Saturday, December 4th, 2021

O Shopper Columns


Going trick-or-treating can be a journey of discovery. As a kid, peering through the eyes of a plastic dime-store mask, my neighborhood took on a magical glow, seeming new and unfamiliar. Under the milky street lights, it was impossible to tell if an approaching gang of costumed fellow trick-or-treaters were friends or strangers. Anticipating the bestowal of cavity-causing treats, our hearts beat a little faster when knocking on the front doors of neighbors we'd known all our lives. Would the adult inside answer the door wearing a mask or costume? Would they look funny or scary?

When the barber who lived across the street- and who always seemed so solemn- answered his door wearing a red clown's nose, I felt as if I had discovered something new and essential about the man. The same was true of the retired Baptist minister who lived on the next block. One Sunday afternoon, when we knocked on his door and offered to rake his yard for a dime, he severely scolded us for breaking the Sabbath. But on Halloween, as he handed out candy with a smile and complimented our costumes, I discovered there was more to him than a persnickety tirade on obeying the fourth commandment.

wearing costumes, playing tricks,
and giving treats
are ways of revealing hidden aspects
of ourselves to others.

In the working-class neighborhood of my early childhood, there was one house that stood out from the rest. It was a white, two-story Colonial, with a large well-kept yard. It didn't look scary or haunted; it looked pleasant, welcoming and- to my kid's mind- boring. For years, we never went trick-or-treating there. Then when I was nine, we did. As we ascended the brick front porch steps, I noticed a small sign in the ivy bed that wasn't visible from the street. It read: "Two Oaks: Built in 1822."

I was stunned! The other houses in our neighborhood had been built 20 years earlier, but this house was nearly 150 years old! In getting a closer look at something familiar, I discovered that our modest neighborhood had been built on what had once been a large, prosperous plantation. From then on, thanks to trick-or-treating, I never again thought of my neighborhood in quite the same way.

Even though we're too old to trick-or-treat, chaperoning our kids or grandkids on Halloween is a fun way to discover new things about our neighborhoods. Has someone decorated their front porch, or erected a haunted house in their driveway? Why not stroll over and check it out- even if not chaperoning trick-or-treaters? Enjoy a laugh or scare; compliment them on their efforts; thank them for bringing some communal fun to the holiday.

We typically think of dressing up for Halloween as a way of hiding ourselves from others. In reality, wearing costumes, playing tricks, and giving treats are ways of revealing hidden aspects of ourselves to others.  We might be too old to trick-or-treat, but we're never too old to see the familiar through new eyes. May this Halloween be a night of fun-filled discovery.

Rob Lauer is an award-winning, nationally-produced and published playwright with over 35 years of experience in the entertainment industry. His national credits include production work for MGA Films, Time/Warner TV, The Learning Channel and The History Channel. Locally, Rob has been producing, directing and hosting three TV series for PCTV (the City of Portsmouth’s official channel) since 2011.