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Family Matters Blog: Halloween Opens Doors to Community

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2010 – I went for a long walk the other night and found my new neighborhood had been transformed into an otherworldly lair. Ghosts hovered from branches and skeletons from rooftops. Toothless pumpkins, faces frozen in eerie smirks, leered at me from nearly every porch as I passed by. But rather than feel the onset of fear, I felt a sense of satisfaction. I've got a sneaking suspicion I moved into my new neighborhood just in the nick of time.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Jasmyn Barra, 4, poses in her sailor's suit during the Armed Services YMCA Fall festival on Fort Bragg, N.C., Oct. 23, 2010. The festival provides the children with an opportunity to dress up in costumes before Halloween. U.S. Army photo by Reginald Rogers

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

I moved to Maryland about a month ago, a journey I've been blogging about over the past several months, detailing my challenges with everything from house hunting ("Blogger Gears Up for Move") to picking the right school for my kids ("Blogger Heads Out to House Hunt"). But now it's time for the final stage of my move: meeting the neighbors.


In my last community, I must admit I didn't spend much time on social endeavors. I had a newborn, two elementary-age children and a husband to balance with work, which kept me busy. But people didn't seem to gather for street-side chats each evening there, something I sorely miss from my military days.

I remember gathering in my cul-de-sac in Turkey with other military families just about every evening, watching the kids from folding chairs on the sidewalk until it grew too dark to see each other.

I'm always amazed at how military families create such strong bonds and a sense of community in such a short time, and while juggling very difficult demands. They are always willing to pitch in to help another military family in need, whether it’s with child care, a last-minute ride home or just a shoulder to cry on. I know I was the recipient of much of that support when I was a single mom on active duty.

Military families have an amazing gift of empathy and adaptability. And I hope I can put some of those social skills to work here, since I plan to establish roots and settle in for the long haul.

Hence the walk. I not only wanted to get the lay of the land, but also to see if I could meet and greet some neighbors. I ended up seeing more creepy crawlers and spider webs than humans, but Halloween is just a few days away.


As I escort my bear cub, woodland fairy and Darth Vader down the street this weekend, I hope to make some connections that will last over the long term. The holiday, after all, is the perfect excuse to knock every neighbor's door. I'm looking at the holiday this year as a chance to gather new acquaintances, as much as an opportunity to score some candy from my kids.

I may meet a few ghosts and goblins along the way -- and, I'm sure, a few Lady Gagas and Justin Biebers this year– but I also hope to meet a few great people.


Happy Halloween!

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