Friday, October 19, 2007
Celebrating Halloween in the neighborhood
Driving past those colorful "Pumpkins on the Common" laid out for sale on the Green this past week got me to thinking about Halloween in our community. No, that very special holiday that all our children eagerly anticipate is not next week, but twelve days away on Wednesday, October 31. That gives me plenty of time to purchase candy, carve a pumpkin to place in the top window of our garage, and roast the pumpkin seeds that my neighbor's son has always enjoyed.
I have to admit that my neighbor's son is off at college and hasn't stopped by for several years. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing the younger children who have moved into the neighborhood, meeting their families, and catching up with the children that regularly stop by each year. I'll be awaiting those creatures in their scary costumes as they pass into the house from the usually cold out-of-doors.
Halloween was always a special holiday in our neighborhood. First of all, we had and still have very few cars coming and going on Bellows Hill and Estabrook Roads, not like those families who live on the busy highways passing in and out of town. Remembering past Halloweens, I especially enjoy recalling those days back in the '70s when the several families with children organized a 6 p.m. soup, crackers, and cheese get-together for the children and their dads before they took off down the road to "trick or treat." We even invited the neighbors without children — Ed and Joan Bartlett, Bob and Shirley Martens, and Grammy Nelson. By 6:30 p.m. everyone was back at home while the kids, younger ones with their dads, started making the rounds.
I know times have changed, and Carlisle certainly has grown, but if you live in a small, quiet neighborhood like mine, Halloween is a great opportunity for neighbors to meet and see the children and maybe some of the families living nearby. These days, with both parents often working, I wouldn't expect there to be time for a neighborhood pre-"trick-or-treat" supper. But there should still be time for the kids to put on their costumes, grab a bag for the candy they will collect, make sure the candle in the jack-o'-lantern on the dining room table is lit, and head out the door and down the road to the neighbors, with or without a parent in tow.
Kids (and parents) these days
My daughter, Casey, is spending her junior year in Salamanca, Spain. Not that extraordinary an occurrence these days. At one college my son, Aaron, visited this summer they have a student club called HAY (Here All Year) for the minority of juniors who don't avail themselves of the opportunity to go abroad for at least one semester.
Though we haven't talked to Casey as much as we'd like (if we had our druthers, she'd still be 5 and sitting at the kitchen table, painting gloriously bright paintings with big fat brushes), we have a pretty good handle on what she's up to, as well as what she's thinking and feeling about her experiences in and around Spain, thanks to her online blog. She posts regularly through "blogspot," a free online service similar to the popular sites for posting digital photos. The blogging service lets her post words as well as pictures, and allows her wide readership to post their comments.
Casey's blog is a sort of diary, including, in addition to more straightforward (though often quite funny) descriptions of her travels, her friends and her professors, musings about what it feels like to be in the midst of such an intense onslaught of the New. Her first entries were written before she departed. She wrote eloquently about trying to keep her expectations to a minimum so she would be as open as possible to everything that came her way once she was there. She also wrote movingly about the early stages of previous away-from-home times when she cried and considered asking us to let her come home.
Becoming aware of such feelings with an ocean between us and Casey was difficult for Karen and me. But it was also amazing and wonderful. It's not just the technology that affects how Casey communicates with us; a whole sea change has occurred since we were kids in how much children communicate with their parents.
Whether home or away from home, we gave our parents the outlines of our lives. The conversations were usually little better than "Where did you go?" "Out," followed by: "What did you do?" "Nothing." We rarely if ever filled in those outlines. And with rare exceptions, we did not share whatever thoughts or feelings we had about life. That's just how things were back then. It was a system that seemed to work pretty well for both sides of the equation.
This generation of kids (and parents) is living a whole new paradigm of open communication, for better or for worse. While we read almost daily about the real dangers of kids revealing too much of themselves to too wide a world through the Internet, in this instance, the Internet allows us to narrow the wide distance between us and our daughter. Getting the news and the emotions — and being able to respond — with such immediacy is probably a big part of what makes this work. It's a lot easier to bare one's soul when validation or reassurance is not several weeks away as it would be with overseas snail mail. We are so lucky that Casey has embraced the technology and is using it to embrace us (and, not to get too full of ourselves, to embrace a pretty wide range of friends who also read and post comments on her entries) with her prolific exposition of self on her Salamanca blog.
Just got an e-mail that there's a new post. Gotta go.
© 2007 The