Surviving Halloween When You’re Spooked by the Doorbell

That ding-dong sound rattles many millennials – along with at least one of their moms. A Detroit native kids author spills on being spooked by the doorbell.

A black door decorated for Halloween

As an author of many Halloween books for children, you’d think I would look forward to the actual holiday. But the truth is, I hate Halloween. Carving pumpkins or blowing up giant inflatable ghosts holds no appeal for me. But what really spooks me is answering the door – a scary summons from an unknown caller.

Every time the doorbell rings, I have an uncontrollable urge to hide behind the couch. This is difficult enough under normal circumstances. But on Halloween, it’s a nightmare. Even when I know it’s coming, the sound of the doorbell makes me jump.

Last Halloween I put a big bowl of candy on the front porch with a sign that said “Help yourself!” and someone did, absconding with every last piece. The trickster even took the bowl.

Now, once again, Halloween is creeping up on me.

“Just turn off your lights and pretend you’re not home,” my friend, Jess, advised when I asked her about it.

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That might work for Jess; she lives on a farm in a remote corner of Connecticut. But I live in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other. It would be considered antisocial to go dark on Halloween.

Growing up in suburban Detroit, my friends and I were hardcore trick-or-treaters, tramping up one street and down the other, our teeth chattering under our flimsy costumes. We didn’t give up the ghost, so to speak, until the porch lights began to go out, one by one.

“Did you see me? Did you see me?” I asked my second-grade teacher excitedly the next morning. Mrs. Greer lived just two streets over. “I was a witch!”

“Oh, there were so many witches; I can’t remember them all,” my teacher replied, with a dismissive wave.

Nearing retirement, I’m sure Mrs. Greer had seen enough witches to last a lifetime.

But I was the first witch after your porch light went on, I remember thinking. It seemed tremendously significant at the time. I was an important witch!

Every aspect of Halloween was thrilling back then, but as an adult, I feel that I should contribute to the holiday according to my talents. I have no talent for answering the door. I do have a flair for spinning Halloween stories from memories of childhood. I think that’s a respectable contribution to the spirit of the holiday.

But it doesn’t get me out of answering the door.

Last weekend my daughter, Annelise, visited from New York, where she is in grad school. While she was here she decorated the front porch with pots of bright yellow and orange mums.

“They’ll look nice for Halloween,” she said.

Suddenly a ray of hope shone through the impending gloom. Halloween is on a Thursday this year, and Annelise doesn’t have classes on Thursdays.

Which means she’ll be free on Halloween.

“How do you feel about doorbells?” I asked casually. This could work; unlike me, my millennial daughter is self-assured and not easily intimidated.

Her eyes widened. “Oh, my God,” she said, “they totally freak me out.”

The next day she went back to school, chattering happily about her corpse countess costume for the NYC Village Halloween Parade (she’s a forensic anthro major; actual corpses, real or conjured, don’t bother her at all).

I don’t get it; she loves Halloween and has no problem with corpses.

She just hates doorbells.

I since discovered that my daughter is not alone. Many millennials find doorbells terrifying; most prefer a text. But where does that leave me, the millennial’s mature mom?

Hiding behind the couch on Halloween.

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