Last weekend, I tucked away the trimmings of Halloween, a holiday that heralds three others crowding the horizon. Like a trio of Magi, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve plod toward us, the final characters of a calendar rapidly depleting its days.
My children are too old for trick-or-treating, so I watch Halloween from our porch, gauging the number of trick-or-treaters as eagerly as some track the stock market or the GNP. The size of the crowd along the sidewalk each All Hallow’s Eve seems a useful measure of how well things are going in the world, or at least my corner of it.
Turnout this year was high — goblins and witches clotting the streets so thickly that my terrier, who escaped from our yard, couldn’t hope to get very far. A couple canvassing for candy with their youngsters nabbed him until we could take custody.
Our driveway is long and dark, which tests the courage of visitors seeking a Baby Ruth or Almond Joy. They find courage in numbers, though. I’ve noticed that once one or two trick-or-treaters cross the No Man’s Land of our shadowy lawn and arrive at the door, others quickly follow, buoyed by the bravery of the early scouts.
Maybe, I thought to myself as I watched a steady stream of zombies and superheroes, this is what the holidays are all about. Within the company of fellow pilgrims as we seek a little something good, we find the confidence and resolve to face whatever fear life throws at us.
Not that there was much real fear in store for the costumed children who landed on our porch. The only scream of the evening came from a tiny girl, dressed as a Disney princess, who shrieked when she spotted the plastic rat, as big as a poodle, that stands watch near our welcome mat each Halloween.
My own goose bumps didn’t arrive until the next morning, when I noticed that our jack-o’-lantern, though freshly carved, was already clouded with gnats. Yellow slime oozed from its triangular eyes as I lugged it to the edge of the yard and rolled it into the bushes, assuming the neighborhood possum would have it for dinner.
The yard seems slow to fall asleep, as it’s supposed to do when autumn comes. Our weeds and palms and ginger plants continue to grow with their familiar fury. Much of the place still looks green, though the trees try to smother everything to death with the torrent of leaves that drops from their canopies.
It’s not the kind of climate where the frosty tableau of the holidays seems likely to unfold, but the stores seem unthwarted. Last week, with the thermometer near 80, I spotted a cashier wearing felt reindeer horns.
Is it too early for Christmas? Maybe so. But these days, given the headlines, I welcome glad tidings, however premature.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter @Danny_Heitman.