The Little Monsters of Edwardsville

The tragedy of the night was certainly the St. Louis Cardinals' performance in Game Six. Congratulations to Boston; you played the better game and deserve the trophy. (We'll be back!)

But the horror was the wonderful tableau we built this year in our front yard. Skeleton rising out of his grave, ghosts and critters, Casper the Ghost floating beside the porch, Charlotte the Spider scuttling down the siding. We love Halloween, and if we were not limited by funds, our house would look like the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Each year we add a little bit more to our display.

This year's Cuteness Award goes to the three-year-old Wolverine and two-year-old Spiderwoman who braved my miniature cemetery to gain candy. Wolverine told me in a gruff little voice, "I ain't afraid of no ghost," while glancing sidelong at Casper.

Extra credit goes to the toddler Simba who was sufficiently frightened of our skeleton that I had Ian deliver her candy to her at the sidewalk. Ian, by the way, elected to be Clark Kent again this year, complete with nerd glasses and the Superman T-shirt underneath his suit.

Wait! You might ask. Why were you handing out candy tonight? Isn't tomorrow Halloween?

Yes, I am aware of the calendar. But I live in Edwardsville, Illinois. We are a weird little town. For untold decades the Edwardsville Halloween Parade has taken place on Oct. 31, and last I heard more people attend the parade than actually live in the town. Over the years, the tradition has evolved (and been codified by city ordinance) to allow trick-or-treating on Oct. 30.

We moved here when Ian was 18 months old. He has only gone trick-or-treating on Oct. 30, beginning with the stroller-and-wagon rides on up to his current six feet tall. If he ever moves anywhere else, he will have to adjust his brain to taking his kids out on Halloween itself. I have often wondered if anyone has ever suggested moving the parade to Oct. 30 and letting trick-or-treat happen on the same night as the rest of the world. But I can't imagine the furor that would cause. Small towns, set in their ways, no matter how weird.

As always, Halloween is a delight to me and to Jimmy, but tinged with the annoyance that we never get to enjoy it together. Ironic that two people drawn together by their mutual love of things that go chomp in the night - to the extent of publishing multiple horror novels - never get to spend Halloween together. He has had some variation of a night shift every Halloween as long as we've been together, and this year is no exception. He got the graveyard and the fire pit set up, but had to go to work when it was still light out. As usual, I was alone in the front yard to greet our little monsters.

A debate got rolling on Facebook today about "trunk or treat," that new trend where you go around a parking lot and get candy from people's cars, or something. I voted with the "that's lame" crowd. Not just because it seems like an overprotective helicopter-parent thing - seriously, just walk with the kid and he'll be fine - but because it eliminates one of the joys of Halloween: camaraderie.

Maybe it's just that I live in frigging Mayberry, but Halloween is a neighborhood thing here. People sit in their driveways around firepits, share food and drink and greet each other. You see a neighborhood differently walking it when everyone is outside than you do driving home with the windows rolled up. It's not just about begging for candy from anonymous people behind closed doors; it's about enjoying each other's company, seeing people you don't always get to see in an ordinary time. I can't imagine that kind of connection taking place in a parking lot.

Tomorrow we will all go to the Halloween parade - and I do mean ALL - and I will experience my annual reminder of why I live here. Ian will walk with the high school orchestra, and I will cheer on the many groups and families running floats in the parade (119 this year!) and the sidewalks will be packed. It's our tradition.

And we will greet each other and see how our kids have grown and cheer at the homemade floats and catch the candy they throw (those councilmen have good arms) and remember that we are neighbors and even friends. Even when said neighbors are rooting for the Red Sox. You know who you are, Geoff Schmidt.

So a happy Halloween to all the little monsters of Edwardsville and their parents. And yes, even to Boston. I suppose.




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