Bella Fontana

A weekly column about life in Bellefonte, PA, reprinted from the Centre Daily Times

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Halloween

(Belated posting--this ran in the 10/26/05 issue of the Centre Daily Times)

Trick or Treat night in Bellefonte can bring kids by the carload or a handful of stragglers, depending on where you live. Residents in the historic district, especially on Linn and Curtin Streets, have already started stockpiling supplies for the two-hour event. Last year the unofficial count on Curtin Street was between 250 and 300 kids. That adds up to a lot of lollipops.

Some people put up lights and elaborate displays to welcome the invasion of superheroes and Cinderellas, monsters and vampires. The adults have as much fun as the kids. But a few years ago I stopped turning on my porch lights. It could have been the year I was having my porch repaired, but it's more likely I had just stopped having fun.

Participating in Trick or Treat night means you are pretty much held captive in your own home, answering the door, handing out candy, trying to figure out the identities of the kids behind the masks. That's fine if they are from the neighborhood, but when I retired from teaching I could no longer recognize the kids from Pleasant Gap or Coleville or Zion.

When I leave now to attend evening services for the Feast of All Saints, I fight my way through a river of costumed kids followed by slowly moving vehicles. The scene is surreal, like a modern-day Children's Crusade. But by the time I get downtown the crowds have thinned. The action is all uptown.

I feel a little guilty at the end of the evening and try to justify my decision with excuses like, who needs all that candy anyway? But nagging thoughts swirl around me like so much ectoplasm. In my book, mean people are punished. Last year I did not have to wait long.

When I came in from getting the mail the next afternoon something dark hanging from a nail over the fireplace caught my eye. It was a bat, sound asleep, its plump velvety sides gently pulsing, a silent reprimand for my insensitivity.

The man from the exterminator service was understanding but warned, "This might not be pretty." Then he whipped out a piece of cardboard, ripped off a protective sheet and slapped the sticky side on the bat who went quietly without a squeal or a struggle. "I'll take it back to the office and release it," the exterminator said. "Brown bats are protected, you know."
No, I didn't know. But if it's a choice between bats or kids, maybe it's time to rethink my position.