A little something to set the mood for today’s
festivities. It first ran in 2000.

Happy Halloween to all and to all a good night I went for an atmosphere-soak around 5 p.m.-peak trick-or-treat time-walking the neighborhood from Euclid to Elmwood avenues, South to Washington boulevards-big old houses, thickly arbored parkways, loads of kids, not all from this neighborhood, I’ll warrant.

Didn’t matter, of course. Halloween isn’t about territoriality. It’s about gracious giving, even if the gifts are bad for your teeth (which is the true trick in trick-or-treating).

We’ve been blessed the last few years with balmy weather on the big day, but this year was the best. Must have been 70 degrees, judging by how many people sat on their porches and front steps-the majority of houses warmly lit inside and most of the porch lights turned on as well. This section of Oak Park boasts beautiful, elegant old homes with lovely front porches and picture windows. Normally, there’s a clear demarcation between outside and in, an invisible psychological wall. On this night, in this neighborhood anyway, that barrier completely dissolved.

The air was temperate and bugless enough to allow front doors to be thrown wide open. I’ve never seen so many open doors. It seemed, at first, to break some unwritten rule, but once the incongruity faded, it felt so … neighborly-as if privacy needs were taking a backseat to a more urgent desire for communal connection.

On a night like this, it’s possible to glimpse what life might be like in some futurtopia of harmonious interdependence-if only humanity could find the courage to take that next step.

The holiday delirium made me feel downright visionary. I liked this open-door policy. Forget broad lawns and narrow minds. Let’s be the village of “open doors and porch lights.” Let OP stand for “OPen.” Make this the logical next step in our long commitment to open housing.

Overhead, the branches of leafless trees twisted gracefully against the twilight. The fingernail moon sailed westward like a single-masted ship into the afterglow of the setting sun, pursuing its master with slavish devotion.

Kids scurried from house to house, the hems of costumes brushing the pavement, shoes scuffling through the parched parchment of crumbling leaves.

Jack o’lanterns and assorted other luminaria gleamed from nearly every porchpost, stairstep, and window in savage contortions or friendly smiles. A giant cobweb had been strung between two houses, rising two stories. Burial mounds of leaves lined the curbs. Ceramic pumpkins were fused into tiny totem poles of frightful visages.

On one front lawn, a campfire blazed, while the residents reclined in white wicker furniture sipping wine and doling out sweets. 

Adults were almost as numerous as kids-commuters returning from work, parents accompanying their little ones, directing them, reminding them to say “trick or treat” and to express gratitude for the latter. Forget Thanksgiving-on Halloween kids say “thank you” far more often.

Porch potatoes were plentiful. Like most communities, for most of the year, we are afflicted by an epidemic of “porch neglect.” But this was the night to take advantage of the best room outside the house. Back decks are too withdrawn. The front porch is the stitching in our social fabric.

This was also a night to condition our kids to see their neighbors as benefactors, accomplices in a vast right-thinking conspiracy to create idyllic childhoods, like the ones created for us.

Adults take part in trick-or-treating more now than when I was a kid. True, it’s born of fear for safety, but there’s an unintended bonus. Being out on the streets reacquaints adults with the magic, allows them to steep awhile in dreamy ambiance.

Which is basically what I was doing. For the older set, the treats are intangible, filling our personal pillowcases with sweetmeat memories.

None of which cause tooth-or truth-decay.

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