What Has Happened To Hallowe’en?

When I was a kid, Hallowe’en was the holiday of holidays. Yes, Christmas was important,  but short of sporting an ugly sweater, opportunities to dress up in costume were few, unless you had parents who put you in cheap felt elf outfits for posed portrait photographs.

My three children are a young adult and two teenagers now, but with the addition of my granddaughter to our family in 2016, and two Hallowe’ens since, I will continue to lace up my sensible walking shoes and go door to door bearing an old pillowcase as a back-up candy sack.

What hasn’t gone unnoticed is the number of children who still do old-school trick or treating. Private parties and “Trunk or Treat” events are the new get your spook on. In the community groups on Facebook I belong to, 20 or 25 costumed kids constituted a successful evening of mini-candies distribution. We’re even making exceptions for properly outfitted teenagers. Put in the effort, and ye shall be rewarded. Full-size chocolate bars will never wane in popularity, and people giving them away are not shy about telling you where to find them (street names only, though, thanks).

As the parent of a disabled child, I also see the good intentions behind the Blue Bucket meme that was going around Facebook. My son has difficulty making himself understood at the best of times, and he likes to wear a full face mask with his Dracula/Harry Potter mash-up outfit. Alas, cherished allies, he chose a ratty, plastic Chapters/Indigo bag instead.

Look, there are a few things about Hallowe’ens of yore that I can do without, slutty nurse versions of Alice in Wonderland and Rockets candy among them. At the risk of sounding like a moon-eyed nostalgia tribe-leader, though, how do we put the harmless, outdoor fun back into October 31?

Spinning The Wheel

Even at this physical distance, I am still trying to process what happened in Toronto this week.

As the mother of two sons who have diagnoses on the autism spectrum, and equally the mother of a daughter, and a grandmother of a lovely, sharp female toddler; I may well be stumped for the right words, too.

Marc Lepine. Elliot Rodger. Alek Minassian. The misappropriation of the term incel.

At the risk of overstating the obvious, Western culture really hasn’t learned a damned thing or made the tamping down of misogyny a priority. Who, or what, can we blame? This is a world that welcomed a perverted parasite to the Oval Office with open arms, and everyone else who can see the emperor for the naked criminal he is are no closer to evicting him, try as they might. He’s all about his base, and it continues to be a dispiritingly strong one.

I also think parents still aren’t talking to their children about consent and entitlement in personal and romantic relationships. Look: it’s never a bad time to do it. And a child’s level of ability, or disability, shouldn’t even play into it. I am signed on to take a workshop next week on the topic of sex and disability, to help me bring my younger son up to speed, in a way he will hopefully understand, but I know there will be a need for remediation based on his personality, if only to remind him to keep his hands away from the front of his pants in public.

It is also incredibly important to keep top of mind that autism did not rent a cargo van and mount a sidewalk this week. Autism is not facing ten counts of first-degree murder and thirteen fourteen counts of attempted murder. Autism does not leave a breadcrumb trail of YouTube videos and a lengthy manifesto rife with vitriol towards the women who turn it down for sex. Autism does not radicalize itself.

We need to start with that, and prioritize conversations about mental health, generally, at home, at school, and in the workplace. Places where people gather, as a matter of course, on a daily basis.

And, since the personal is also political, we must reclaim the base. I am surprising myself by agreeing with Kanye West: self victimization is a disease. No one’s interests are served when it’s the practice to mollycoddle people who routinely behave badly and have learned that there is no real, lasting consequence for it.

If it is my job to teach my children how to get along in the world, why are so many others not out there doing the same? It’s time to get real.

It’s time to replace blame with basic human kindness. It’s time to turn the wheel.