The creepiest house on the block
I know you thought you were done with Halloween stuff, but…
Do you recall how, as a kid, the spookiest Halloween house on the block was not the one with a pristine yard filled with “spooky” store-bought decor? How the house you were most afraid to visit was the old one, poorly lit and fallen into actual disrepair, that showed little or no evidence that its residents even knew it was Halloween?
My point is, if you want to have the creepiest house on the block come October 2022, you need to start planning now. Cease all home repairs and yard maintenance. When the bulbs start flickering and burning out, don’t acquire new ones. Leave the actual porch cobwebs in place, and let them grow. If possible, cultivate a reputation for glaring out your windows at passersby year-round.
Otherwise, you’ll just be scrambling to recreate a thin imitation of spookiness again next year. Real creepiness requires commitment.
I need to put something here to create spatial and temporal distance between the last section, which concerns creeping out all the neighbors, and the next section, which concerns depositing food on their porches, lest the latter be read in a more sinister light than is appropriate. Arguably, this strategy will prove most effective if the logic that underlies it is not stated outright.
Friendship built of bread
Early last Christmas morning, I deposited festive loaves of sweet potato bread on the porches of neighbors on all sides of us. There were six loaves delivered in all, but only one neighbor came running to our door to rave about hers as soon as she had tasted it. I have seldom seen an adult person exhibit such enthusiasm.
That was all the encouragement I needed. In the months that followed, I’d occasionally tap into my sweet potato reserve and drop off a bonus bread at her door.
Repeated contact led to greater familiarity, and now she’s comfortable calling on me for help with troubleshooting a phone charger, getting stuff out of the garage rafters, dismantling a cat tree, and so on. Some of her family lives out of state, and I don’t get to see most of mine a whole lot either. It’s good to be helpful, and to be helped.
This neighbor recently said it’s too bad we don’t live closer. She lives two doors down.
Most interestingly to me, we had already been neighbors for years when this change occurred. What a little bread can do! Five other loaves went out last Christmas morning. Many were enjoyed, but one found its ideal target, and a whole new friendship emerged.
So, I say cast a wide net. Small gestures may end up mattering to someone, but you can’t always predict which someone, or where that road leads.
Letters to someone
Can I tell you a secret?
I realized as I was adopting this new, chattier post format that the model for what I had in mind was the emails I used to write, and wish I still could write, to my aunt Cheryl, who passed away two years ago. She had been an enthusiastic audience for, and responder to, whatever finished stories or lyrics I would post on the site. But private emails to her tended to be something else: a little less polished and a little more free-flowing, wending from one topic to another based on what I’d been doing or what was on my mind. Knowing there was an interested, supportive presence who wished the best for me on the other end made a different kind of writing possible.
I still hope to get back to writing more standalone pieces on particular topics, but allowing myself the freedom to open up the format slightly and address you like an old friend has caused the writing (of some kind) to start flowing again.
It’s easier to write to someone than to everyone.
I hope you enjoy these little letters, whoever you are. That you bother to read them, even knowing what trifles they may contain, means you are the ideal recipient.