A slightly sour sweet

Our neighbor's decor was mostly air, so not really scary. Lots of fun, though! Alexandria, Virginia, October 2013

Our neighbor’s decor was mostly air, so not really scary.
Lots of fun, though! Alexandria, Virginia, October 2013

“Halloween wraps fear in innocence,
As though it were a slightly sour sweet.
Let terror, then, be turned into a treat…” Nicholas Gordon

I’ve always wondered what it is in us that finds a small dose of fright so appealing.  Most of us don’t like truly horrifying or gory fare, but even little ones can enjoy the hint of mystery and darkness in the small doses meted out at Halloween.  I don’t think it’s just about the candy.

There’s something vaguely homeopathic about it, as if we are inoculating ourselves against real terror.  Facing a cartoonish parody of the nightmares that truly haunt us can be an empowering thing, enabling us to laugh at imagery that, under different circumstances, might leave us trembling and tearful.

I never watch horror movies, and I don’t recommend them to anyone.  My imagination is far too vivid to withstand the continual assault of insidiously destructive illusions.  But I treasured the childish fun of dressing up as a character of my own choice, and venturing with my friends into the darkness we were seldom allowed to explore, returning with a bag full of treats to examine, trade and enjoy.

In some ways, Halloween is different now than when I was young.  As parents and neighbors we feel more watchful, and who can blame us?  However, there is a bonus to this vigilance.  Perhaps our increased hovering over the festivities is partly born of our impulse toward vicarious participation in a holiday we never really outgrew.

If you or your loved ones celebrate Halloween with forays into the fearful, I hope you will remember to keep them wrapped in innocence, ensuring treats instead of tricks!

One year ago this week:

A child in every one


  1. Sheila

    Julia, my trick or treating was certainly before creative and outrageous. Just being a gypsy with the privilege of make up, lots of jewelry, and a long skirt was FUN. May all the little ghost and goblins be safe and have fun! 🎃 I think that I should buy some candy, just in case!🍭🍭 Sheila

    • I just love your little pics and have tried to find ways of duplicating them (even tried copying the HTML for them and pasting) but to no avail. Being a gypsy was a favorite option for my sister and me when we were little. In fact the makeup, jewelry and long flowing skirts are still fun for me today! But I seldom take time to dress up. At this time of year, denim and fleece are my mainstays.

      • Sheila

        When you talk “denim and fleece” you’re talking my language now. Southern, of course. 😍 Bill gifted me with this very new technology Monday and I just discovered those little “thingamajigs”. There must be a zillion! I wish I could beam you some! ✈️

        • Are you using a cell phone or a computer? (To get the zillion thingamajigs.)

  2. Sheila

    Julia, I have them on my iPhone but this new device (with more) is an iPad Air. ☕️🍩🍪☕️
    Tea + doughnut + cookie + Tea = ???

    • WOW, how fun is that? You may eventually turn me into an iFanatic. NOT! 😀

  3. raynard

    Julia I remember over in Turkey, for a halloween party, i dressed up,with a trench coat. Under it was a pair of long johns with the flap in the back. Almost reminded me of” going to the dr’s and having one of those ” flapless in the back gowns lol I digress Cake in the oven..

    • Raynard, Jeff learned to HATE those hospital gowns the past two years. I don’t blame him. Sometimes when he would get up to walk around the halls for exercise and he’d be dragging his IV pole in one hand and his Wound Vac in the other, and I would run along behind him holding his gown closed. 😀 Hey I can smell that cake from here…YUM…

      • Sheila

        Julia and Raynard, please watch the movie, “Something’s Got To Give”. Jack Nicholson’s “dancing in the hall in hospital gown” scene is hilarious.

        • Sheila, I loved that movie! I need to watch it again. And yes, the hospital gown scene was hilarious.

  4. I’m with you on the horror movies. I saw a few movies in my twenties and I’ve never gotten them out of my head. Our decorations are pseudo-scary. I don’t want anyone getting frightened on my watch. We have 200 children at our door on Halloween night. It’s a treat!

    My son would love that inflatable. I’ll have to show him.

    • Alys, I wish he could be here to see it in real life. It’s great. I think Halloween can be great fun when people keep the kids in mind and make it a family outing. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is about as scary as I want the movies to get. 😀 I know the kids in your neighborhood love your pumpkin costumes!

      • Julia, I had forgotten about The Ghost and Mr. Chicken! Don Knotts, right? We loved that sort of thing as kids.

        I feel like we rush everything with kids these days. We want them to read earlier, date earlier, and expose them to things they really shouldn’t be exposed to. It makes me sad. I’ve tried to find a balance between sheltering my boys from harm and ill will, while teaching the how to take care of themselves.

        • Yes, that was Don Knotts, in his most memorable roll other than Barney Fife. “Atta boy, Luther!” You can recognize him in that role on this lovely marker from his grave. I stumbled on a photo of it and thought how perfect it was for him.

          I so agree about kids being rushed into everything. It’s a fine line to walk between to much protection and not enough, but I know I usually erred on the side of too much, and I don’t regret it. I used to ask people why they expected their kids to date and have serious love interests at age 13, and yet wait until after college to have a family. Not realistic in my opinion, but maybe that’s because I didn’t date at all until I was in college – not because my parents wouldn’t let me, but because no one ever asked me out!! I got so sick of relatives asking me “do you have a boyfriend yet?” 😀 No regrets, though. I am glad I stayed a child as long as possible and didn’t know some of the harsh realities until years later. They come to us soon enough, and anyway, childhood is difficult under the best of circumstances.

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