The neighbors have a bouncy castle up.
The Washington Post tells me the economy is booming. I am skeptical about how booming is booming, for ordinary people, but I can tell you this is a good money year.
Here are the chief economic indicators, in my neighborhood:
1. Halloween Costumes
2. Birthday parties
3. Cook outs
It’s cold, right now, so you may be asking, very reasonably, not coats? What about winter coats? But there are two things that skew the coat factor:
1. We are southerners. Even a prosperous family might hesitate before buying a new winter coat that will be outgrown after two uses. Or, you know, in the case of last winter, no uses at all. This is practicality. Your Uncle Steve’s coat was good enough for him in 1982, and it’s good enough for you, now. Just put some duct tape on those leaking seams and go out to play!
2. Do you know any children? Teenagers? Do they wear their coats? So…yeah. Coats are unreliable. We could be having a very good year indeed, and still see no one at all in a coat.
But everybody loves Halloween.
The first year we lived here, the trick-or-treaters were mostly in face paint. A little bit of face paint. Or tempera paint, dabbed on the cheeks and nose. Or a lipstick that looked suspiciously mom-colored swiped across the mouth. Big smiles. Bags at ready. But only two costumes, that year.
The next year, more costumes, less kids in only t-shirts. Fewer kids who looked like they could really use the candy. Fewer eyes watching with disturbing, unchildlike avidity as we started with just one piece, and ended up shaking out the whole bowl into the waiting bag.
This year? Every child we saw had a costume on. Every. Single. One.
Now, the trick-or-treaters were fewer, this year. We’ve had a lot of shooting this year, and there was not the holiday armistice we usually hope for and generally don’t get. So not many kids were out. Maybe those kids were the hard corps Halloweeners. But…all costumes. Something eased in my chest, seeing that. Something does, every year most of them have that. We shook out handfuls of reese’s cups and fun-sized twix to the ones who did come. It doesn’t hurt to be one of the good houses. We won’t be the best house. There’s a lady a few doors down who gives out FULL SIZED SNICKERS. But we are ok.
And they are ok. This year looked pretty ok. Even with the extra shooting.
The summer cookouts still trended more toward chicken legs and the cheap red hotdogs than that one year when people were doing things with beef. But everyone had fun. Everyone always has fun. And there looked like enough chicken legs, and a lot of popsicles after, and not a lot of houses with no cooking smells ever. So that was good, too.
But why, you may be asking, are all these things based around, you know, children? Isn’t that weird?
Well. Working-class neighborhood, is the first part of that answer. Most people with children put any money they have into the kids first, and often, only. In a working-class neighborhood, even in good years, all the money that there is s not often enough for everyone to look fancy. Or wear a new coat.
The other part is, of course, that the grownups are working. Two jobs. Three. We don’t see each other much. The children are out, and making noise, and living their lives, just like this was 1990. I kind of love that about this neighborhood. I hear stories of kids who are overscheduled, overstructured, overstimulated.
In my neighborhood, the kids play in the creek behind the back row of houses, and catch crawfish, and come by for a drink of water that they secretly hope will be juice instead. They offer to take your trash to the dumpster for spending money. Fifty cents for regular garbage. A dollar if it’s gross. Most of us keep light bags of paper on hand, I think, in case some child needs quick cash. Most of us keep out some laundry money. Even in shooting kinds of years, the kids come for that. Even in no-costume years, this is a good place to live.
And this year? There’s a bouncy castle.
That must be some birthday party.