My Hometown

Published 9:52 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It is the time of moldy, mushy pumpkins carved into scary faces and houses adorned with tacky Halloween décor from the aisles of your favorite discount store. It is Halloween in the ‘burbs.

October is one of my favorite months with the crisp clean fall air and changing autumn colors adorning the landscape. Although, in South Mississippi the change is not as visible, not as dramatic a transformation as in the North, it is still a seasonal alteration none-the-less.

Mixed in with all the fall celebrations we have the tradition of Halloween. For some it is a taboo subject that is to be avoided because of its marriage with evil and darkness. That is where the local church pulls out its alternative solution for children with parents who do not wish for them to celebrate the holiday. They now have a choice. As a matter of fact, in these scary days when you don’t know if your neighbor is either a Ted Bundy or a Cleaver Clan, monitored fun events are probably the best idea for your small kids.

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After all, who really knows their neighbors? Sure, you can go on websites now and check out if they are on the sexual predator watch while another site will tell you which ones are convicted felons. But, even the best neighborhood snoop can miss a few serial killers. Beware of the loners since every person living next to a killer always starts off his or her conversation with “He always kept to himself.”

My own grandmother was one of the neighborhood busybodies living on my street when I was growing up. She kept a watch on the goings on in the burb’s but all she managed was making up more gossip — not discovering any killers.

In the suburbs or if you watch one of my favorite “B” movies, “The ‘burbs,” you understand why we should worry about who is living among us.

There are two concerns about neighbors, one is that they might be murdering, “burying bodies in the back yard” type monsters. The other is that you might think they are, which was one of the “deep” points brought out by the Tom Hanks’ comedy where the normal guy was beginning to act crazed about his suspicious next door neighbor. Was he taking the Neighborhood watch thing too far? Is it appropriate to break and enter purely based on assumption your neighbor is a murderer? Maybe we — as the “normal” people who mow their yard every week, kiss our spouses and go to work routinely — are the ones who will crack. We could be the monster.

Did my grandmother take her vigilante skills to heart? Did she snoop in the neighbor’s house and check their mail? Well, yes she did, but that is because she was a bit off, but, as far as I know, she didn’t blow anyone’s home up like that person in the movie.

Paranoia is a fun business. If you start analyzing your neighbors in a fearful way, you might come up with some sinister answers. In the movie, the neighbors never came outside and no one ever saw them. I have had those kinds of neighbors. Were they chopping up hobos and burning them in the furnace?

I have had some scary neighbors, not because I believed them capable of cannibalism, but because they were crazy in a “normal” way. They were spastic, wired up, and plum spacey. Of course, I could have been looking in the mirror.

Freaky things do happen in the suburbs, and Halloween is one way for the freaks to show off their stuff. You can tell a lot about someone’s personality from the decorations they use. The nothing but straw and pumpkins décor could represent a conservative, church lady while the over the top, dark shadows scene probably an independent non-spiritual individual who does not like to play by the rules.

And what of that LSU guy who goes all out to scare the neighborhood kids? Well, he’s just a fun and social person that married an incredibly understanding wife!

Decorating is not the only tell-tale sign of your mental make-up. If you dress up for Halloween, your costume may say a lot too. The last major event where I decked out for the occasion, I dressed as an earthly fairy with wings, very “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Does that mean I am spacey, flighty, or earthy?

Costumes are easier to come by now. You don’t have to manufacture your own, so the choices are endless. I found some obscure costumes such as “Welcome Back Kotter” and Tattoo from “Fantasy Island.” For those following the presidential campaign, to really scare your red or blue state neighbor, put on the ol’ Obama or McCain mask. If you have a liberal feminist next door, pull out your Tina Fey outfit and tell her “BOO!” They will probably think it’s a Sarah Palin mask!

The most popular male trends this year include the new Joker, Indiana Jones, and Ironman. Girls don’t have a large range of female super heroes so they revert to Hannah Montana, princesses, and witches — unless you are an adult female and then the bedroom versions of costumes are plentiful. You can play nurse or wear your “pose for playboy non outfit” with some of the naughty inspirations.

One website had over 15,000 outfits to choose from, so you still have time to decide. Each year I usually have the same costume—tired mother running after sugared up younglings.

Halloween resides in fall because it is the season of death. Fall is the transition of dying. The process is about closing down, cooling, and drying up. Death and autumn go hand in hand as a natural part of life. It is both beautiful and depressing.

Yet, just when you think the flowering days are over, the ditches fill up with bright yellow and purple explosions of wild flowers. The last splash until the first hard freeze which brings in the next season that makes life hard and cold. The trees give up their colorful leaves and we end it by up raking up the evidence.

We are all dying anyway, so the process should not be too scary. Let us hope we go out at the end with color and class just like my favorite season and not like a pumpkin in the sultry Southern heat — moldy and yucky.

Just watch out for those people in your neighborhood!

Tracy Williams is a guest columnist and can be reached at