End of October does not always present with a comfortable weather. If my memory does not confuse me, which it does most of the times, couple of years ago it was drizzling on the Halloween night, the air was cool enough to make me uneasy inside my three layers of clothing and at the top of that the wind blew like hurricane rising the chill factor to a point when it becomes impossible to stay out too long, at least for the middle aged dads who has little interest in junk candies. But then, Halloween nights are not for the dads. We just have to go with the kids. Not that they give a damn, but we do. I do. You can’t trust anybody anymore, not with kids.
This Halloween, thankfully, had the best weather in last several years. It was relatively warm; with barely any wind blowing, it felt quite comfortable.
Like most festivals Halloween must be celebrated in groups or there’s very little fun. We already had one of our friend’s three kids dropped off in our house. We have two other friends living in the same neighborhood. Each have one kid. All together seven kids including one toddler. Not bad.
Packed in Halloween cloths and armed with deep bottom bags the team hit the sidewalks a little after seven. J (one of my friends who live in the neighborhood) and I followed them. Many kids have now poured out of their houses, escorted by many adults, some of whom are in their own Halloween costumes including masks. I have not heard of any unexpected incidents lately, but still I like to be careful. We stayed close to the kids, especially the little ones. The two boys – Zakeem and his friend Musa didn’t want to be slowed down by the girls and were racing to get to more houses. It became increasingly difficult to keep track of them as the neighborhood was only partly lighted owing to sparsely located streetlights. In addition the sidewalks were now flooded with kids of all ages and sizes, all dressed in an assortment of curious looking costumes, mostly dark, scary to popular movie figures. Soon I found so many little princesses hovering in the area that I had to be extra careful to make sure that I was following the right princess.
As we progressed in our venture and continued to follow the army of the kids we overheard some conversations. It seemed like a general consensus that the amount of candy this year was less than last year. I had heard and read earlier that day that this year total sales for Halloween related items were much less than an average year. The job market might have had a direct relation to such consumer behavior though in Canada things had not been as bad as it could have been. Our banks had been relatively careful and maintained a better policy of lending money which in turn had probably saved us some misery. Anyway, we still had seen our share of job losses and reduction of new job creation. However, the recent severe financial problem of Greece that had emerged to challenge the very existence of euro zone and had put a serious strain on the world economics possibly caused the Canadian consumers to react prudently as well. J and I discussed it for a little. We both were fortunate and were comfortable in our jobs – he worked in the local nuclear plant, I did contract work as an IT consultant.
As we roamed the streets of the candy-hunter infested neighborhood we (J and I) spoke about various things. One of the topic that I found most interesting was knowing that earlier that morning on the radio a Pakistani Muslim man was condemning Halloween stating it to be immoral and anti Islam. Usually talks in such line make my blood boil. For some strange reason a fraction of Muslims believes that it is just not enough for them to practice the religion but they are also obligated to be overbearing on other fellow Muslims and attempt to direct or guide them to a life style that only they approve according to their understanding or learning of the religion. I consider such attitude as tyrannical, imposing and utterly unacceptable. You practice whatever way you feel is right and let me do it in my way – my straight opinion. We don’t need Taliban to tell us how long our beard should be and keep women from education because Islam forbids it (not really). Islam in its truest form is about peace and freedom of rights. Let’s stick to that. J had similar views. We summarily dismissed such unacceptable and unfounded opinions.
In the middle of our run we did notice that the number of kids were much higher than last year regardless of the fact that it was a Monday (school was open). The good weather probably played a role. In addition, more and more parents wanted to let their kids have a part of these traditional urban festivals. As a result of this added crowd many home owners ran out of their candy stash and turned their porch lights off (decorated pumpkins or lit porch is a sure sign of a home owner willing to provide treats).
The younger girls soon became tired especially Farheen, as she had woken up early that morning to attend school. The boys were reluctant to return before their sacks were completely filled, which was still a long way. I had to coerce them a little bit to return home. All of them had school the next morning and needed to have supper and a good night’s sleep.
Upon our return the family room turned into candy hills as each of them poured out their collections. The lights that beckoned into the eyes of these kids were a memorable view. I could not stop smiling. Only kids can be so much happy looking at a stash of mostly crappy candies, the cheapest ones in the market, with the exception of a few chocolaty bars and packaged chips. Mili and I have an agreement on allowing the kids to play and eat as much candy as they can on the Halloween night after they return home from the treat hunt. Next morning most of the candies would get thrown away or hidden. Zakeem and Farheen knew it. They had learned the hard way. Both took no time in sorting out the good candies or the ones they cherished (some were really the worst ones), put them in plastic bags and set them aside.
After about half an hour when my friends came to pick up their kids, they were all sugar filled, happy and content. They left quickly. The kids needed to hit the bed. I stepped out on the patio and blew off the candles that were still burning inside the carved pumpkins. Another year. Another Halloween. I had this strange feeling inside me. Each year the kids were growing up, soon they would be too old to attend this events. I did not want that to happen. I really enjoyed these little things with the kids and would miss them very much.