Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 10/23/2008 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - Happy Halloween

Martha's Big Adventure - Happy Halloween

By Martha Randolph Carr

Halloween is the one holiday of the year where some very buttoned-up people get the opportunity to be a kid again. The best example I know of is in my old hometown of Richmond, Virginia in the Fan district and specifically on Hanover Avenue. This just happens to be the same avenue where my late father used to trick or treat back in the 1930's.

It's lined with renovated row houses, front porches and lawns the size of postage stamps, which makes gathering candy on Halloween night more efficient. The grownups who live in those houses are lawyers, investment bankers, caterers, teachers and other very important professions that aren't always fun and sometimes involve a little heated debate and long hours. That explains why they ban together every year and shut off two blocks for a few hours every Halloween night.

Starting weeks before Halloween, the two dozen residents come together on Saturday mornings to wrap the trees and poles in orange twinkle lights, hang the 50 little ghosts from yard to yard and start to decorate the outdoor haunted mansion. Each neighbor has an assignment of a haunted room that gets set up on their front lawn.

My old friends, Peggy and Joe have the dead dining room complete with chandeliers and working candelabras on a dimmer switch, courtesy of Joe who was in construction. Peggy is the caterer and on Halloween night serves up a menu of fruit salad with peeled grapes to resemble eyeballs and a pesto walnut spread in the shape of a brain. Now, that's fine dining.

There will also be a beef brisket and pork BBQ this year along with cookies in the shape of candy corn and spiders from Valli who lives in the suburbs miles across town. Her husband, Jim always makes an appearance as an oversized M&M.

Mary, who is a couple doors down, is on coffin duty and for three hours every Halloween pops up and groans. The family with the kitchen setup, Jennifer and Chee, has a 1950's stove they pull out and someone volunteers to crouch behind it all night and stick their head out to squeals of surprise every time a trick or treater opens the oven door. There is even a maid's quarter with a haunted butler, Frank and the maid, Martha.

The whole event is free and open to the public and last year attracted 3,500 visitors young and old. Peggy and Joe said they handed out 1,500 pieces of candy last year. They keep a count in order to ensure enough candy for next year. They don't want to have to turn away any super heroes or fairy princesses.

It might be tempting in some localities to cut back on celebrations this year in fear of what the economy might be getting ready to do. But instead, the neighbors of Hanover Avenue are gearing up for the same giant celebration of family and friends and make-believe. Thousands of people who they don't know and, like Mary who's in a coffin all night, won't meet but can still feel a connection through one night of ghostly fun.

This is a wonderful reminder that we begin change on a local level and we don't have to wait for a bailout or a stimulus check. Everyone can pitch in and bring out what's in their attic for decoration and use their talents to add to the festivities.

Bonds that create good communities aren't just fastened during crises, but also during fun projects. And every child, or child at heart, who comes through and sees what the grownups have given from their haunted hearts is inspired to wonder what they might be able to do. First step, go and gather up the neighbors. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: www.newvoicespeakers.com. Martha's Big Adventure coming soon to World Talk Radio and Voice America. Email Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com. Download Martha Randolph Carr's black and white mug shot photo.

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