The Meat and Potatoes of Life: Saved by the bolognese

Lisa Smith Molinari

Dressed as a friendly witch so as to not scare the tiny princesses and superheroes, I sat on the front porch of our base house with a bowl of candy in my lap, waiting. Peering down at the mix of seasonal sweets I’d bought at the commissary, I felt guilty having included candies that kids avoid just because I wanted the leftovers. The saliva pistons under my tongue fired, imagining the Almond Joys that would be left for me later that night.

Soon, they appeared in droves. Cowgirls, zombies, skeletons, Power Rangers, vampires, mummies, and parents pushing strollers with baby pea pods and lady bugs, cruising past our stretch of pastel-colored NAS Mayport Balfour Beatty houses. Our own three kids were somewhere out there, still young enough to trick-or-treat, but too old for me to supervise. The setting sun cast a golden backdrop, and I breathed a contented sigh under my purple wig.

With my husband on TDY and hormones coursing through my system, the slightest thing could send me blubbering like an idiot. So when colors blasted from loudspeakers near our neighborhood and every trick-or-treater stood with tiny hands on hearts, tears sprang to my eyes. Candies aside, never before had I experienced a sweeter scene.

“Pick two,” I said, holding up fingers tipped with green press-on witch nails. But inevitably, each kid plunged a fist into the bowl, gripping as many candies as he or she could. The two extra bags of candy under my chair proved I planned properly for this likelihood.

Sometime after trick-or-treating hours were over but kids remained outside playing and scootering, parents gathered around a fire pit. Pumpkin beers and rum-spiked cider was shared. We listened to the nearby ocean surf and crackling fire, and told stories of Halloweens past. I told of giving out candy on the shared stairwell housing patio in Germany, our kids being scarred by one terrifying haunted house in our Virginia Beach neighborhood, trying to make the most of Halloween while stationed in rural England.

When the fire had reduced to a bed of hot coals, the carousing kids showed up, costumes abandoned, makeup smeared, bickering over candy trades. It was time for bed.

 Later, I snuggled into my spot on the couch, clicker in hand. With my husband gone, I was free to watch mindless reality shows to my heart’s content. I withdrew the first snack-sized Almond Joy from the bowl. One down, only eleven more to go. Life was good.

That was eight years ago.

Thanks to COVID-19, Halloween 2020 will be very different. One might think a pandemic would enhance the scary experience of the holiday, but instead, it has resulted in the cancellation of quintessential Halloween activities.

Apparently, trick-or-treating has been cancelled or limited in at least 37 states across the US.  Additionally, many US military base installations have prohibited traditional trick-or-treating, while others will allow it with new COVID-19 restrictions.

The Centers for Disease Control have published new guidelines on Halloween, which deem door-to-door trick-or-treating, trunk-or-treating, crowded indoor costume parties, haunted houses “where people may be crowded together and screaming,” and hayrides with people not in one’s household to be high-risk activities. To make matters worse for parents, the CDC also warns agains consumption of alcohol on Halloween, “which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors.”

Talk about spoiling the fun.

Sure, it’s still possible to enjoy Halloween by getting creative. But carving pumpkins with one’s family just doesn’t cut it. A costumed car parade is kinda lame. Virtual costume contests are a bore. There’s no way around it, trick-or-treating is key and essential, and without it, Halloween just isn’t the same.

All is not lost. COVID-19 may have tricked us, but there’s one tradition that hasn’t been scared away — Halloween treats. Despite the pandemic, great sugary, chocolate covered, ooey-gooey heaps of candy are piled high in store displays around the world.

As always, this October 31, I will be snuggled up on my couch, eating one Almond Joy after another. Life is still good.

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