My wonderful wife handles all of the Halloween planning for our family. She arranges the costumes, the candy, puts up the decorations, and manages the inevitable costume parties.
This year my wife chose a Ghostbusters theme. In our front yard, we have inflatables of Ecto-1, Zuul, and Slimer. The kids are the Ghostbusters, and I get to enjoy the nostalgia of my own childhood when I was the ultimate Ghostbusters fan, complete with my own Proton Pack and Ghost Traps. Maybe not all of the Halloween excitement has left me yet.
We celebrated our first few Halloweens with children in the state of New Jersey. The small township we lived in took it quite seriously, and there were few houses along the main strip that did not participate. Most of the homes were owned by families with children or older folks with extended family close by who still enjoyed the children trick-or-treating. The addition of the colder fall weather, and visiting actual pumpkin patches completed the scene.
We moved away from New Jersey several years before the COVID Pandemic and so we never were able to experience firsthand how the pandemic impacted Halloween in our small township. The township did produce a cartoon safety video, though they did not cancel the event in 2020.
In Florida, our Governor ended any statewide COVID restrictions in September 2020. We never had an officially locked down or restricted Halloween as was the case elsewhere. Nonetheless, that first year was strange.
Homeowners in our development were at odds. Should the community support trick-or-treating or advise against it? Should there be social distancing? How should candy be distributed in a Global Pandemic?
Our HOA’s social committee established “rules” the homeowners were supposed to follow. They were functionally the same as our old Township’s cartoon safety video demonstrated. Everyone should be masked, each home distributing candy should have hand sanitizer, and candy should be individually packaged in a paper or ziplock bag — no community buckets. Some of the homeowners took extra precautions and even packaged notes as in the picture above, taken from our community Facebook group. Fewer houses than ever participated that year.
This year, three years later, it was completely normal. I didn’t see a single face mask, even on the costumed doctors. There were no printed and individually cut out notes included in our candy haul. Maybe no one wants us to be safe and healthy anymore. Maybe I should have checked the candy closer for razor blades, drugs, and other hazards — in an abundance of caution, of course.
The thought that we lived through three years of Halloween struck me. Costumed in masks and other PPE, the celebration of death transpired on our news channels. There were parties of dancing nurses and socially distanced — everything. Many petitioned “Stay Safe!” rather than pleading “Trick or Treat?” Most of us were tricked, but many received treats like free donuts with their candy.
The thought conjured up my family’s Ghostbusters theme.
I walked my neighborhood as Dr. Peter Venkman, parapsychology expert. I was keenly aware of the recent psychic phenomenon. If there was something strange in my neighborhood, who would my neighbors call? Who wouldn’t be afraid of no ghost?
In the movie, the pent-up supernatural energy was released by an EPA agent. In real-life it was our CDC. In the movie, our chosen destructor was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. In real-life, it was a germaphobe President, an amoral bureaucrat, and a scarf lady.
In the movie, the Ghostbusters dangerously cross their proton streams and banish the evil demigods back to their dimension, saving the day. In real life, there are no proton streams, and we have the very real destruction to contend with.
The movie and the holiday end. Life goes on. We eat our candy and pack away our Halloween decorations. We begin the preparation for the celebration of life, family, and gratitude at Thanksgiving.
Gratitude and its rewarding expression were sorely lacking during the Pandemic. Masks, medicines, and the disease of politics created wide rifts amongst friends and family. Some of the wounds may never heal, but the holiday where we remember our dead is over. Now we move into the season where we give thanks to those still with us.
Like the Ghostbusters, if we are to banish the demigods back to their dimension, we must start by standing strongly together with those we care about and love, honor those relationships deeply, and then dangerously cross our proton streams of gratitude and send them out into the world.
Republished from the author’s Substack
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