On the way home from work tonight I passed a family getting out of a car in a road not far from home, and overheard the Dad say to the children “don’t worry – the houses in this road are much bigger – they will have much better stuff”. Since when did Halloween become so mercenary ?

A few corners closer to home, cycling through the dark with a new head-lamp lighting my way, I thought I heard a voice shout out my name. Moments later I heard our middle daughter shout out my first name. Isn’t it funny how we can unmistakably hear our own children’s voices through any amount of background noise? Of course there’s also the fact that our middle daughter can rival Brian Blessed for out-and-out volume when she turns it up to 11.

I rolled to a halt, and circled about in the road – to distant cheers. Fifty yards back down the road, I spotted my other half draped in a cloak, with some kind of henna face make-up, accompanied by several family friends, and a gaggle of small children. My arrival only seemed to be of interest to the adults – the children were already making for the next house with a lantern.

Since when did “having a lit, carved pumpkin” become a sign that your house is answering calls from Trick-or-Treaters ? It seems to have become universal around here, with the children racing from front door to front door, desperately slowed by their parents on their mission to fill buckets with all manner of tooth rotting junk.

I had been home for perhaps five minutes, and was already arm deep in washing up (don’t ask) when the phone rang, and my other half erupted from the speaker phone.

“Can you put some pizzas on? The oven’s on.”

I turned around – the oven was on, and after looking in the fridge, discovered six pizzas. By the time they were loaded into the oven, and the door answered about thirty times to a succession of infant school age children dressed as zombies, witches, Disney characters, and whatever else, our party of visitors started to arrive home. It turned out they had split up to cater for the different age-groups present earlier in the evening.

As the numbers swelled in the house, I swapped pizzas through the oven, and set about clearing all the things that should have been done in advance. A friend that lives opposite (and quite possibly the most lovely person I have known in some years) noticed my predicament, and arrived on her invisible charger to assist – only I had already kind of done everything, so she provided me with a glass of wine, and a smile that has probably caused her a fair amount of trouble over the years.

After an hour, our house had descended into what can probably best be described as absolute mayhem. It was fun though, and more than one of the grown-ups partook of more than one glass of wine (on a work night!), resulting in some of the most unintentionally hilarious/naughty/ridiculous conversations I have been party to in quite some time.

As the evening wore on, people hugged their goodbyes, and we were finally left with “the usual suspects” – the good friends that live nearby, and that know us best. While filling rubbish sacks in the kitchen with the girl that helped me earlier in the evening, and laughing at our own idiotic conversation, she said something that hit home.

“We should spend more time together”

She was right. We have been friends for years. We were friends from the first day we met, when our children were tiny at school. Our families have attended all manner of functions over the years – school fetes, fundraisers, and community black-tie galas. We know each other better than anybody else – and yet, as our children head in different directions, we rarely see each other any more. We need to try harder.

So that was Halloween for us this year. I completely missed walking the kids around the streets because a call came in at work, and any chance of leaving early vanished. I’m not that sad though. I mentioned to somebody earlier in the day that I wouldn’t be so sad if this was our last year doing the whole “walk the kids” part of Halloween – but another part of me wants to still be one of the parents in the group that the children trust, and can look to for support when they need it.

In some ways I feel sorry for the raft of children that I know were not allowed to take any part in Halloween, because their parents are involvested in Churches that frown on anything to do with beliefs or activities differing from their own – no matter how light hearted they might be. I caught wind of it earlier in the day when somebody I know mentioned what they were doing for the evening, and quietly thought “way to go to stop children from experiencing things for themselves, and making their own mind up about things”. Of course I said nothing, because how do you tell somebody you kind of like that they are prejudiced, and narrow minded ? Maybe they think I’m a heathen. I guess that’s up to them.

Ah crap. It’s 11:30pm already. NaNoWriMo starts in half an hour. I guess I’ll start writing tomorrow night. Thinking about it, this post is already running out towards a thousand words. If I post twice a day for the next month with similar sized posts, I’ll have succeeded in writing a book about nothing, which is kind of appealing, in an anarchic, counter-cultural kind of way (not that I’m suggesting I exhibit those character traits at all, honest).

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