When we first moved into our house, I remember being so excited for trick or treating. We didn’t have kids at that point so I thought, I will be the house that hands out the “good” candy, not Tootsie Rolls and Smarties. I bought a few bags of candy and we had 3 trick or treaters and 2 of them didn’t have costumes. I was so surprised that no one came. At one point, I stood out on our porch looking to see where kids were. There was no one out. I thought where is everyone?
Fast forward a decade and we figured out where everyone was…
There is really only one road from Milwaukee’s inner city neighborhoods on the near north side to the affluent suburb of Shorewood. At one end of Capitol Drive is Lake Michigan and two miles west is the ghetto. For the last 7 or 8 years when it comes time to trick or treat we would get in the car and drive those two miles from our neighborhood to theirs, and we aren’t the only ones.
I tell myself we are doing it for the kids and we want them to have the same great memories of trick or treating that we did growing up. But, I always feel a little awkward pulling up to a house and having my kids jump out of the car ready to run up to a house and ring the doorbell. I feel especially awkward when people are standing out front waiting to greet would be trick or treaters. Even though it would be impossible for them to know, I still assume they can tell that we aren’t from around there. I mean, we look and dress exactly the same as them. Our kids are being raised similarly as they probably raised their kids. Socio-economically we are the same or better off. But I still feel like they know we don’t belong there.
While I am thinking through all of this, an older Chevy Impala with no license plates and four kids sitting in the back seat drives past slowly and parks in front of us. The group gets out of the car – two women in their late 20’s or early 30’s and four kids all under 10 years old, some dressed up in costumes and some not. I don’t know how I feel about this statement, but it is obvious they are not from Shorewood. They could live down the street from me, and I look like I live in Shorewood, but they don’t.
Both groups of kids sprint up to the first house oblivious, I assume, to the underlying racial tension. As we move down the street there is a pretty even mix of people you would expect to see in Shorewood and people you would expect to see farther down Capital Drive. Four or five blocks in and that dynamic hasn’t changed. I don’t know if it is because I feel like I belong (or maybe don’t belong) in both groups, but I always have this fear that someone from the poor area will do something stupid to justify the prejudices of the people in the rich area.
Four o’clock starts to approach and trick or treating time is almost over. We make our way back to the car without anything eventful or noteworthy happening. Out of the neighborhood we turn right on Capital and start heading home. The kids are exhausted and all sugared up. At the third or fourth stoplight we end up about 15 cars deep, waiting. My wife leans over, points to the line of cars, and says trick or treating just got out and everyone is heading home. Sure enough, the majority of cars are full of kids that look they live in my neighborhood dressed up with smiles on their faces heading home.