
It was salvation.
From here on out, when the calendar reaches Halloween, I’ll mark this one as the most meaningful ever. In a season of true dark tidings, a group of people who had never met before had exchanged smiles, and kids went home happy.
No more witches for me ever again come Halloween. I’ll remember, and seek to once again, so what makes it wonderful.
Of course, I’ll always seek to make new hockey and Boston Bruins fans. That costume never goes out of style.
Neither will seeking to make life a little better in our own little corners of the world.