I don’t normally cry on Halloween. 

But then again, this wasn’t a normal Halloween.

This year, as October 31st crept closer and closer on the calendar, I couldn’t help but feel like my usual excitement was overshadowed by all of the heavy things going on in the world right now.

It’s been a hard year, and I’m just really, really tired. With the double whammy of Daylight Saving Time and a heated election to follow immediately after, I was really struggling to get into the spirit of the holiday.

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On Friday afternoon, I was sitting at my kitchen table debating our options and whether we would even try to trick-or-treat when a notification popped up on my phone alerting me to a message on our neighborhood Facebook page. I quickly clicked on the announcement: 

“Hello!!! We are organizing a parade on Halloween so that the children can walk around the neighborhood and show off their costumes. The idea is to take a walk around the neighborhood keeping social distance between the families. Please bring masks in case we are many families. If you don’t have small kids but still want to participate, a good way would be to greet the kids from the door of your house or play some Halloween music!”

Attached was a map with the “parade route” and an itinerary.

I immediately typed out a response: “LOVE this. We’ll be there! Thank you for organizing!”

The following afternoon, my husband and I helped our squirmy 2- and 3-year-old excitedly get dressed in their pirate costumes, thrilled to finally be old enough to participate and really understand what was going on.

My expectations were beyond low—I figured it would be a relatively small group of stragglers, maybe a few other stir-crazy families who were just excited to get out of the house for a bit like we were.

But when we arrived at the designated meeting place, I was shocked to see almost every child in the neighborhood there, each in costume. And as we started to make our way around the neighborhood, adults in masks and taking extra special care to maintain distance between families, I felt tears of gratitude pressing at the back of my eyes, threatening to spill over.

My neighbors had outdone themselves.

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Some had strung pieces of candy from streamers in trees.

Some had taped Snickers bars to popsicle sticks and stuck them in the ground for kids to grab as they walked by.

Some had assembled individual goody bags and laid them out on the sidewalk.

Some had rigged up their own homemade contraptions and elaborately-designed chutes to send candy directly into waiting buckets.

Some had put on costumes and stood in their doorways dancing to music and waving.

Everyone was kind and respectful and patient. 

Truly, it was the most magical Halloween I’ve ever experienced.

Not because of massive candy hauls or clever costumes or even the joy of having children who were finally old enough to appreciate it all.

But because of big-hearted people who rallied together to make it happen.

People who pulled out all the stops so that—just for a few hours—we could experience a little bit of normalcy and excitement and fun with our kids during a year where literally everything has been new and scary and uncertain for them.

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Despite the division and ugliness we’ve witnessed time and time again in 2020, Halloween reignited the small, wavering flame of hope I’ve been holding onto since this all began.

Hope that we can still find ways to come together.

Hope that we can see we are more alike than we are different.

Hope that we can heal wounds and move forward.

Hope that love will always win over hate.

And the realization that this is where the change has to start—within our own communities. With our own neighbors.

I have a feeling that if we can all continue to step up and take care of each other like this, we’re going to be OK.

We really are.

So no, I don’t normally cry on Halloween.

But this wasn’t exactly a normal Halloween.

It was so much better.

Emily Solberg

Emily Solberg is a soldier, military spouse, mom to two toddlers, and fierce advocate of women supporting women. The goal of her writing is to help others feel less alone in their parenting journeys, and she isn’t afraid to share the hard along with the good. You can find more from her on her Facebook page, Shower Arguments.