I know that deep thinking usually doesn't come to mind when you see Halloween on the calendar, but, for me, every holiday has become a time for evaluating and re-evaluating and re-evaluating. Because I have a child now.

Even before my son was born, I was trying to think about the holidays and how we would celebrate them, if we would celebrate them. We have a lot of holidays to choose from, as you may know, if you've ever tried to visit the Indian Embassy in DC. (Between the American holidays and the Indian ones, it seems like that place is never open.)

Holidays are important, because they are part of our culture, our traditions, that we pass down to the next generation. And being a half-British/half-mutt American, I've never felt like I had a lot to pass down. Besides eating the occasional Yorkshire pudding and drinking tea, all I have are my holidays.

But what do those holidays mean? What will I be passing down?

Halloween is any easy one to begin with, because I haven't enjoyed the holiday for a very long time.

It was fun when I was a little kid. I loved the costumes. My mom would make ears and a tail and paint an animal face on me. Or I'd make an outfit "all by myself" from a paper grocery bag that I decorated with crayons. ("I'm an owl.")

I'll never forget the year I was R2-D2. My dad made a costume from two huge boxes that he spray-painted silver. It was so heavy it made my shoulders ache, I didn't really look like R2, and the bottom box was so tight I could barely move my legs, but I loved being R2-D2. It was probably my favorite costume. The Halloween parades at my elementary school were fun, and my brother Jeff actually won a prize with that heavy, boxy R2 costume.

Each October 31st, my mom would take us around to the neighbors' houses. Many of them were elderly shut-ins who didn't know it was Halloween and were just happy to have visitors. They'd give us a quarter or a half dollar and admire our costumes. We'd all catch up, and that would be the end of a pleasant Halloween.

Then one year, my mom joined up with two other moms, and we didn't visit our rural, elderly shut-ins. We went to Stone Road, and I had my initiation into the "real Halloween." It was scary. Crowds of masked faces moving from house to house, receiving treats - and tricks - from strangers.

At one house, a mummy ran out at us while we were collecting our treats. Then the scarecrow that had been sitting in a chair got up and came toward us too. (The scarecrow was only a little less scary, because one of the older girls in our group recognized her classmate inside the costume and said "hello.")

I didn't like this Halloween. As a child who kept my possessions by the side of my bed in case of fire, flood, or nuclear war, I didn't really need anything new to be afraid of. The world as it was was frightening enough for me.

My next bad memory of the holiday was at my childhood church. For some reason, my church put on a huge haunted house each Halloween. And once I joined the youth group, I had to participate.

Someone who obviously didn't know me very well cast me as the girl who gets her hand cut off and screams.

I say they didn't know me well, because I wasn't a screamer. Boys would tell me on the elementary school playground that they noticed that I didn't scream like the other girls. I don't know why, but it just didn't come naturally to me.

And rehearsals didn't help at all. My partner, the boy doing the chopping, was extremely unhappy with me. He would chop and then scream in a very high voice, pretending to be me. Between groups, he would scream in a different voice, demanding that I do my own screaming. I don't know how I looked to the people walking through. I was scared, sad, and just wanted to go home. After that experience, I really didn't like Halloween at all any more.

What was to like? Being frightened, scaring others, flaming bags of dog poop on your porch, the rotten eggs, the shaving cream in your mailbox, etc., etc., etc.

And what about "trick or treat"? It's extortion. I know, as an adult, I got my car egged when I didn't cough up the candy. (I had just moved, and I underestimated the number of trick-or-treaters I would get, and I ran out of candy early that night. Sadly, my polite, apologetic note on the door was not well-received.)

But even with all these negative experiences, I'm still conflicted today. I don't want to toss the holiday out altogether.

I like to see my child's face light up when he swishes his giraffe tail - the one that I made for him, just like my mom used to make costumes for me. I like visiting neighbors and catching up. I even like neighborhood Halloween parties that are kid-friendly and not scary.

But I don't like "trick or treat" or being scared for fun (whatever that means) or the flaming bags of dog poop.

This year, we compromised. Our little guy dressed up as a giraffe. We attended the neighborhood party. And we stayed at home in the evening, so our son could see his friends come to the door for pretzels and raisins. (Yes, no candy. And please don't egg my car for that.)

Luckily no one scary came to the door. And no one knocked after we turned the porch light out to put our son to bed. And no one left a "calling card" to remind us to have candy next time.

But what about next year? What if we aren't so "lucky"?

I read on History.com that there have been pushes to make the American Halloween "into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft."

I like the sound of that, so I've already begun talking with one of our neighbors about planning a kid-friendly party for next year. We can keep the best parts of the holiday: costumes, friends, fun. And leave the scary, unpleasant stuff out, because fear and rotten eggs are definitely not things I want to pass down.

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In 2007, we moved to Austin, and this blog chronicled our adaptation to Texas life: festivals, wildflowers, and bats - oh my! Then we had a baby, and that changed everything, so now, we blog about where to buy organic food, what parks are fun for babies, which exterminator is taking care of our scorpion problem. (You know, the usual parental concerns.)

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