Monday, October 20, 2003

Searching for Norman Rockwell

One of our neighbors thinks we live in Norman Rockwell's America. God bless them...wouldn't that be nice? We opened our front door a few mornings ago to find a scroll and sandwich bag full of dime candy rubber-banded to the door knob. The scroll had two sheets of paper, a cute cartoon ghost and a poem that read:

The Phantom Ghost has come around
To leave these goodies you have found.

And, since the Ghost has gotten you
Please read closely what you must do.

First, post the Ghost where it can be seen,
On your door or window until Halloween.

Then no other Ghost will visit again
Be sure to participate, it will make you grin.

Next, please do your part,
You have only one day,
So everyone has a chance to play.

Make two treats, two Ghosts and two notes,
Now that's the gist,
And take them to families
That may have been missed.

Deliver after dark
When there's barely a light,
Ring the doorbell and RUN!
Then stay out of sight!!!

And last but not least, have fun,
And try not to be seen,
And share the fun of Halloween!!!

Our first reaction was that this was another pseudo I'm-your-neighbor promotion by an ambitious realtor. Then headline-induced paranoia set in.....remember the children who received tainted or dangerous halloween candy....remember the teenager who put razor blades in public park sand boxes....remember the girl in San Diego who delivered Girl Scout cookies with her mother and ended up dead....remember the cranky, harrassed old man who shot and killed a 14 year old over a pumpkin prank...remember....remember...remember.

Remember when we lived for ten years on a busy corner, and how strangers would knock on our door at night for assistance? Remember the scary lessons we learned from that, and how the Fullerton police instructed us to just take the info through a closed door, and place a call to the Auto Club for the stranded motorist? Remember how the police told us to never answer our front door after dark if we are not expecting visitors?

Wouldn't it be nice to not have paranoid thoughts about friendly gestures by a neighbor?

What did we do? After too much analysis, we ate the candy as an act of nostalgic faith in a better world (and because it looked good) , and anonymously repeated this sweet seasonal deed for two neighbors. Like irritating chain letters, we felt too guilty to not pass it on, and besides, what would the neighbors think if we dropped the metaphoric ball? And then we posted the Ghost on our front door so we won't have to go through this trauma again.

New England artist Norman Rockwell lovingly painted mid- 20th century America as a place where innocence, integrity and warmth exist to transcend the inevitable imperfection of humanity to ensure happy endings. I wonder if such a place still might be worth the search just to know.

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