VIews From the Valley» Susan BOLAN

I Knew We Could Do It

With each day that passes in this frightening year, I am aghast at all the crazy news and chaos around me. Frankly, I am exhausted by all the hysteria, anger and turmoil. As Halloween approached, I wasn’t sure how it would unfold with the LA County health restrictions discouraging children from going door-to-door and families nervous about being out in public. Was everyone planning to just hide in their houses? What I experienced at my house, though, was a Halloween like no other and I came away with a renewed sense of hope and pride in my community.
On our small block with a street that dead-ends at a wash, Halloween has been fairly sleepy over the years. Some Halloweens, we would only get a handful of trick-or-treaters – sometimes we would have around 100. We just never knew from year to year how it was going to go. A few years back, our neighbor on the corner started decorating in a big way and we saw the numbers go up significantly. Those who ventured down the street to our little house were rewarded with fistfuls of treats as I was forever hopeful and overbought candy supplies.

This year, whether or not we had trick-or-treaters, we wanted to decorate our house to help us feel a sense of normalcy. We decided to move our displays close to the street rather than at the porch. We adorned our conspicuous trampoline on the front lawn with a ring of fire (lights) and dangled skeletons. We had a graveyard next to the driveway with more skeletons and a single spot-lighted stool with a large metal colander, brimming with candy. A sign said, “Take Some If U Dare.” And, if you were paying attention, you could see a strobe light in the dark car parked there, illuminating a scary figure holding an axe.

It was still light out when we put the finishing touches on the yard before taking our dogs out for a walk. Quite a few neighbors were busy setting up their areas, many of them putting small tables with bowls of candy at the edge of the street. Before dark, the first little kids started to work the block. Families, all masked up and separated from other groups, visited the bowls one by one. We were encouraged. When it grew full dark, we began to see a lot of cars; some would drive slowly to look at the decorations and others would stop to unload occupants who grabbed candy. Many also walked the street. We stood on our porch or looked out the window with our dogs that barely barked at all, a welcomed change from previous years.

As the night progressed, our neighbor cranked some music and we were entertained by the sounds of “Thriller” and “Ghostbusters.” It had turned into a street party! Neighbors and children were having fun and many families thanked us for our efforts. There were a lot of cars and trick-or-treaters and everyone acted responsibly and respectfully of each other’s space. People continued to come until after 10:30 at night and we estimated that well over 60 families had visited in the end.

Just like the drive-through graduations we had in June, our community has shown that we can shift from what has been done in the past to what we need to do now. Next year, we might just repeat this new kind of Halloween at our house, putting candy in the driveway for folks to grab and watching the adorable kids from our front porch. We had such a great time and I am now ready to face the crazy news of the week.
Susan Bolan