"Is that today?" my 86 year-old neighbor said taking down his flag.
"What candy are you handing out?"
"None. I won't be home."
"You're going to a party?"
"No, I'll be home."
"I hate Halloween."
Since moving to this suburban neighborhood in Southern California, I'd seen and heard a lot of unusual things but I could honestly say this was the first time I'd ever heard any human being say that they didn't like Halloween. How? Why? When I was a kid I distinctly remembered one house on the block that handed out huge Hershey bars. Throughout the year I had no contact with that house or its residents but on Halloween, the lady of the house kindly asked what I was dressed as for Halloween.
"And what a fine pumpkin you are," she said smiling and dropped the biggest chocolate bar I'd ever received into my bag. Suddenly that house became the "chocolate bar house" and every year I went back to get another huge chocolate bar and share some nice words with the lady. That house, that lady, those chocolate bars made me love the 31st of October. Halloween was a holiday of costumes, practical jokes and free candy. How could anyone not like it?
"Harold, what's not to like about Halloween?"
"I hate the costumes, the practical jokes and handing out free candy," Harold said. Ahhh, just when I thought I knew my neighbor, he went off and surprised me. "The kids know to avoid our house."
"You can't avoid Halloween."
"Yes, I can," he said rolling up his flag and pulling down the blinds inside his house.
Harold may be a Halloween bah-humbug but his wasn't the only house on the block.
I saw Jerry sweeping his front steps.
"Getting ready for Halloween, Jerry?" I hollered.
"We've already had several groups of trick or treaters," he said adjusting his San Francisco baseball cap.
"It's still light out."
"The kids know we've got candy for them."
Which is how it should be on the 31st of October.
Inside The House I opened a bottle of wine and poured the candy I'd bought into a bowl. The candy bars stuck out of the bowl because I'd bought the biggest chocolate bars I could find in honor of the lady I knew from the Halloweens of my youth. I can't wait to ask kids what they're dressed as and give them free candy. For me, Halloween is about paying it back.