Suburban Halloween – not for the socially introverted

Halloween in the Highlands is not for the un-spirited. Nor is it a night for Grinches, grouches or agoraphobics. It is a night, however, for Gangnam Style goblins, Zombie-Pioneers, and Mad Hatter vampires to arrive on doorsteps in gleeful waves, and hold out their bags expectantly for confectionery booty.

Katniss (right), in the company of Minecraft Steve and the Walking Dead

I used to be one of those Grinches…a little. If a trick-or-treater dared to show up at my door before dark, or begged for candy without wearing a requisite costume, I would brew up a concoction of spite and fury that would intimidate a witch. “Don’t they know the RULES?!” Grinch Curtis would spit. “You can’t trick-or-treat when it’s clearly daytime. You have to dress up. If you’re old enough to drive a car then you’re too old to be begging for sweets!” With her ire provoked, Grinch Curtis would slam her self-assembled Halloween rule book.A funny thing happens when your oldest goes to middle school, however, and the end to the giddy mayhem darkly appears just around the corner. Grinch Curtis softened over the past couple of years. She decided to get in the spirit and turn a blind eye to those blatant rule violators. After all, if teenagers can brave the challenging weather conditions and intrepidly knock on doors for the payoff of a nutty PayDay, Grinch Curtis should just stuff it.

The outdoor conditions for candy acquisition are usually…well…northwestern. Rain, wind, chill are the norm. But we got lucky this year. No black cats walked in front of Halloween 2012. My boys did not suffer dissolved cardboard costumes, nor did they have to add bulky warm layers underneath, turning Flash into Flabby, or a scary skeleton into a double-stuffed Oreo. The rain held back and the wind abated. It was a perfect night.

Let’s return to feeling sorry for Grinches, grouches and agoraphobics. In order to fully embrace Halloween in the Highlands you have to arm yourself with a minimum $40-cornucopia of solidified corn syrup. Next, you have to comfortably position yourself near your front door instead of back in the kitchen; otherwise you will find yourself walking a half-marathon by the end of the night. The doorbell rings persistently in two-minute intervals from 6:00pm to 8:30pm. You will probably run out of candy. One neighbor in AshlandPark sent her teenaged daughter out on an emergency trick-or-treat run so they could replenish their dwindling supply. I can just hear it, “Honey, we’re down to the last three KitKats! Quick, go out there and get us some more candy!”

Back to acknowledging those who prefer to dwell less socially. The sheer giddiness at your doorstep could clog a drain. If you dare answer the door, you will be bombarded with chiming voices chanting their three-syllable cause. Then upon receipt of their Hershey product they will sing-song a heart melting “thank you”. That perfunctory response is sort of to be expected from the little ones whose parents are hovering nearby ready to prompt any forgotten manners. However, what will floor the Grinch are the “thank yous” and “Happy Halloweens” coming from un-chaperoned sweets scroungers. It’s one thing to have mom prod her pirate to show appreciation at every door, but it’s flabbergasting to hear it spontaneously from the older kids.

Where do those manners come from? During Issaquah High School’s PTSA meeting in September, Principal Paula Phelps included some anecdotes in her state-of-the-school address. She shared that Issaquah High has a uniquely empathetic and gracious student body. This opinion has come over the last few years from objective outsiders who have offered their compliments to Principal Phelps. A district maintenance contract worker commented that a couple students noticed him approaching the doors with his ladder and hustled to hold the door open for him while he passed through. They even had the gall to tell him to have a nice day!

A similarly favorable impression about the teenaged student body came from a substitute teacher who found that filling in for absent teachers across the district had become a very difficult and frustrating endeavor – with the exception of IssaquahHigh School.  She would happily answer the call to sub for any class at IHS, “because the students there are just different; they’re good kids.” If the Halloween Grinch opens the door to costumed characters of this ilk, he’s sure to writhe in skepticism.

Before this starts to sound like I’m portraying the population in The Stepford Wives, let me clarify. Don’t think for a second that you can leave a bowl of candy out on your doorstep and expect it to be delicately and slowly emptied. In the absence of a homeowner and the presence of sugar, Princess Barbie transforms into Rabid Thief Blackbeard. In the matter of minutes your bowl filled with Twix will vanish, and so will your bowl.

Overall, Halloween night in the Issaquah Highlands has advantages that could placate a grouch and soften the hardest-of-hearts. You’ll get a workout from carving decorative pumpkins and opening the door one hundred times in a night. But the payoff in the form of jubilant jesters and zesty zombies is priceless.

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