EDITORIAL: Is the spirit still here?

HE’S LIVED IN THIS COUNTY longer than I have. So when he talks about what life was like decades ago, I listen. He said that plenty of people turned out for the Halloween parade in the City of Hudson but this year he didn’t see anyone he knew.

He didn’t frame his observation like a complaint or, worse, a lament for time gone by. It’s possible that people he knew walked by wearing masks that hid what was meant to be hidden. I said something about losing our sense of community. But somebody else will have to write that story. Instead, I invited him to visit Chatham some Halloween evening.

Halloween in Chatham used to start at dusk, except for the littlest goblins in their strollers rattling down Kinderhook Street. These early birds arrive in as extended family units of various components: Mom, Dad, grandparents, costumed brood. “Ooooh, cute,” we say from behind the candy table. Now and then a toddler dressed as a superhero launches an arm across the sidewalk to the candy bowl and lands a fistful of chocolate bars. That’s cute too.

This year it all started way earlier, with kids of all ages making their rounds in mid-afternoon. The sugar binge was well underway by 4 p.m. when village police arrived to close the street to all but pedestrians. After sunset police attached what looked to be a 10-foot-diameter, glowing orange, inflatable pumpkin to the roof of a patrol car. It couldn’t have lifted the unmarked black sedan… but what if it could?

By then the candy supply chain was beginning to falter, which signaled the arrival of the final wave of trick-or-treaters: teens with “costumes” which qualified for that distinction only in the imagination of the person wearing them.

Over and over parents would remind their trick-or-treaters, “What do you say?” and the kids, already exiting through the trick-or-treat cluster en route to the next chocolate supply, would say a quick, “Thank you,” followed by a chorus of “You’re welcome” echoed by fading rounds of “Happy Halloween!”

I can’t tell you how many people I knew at this year’s Halloween celebration on my street. But I can tell you what I did not see. I do not recall a single costume made to characterize President Biden or the former president. I don’t remember anyone with a costume that specifically referenced the Coronavirus although I did see some kids dressed as medical personnel, which feels more like identifying with heroes than aiming to frighten or mislead.

Whether it’s Hudson or Chatham or any other settlement in this county, there’s a legacy of community spirit that persists despite the challenges we face. But as we age it gets more difficult to recognize that spirit. The county is changing and that is not a bad thing as long as we are willing to adjust to our expectations of where we’ll find community spirit and how we’ll learn to share it with people we don’t know as well as those we do. Happy Halloween.

Editor’s Note: Next week, post offices will closed for Veterans Day on Thursday, November 11, so our paper will be delivered to newsstands and to county post offices on Wednesday, November 10. We have published a schedule of earlier deadlines on page 5.

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