Can we dispense with apartment building trick-or-treating?
I’m not the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween. Quite the contrary. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a creative costume. If you’re having a party, invite me. I’ll show up with bells on — literally, as a Christmas Ornament. If there are themed festivities around the city — balls, cruises, the Greenwich Village parade — I’m there, in spirit if not by invite. But if you’re a parent, do yourself a favor and stop with the high-rise candy begging since most people don’t even bother to open the door.
Back in the Bronx where I grew up, we used to go freely from building to building. Although it was always about the candy, a k a loot, it was also about showing off your Wonder Woman/Spiderman/go-go dancer/cowboy ensembles. Now, hardly anyone sees the outfits, because most people in apartment buildings — at least the ones in my Upper East Side neighborhood — just leave the candy in a bowl outside their door with a gentle reminder to take only one piece so there’s something left for all the other children, whom the occupant does not want to see.
People who do open the door often do so while on the phone or otherwise preoccupied, so there’s really no gushing, “Oh look, it’s Batman!” (The closest thing to a gush that my daughter and I got the last time we made the rounds was an exchange of compliments with another mom and a Raggedy Ann whom we passed on the stairs.)
I stopped taking my kids on the treat-collecting circuit a couple of years ago. Out of a decade’s worth of celebrating, only three years were memorable, and none of them included going through our 21-story building and ringing doorbells.
One year, we spent Halloween at a family member’s house in Queens, where the children went from one decorated house to the next with their cousins and a whole group of their friends. Another year, we went to the party held at the American Museum of Natural History. Again, we were out and about for the world to see my son as Harry Potter and my daughter as Hello Kitty. The coup de grâce of Halloweens was when we were invited by friends to make the rounds in the high 70s and low 80s around Park Avenue, where brownstones were transformed into haunted houses and their owners welcomed visitors in their own All Hallows’ Eve regalia.
I regret the times I chose to stay close to home when the kids were little, mostly out of fear of having them out after dark or thinking that there would be so much Halloween action in a skyscraper that we wouldn’t have to look elsewhere.
Maybe it’s a matter of overkill — too many children, too many residents, too many reasons to ignore the holiday altogether. But if you live in a big apartment building, you should consider taking your Catwoman, pirate, Disney Princess and Power Ranger where they’re appreciated — which is far from home, if you want a ghost of a chance at a good time.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl lives on the Upper East Side and is the author of the novel “Fat Chick” (Vineyard Press) and a columnist for Our Town, The West Side Spirit and Care.com.
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