Between the hours of 6 and 11 p.m. on every Halloween, the streets that knit themselves around the community of Sugar Maple feel hauntingly quieter; they are graced with the luxuries of steep hills, empty-nested families and a lack of streetlights, like a dim Thomas Kinkade painting. There are no children here, no soliciting and certainly no trick-or-treating — just a complacent, pastoral suburbia bereft of chagrin or overcompensation.
For the few children of this quiet kingdom (namely, me and my sisters), it was never a question as to where our candy-seeking journeys would take us. As far as we were concerned, all roads lead to the older-and-more-exclusive gated community of Pepperwood, where blocks upon blocks of polished Cinderella mansions capped at $1 million, $1.3 million and $1.5 million. Beyond their iron fences, it was rumored that rapper E-40, Journey bassist Ross Valory and MLB outfielder Randy Win lived there, amongst other known names. To my fellow “Parks and Recreation” lovers, it was what I imagine to be a real life Eagleton (minus the police officers on segways).
There, nearly 5,000 kids from all corners of the San Francisco East Bay visited such famed places as the “M&M house,” where children stopped by in droves to get pound bags of M&Ms every year; the Hollywood-caliber “Haunted Mansion” on Pepperwood Lane, complete with a maze and spooky neon lights that flashed in-between closed-curtained windows; and the house at the end of Deer Meadow Drive that served free food and champagne to adults who dropped off their children in their country club golf carts. Pepperwood was a strange and wild world of its own. That world, however, has died down in recent years. Families have moved out; children have grown up; new generations have swept through; everyone is older. Halloween, like how it once was, is now a bygone thing.
There isn’t a word for what people of a certain age celebrate when they are too old to go knocking on doors to solicit strangers for candy, but too young to feel entirely comfortable in congested house parties sporting cute, non-offensive costumes. There isn’t a word just right enough to take the space between nostalgic and indifferent.
So instead of a word search, this Halloween I raise a plastic skull-shaped goblet to all-Hallows past as I sit upon the throne of my dusty plum-colored loveseat. This year, I will be donning black fuzzy slippers and preparing an exquisite DVD lineup of movie genres appropriate only for eight-year-old sleepovers, feeling ceaselessly content. Halloween kingdoms come in all shapes and sizes, and I have found solace in what once was, what is now and what will soon be.