The following post originally appeared at Tossing It Out on October 29th, 2009...
|Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The most recent memories certainly have to do with my previous job managing a warehouse for a Halloween wholesale distributor that this year closed the regional operation where I was located. Having been there for nearly 20 years, it felt like home to me. When my daughters were young, I would pick them up from school and sometimes bring them to the warehouse. Once they had finished their homework I would let them pull orders. It was like a game to them and they enjoyed it. But it was also training. When they were in high school they all were on the payroll at one time or another and were my most valuable employees. I enjoyed working with my daughters.
Later, after my daughters moved away, the company started downsizing partly due to heightened efficiency but also due to diminished business at our location. But we were still busy at Halloween. Often leaving the house well before sunrise, I would stop by a 24 hour donut shop for some pastries and a large coffee and go to my office to prepare things for when the employees would arrive. I particularly liked that peaceful time of solitude, having my coffee and donuts and organizing the orders. When I finished the prep work, then I would usually go back into the frigid warehouse and pull several orders to get the packers started when they arrived. Alone in a big empty warehouse for me is a special time for thought and introspection.
In the last few days before Halloween, work would slow down for the distributers like us. This is when the retail stores kick into high gear. We would have special orders to be shipped by air-- 3 day, 2 day, and then next day. We might have a few local last minute pick ups. But mostly it was time to wind down, reorganize the warehouse, and come to work later and go home at the regular time. When Halloween came it was like a holiday for us. I'd treat my employees to a pizza party and Halloween goodies and let everyone leave early. Then I would leave early so I could get ready for the trick-or-treaters.
One memorable Halloween was in 1979. My wife, two year old son and I were touring with a stage production at the time. On tour with us was one of my good friends, his wife and their daughter who was about to turn three. We were not performing that night -- Halloween was typically not a good night for the show--and travelling a goodly distance that day from someplace in Texas to Lafayette, LA. As it started to get dark we decided to pull into the next town we came to along I-10 and take the kids trick-or-treating. The town was a quaint place called Jennings, LA. We stopped in the parking lot of a small shopping center and dressed the kids in makeshift costumes. We then drove to a fine neighborhood of older stately homes. We took our children door to door to give them their first experience with trick-or-treat. I don't think they really understood what was going on, but it didn't take long for them to get caught up in the spirit of the event. After we had completed our round of the street where we had stopped, we got back into the van and continued on to Lafayette to our motel. I'm sure that neither of our kids remember that night, but for me it was kind of special to drop into a place where I had never been before and feel like we were part of the community just as though we were back home.
And home is what I really think of when I think of Halloween now. Aside from the years when I was on the road at Halloween, most Halloween nights I have been at home. In the parts of the U.S. where the air has started turning cooler and night comes sooner, Halloween has a special feel that means another year is drawing closer to an end. The autumn palette of changing leaves, big orange pumpkins ready for carving, and the smell of wood fires and leaves burning evokes a certain sadness that will soon be replaced by the warmth and excitement of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Halloween, like all of the holidays, has lost much of the old fashioned simplicity and has become industrial, has become big business. It may be good for the economic climate so far as business goes, but not so much for the economy of the heart and soul. Sometimes it seems as we become more wealthy in what we own, we become poorer in who we are.
Make the best of what you have. And have a good time.
What are you going to do this Halloween? What are you going to be?