Halloween is a happy event in Carlisle. Last night was chillier than many years, but just as much fun. Although it’s always appealing to maintain regular traditions, Halloween varies a little bit each year, and that’s fine too – at this point, it’s to be expected.
This year Tim opted to stay home and watch the Patriots rather than trick-or-treat. He’s been ambivalent about putting on a costume for the past two years now, and it didn’t really surprise me that he greeted the idea of trick-or-treating less than warmly this year, but I had hoped he would walk along with us even if he didn’t go up to the doors. (He knew that Holly would share her take with him merely for being present.) He didn’t, though; he chose to stay home. But not too long after we left him, I received a text message from him saying he’d gone over to my parents’ house rather than stay home alone, so that made me feel better about how he was spending his evening. (Since we live so far off the road, we never expect nor get trick-or-treaters, so it’s fine to have no one home.)
Also different this year: though my friends Lisa and David hosted their annual pre-trick-or-treating party in their big yard just outside the town center, no one in my family but me wanted to leave the Patriots game broadcast for it. I wanted to be there enough that I went anyway, though, just for half an hour. It was enough time to chat with the other families who were there and eat a plateful of appetizers, as well as a bowl of the southwestern pumpkin soup that I had made and delivered to Lisa’s stovetop earlier in the day.
After Lisa and David’s party, I went home to pick up Rick and Holly, and we headed back to the Town Center, which hosts hundreds of trick-or-treaters every year, a tradition that evolved in response to the fact that so many Carlisle neighborhoods are just too sparsely populated to be ideal for trick-or-treating. For the kids, going to the Center an easy way to reach lots of houses without too much walking, but there’s still enough walking that it feels like the kids are getting a workout along with their chocolate and candy corns. For the adults, with such a crowd in a relatively small area, it feels like a giant floating cocktail party; everywhere you look, you see familiar faces (and while cocktails aren’t officially part of the festivities, no one looks too closely at all those thermal coffee cups being toted along).
Some years we’ve gone with groups of friends, but having it be just the three of us was special. We could go at our own pace and didn’t have a lot of different people to keep track of. At most houses, Rick and I stood at the curb while Holly made her way up to the door; sometimes I went with her if it was the home of someone I particularly wanted to say hello to. Through the windows of the well-lit parsonage, we glimpsed our minister dressed in a black cape and watching the football game in between trick-or-treaters.
Some traditionalists in Carlisle – one of whom accosted me at coffee hour at church yesterday morning – dislike the newer format of trick-or-treating in the Town Center. They liked it better when kids went out in their own neighborhoods, and in some parts of town where the neighborhoods are laid out more traditionally, kids still do trick-or-treat. But I really like the Town Center idea. Over the past few years, when it’s not Halloween, the conversation arises periodically as to whether Carlisle is a lonely place, whether the emphasis on solitude and natural splendor results in too little socialization. Last night it didn’t feel like that at all. The whole town was out – though many were unrecognizable behind masks or make-up – and I was happy to be celebrating another Halloween with all of them.