The knock of candy snatchers at my front door tonight brings to mind my very first Halloween as a post-college professional. The year that no trick or treater knocked at my door. The year I was forced to eat an entire bag of leftover mini Kit Kat bars solo. The year I was denounced as a child molester.
Well, the child molester part is NOT true. But it is true that for a brief period I was mistakenly scorned as a social pariah. And it was all the fault of one damned paper pumpkin.
My first year out of college, money was nonexistent. As you can't eat holiday decorations or use them as fire starter, they were low on my list of economic priorities. Which explains why I was thrilled to find a beautiful full page orange pumpkin picture in the weekend edition of my local newspaper. I cut it out and hung it proudly on my front door, a blazing emblem telling the neighborhood kids "Here is candy! Here is festive spirit! Come say trick-or-treat!!"
All that week I had the lurking sense that my new neighbors, once friendly and cordial, were icing over toward me. I shrugged it off as some weird case of collective seasonal depressive disorder.
And yet on Halloween night no one knocked. I lived in a neighborhood full of young families and yet there seemed to be an invisible fence barricading the costumed hordes from my pumpkin bedazzled front door. Again and again as I stared through the window panes with my bucket of Kit Kats ready to go, I would see some tiny princess or store bought ninja dragged away by their parents. It was a total mystery. Were Kit Kats no longer an acceptable candy offering? Was I unwittingly that old lady who gave out stale Dum Dum lollipops and smelled like cat pee?
The next morning I mentioned my confusion over the detoured trick or treating traffic to my neighbor Betty, a lovely older lady with a Mumu in every color of the rainbow. She gave me one long sympathetic stare and then in her graceful, wise way said "honey, you better take down yo' pumpkin'".
I didn't understand. Until I dug the newspaper out of the recycling bin and read the rest of the page that I had cut out.
Turns out that big full page spread orange pumpkin was not an offering of festive good cheer but a symbol that convicted child molesters and pedophiles were required to hang in their windows as a "No Go Zone" sign to the community.
Oh crap. The looks in the parking lot, the quick side steps with strollers, the total lack of Kit Kat takers...
What's a girl to do? I ripped down the pumpkin, put on my prettiest dress and smile, and slowly worked my way from door to door of my new apartment complex, one doorbell at a time.
"Hi, nice to meet you. My name is Julia. I'm your new neighbor. And the pumpkin was a mistake, I am not in fact a child molester."