Bright orange pumpkins under a cloudy gray sky. October is surely here. But this is an urban area of the kind in which northeast New Jersey specializes. As I approach I see that it’s a church. A church that has made a truce with Halloween. Judging from the number of people here, it’s a cordial detente. So much of American society lies mired in contradiction that I have to ponder this. Halloween in an age of nones may be simply fun. An opportunity to spend money on pumpkins that won’t be eaten and gourds that can’t be. Decorations for a mildly scary night that somehow makes us feel comfortable and snug at home. October is like that.
Churches have been struggling to maintain active memberships. And although the antagonism has been overblown, Halloween has been an uneasy part of the church calendar. It has, however, become a major commercial opportunity. Depending on the commodity, only Christmas or Easter will draw more lucre from people. The devils and demons and ghosts of Halloween sit awkwardly in the pew next to the victory over death that is the main draw to traditional Christianity. But people will predictably spend their cash for the privilege of carving a pumpkin. Just the memory of the scent, the feel, the contentment of creating a jack-o-lantern makes me want to stop and support whatever denomination this might be.
It is a weekend, however, and I have many errands yet to do. I content myself knowing there are happy people in this temporary pumpkin-patch. The faith of Linus is a powerful thing. To get ready for the week ahead in which I’ll have time only for working, commuting, and sleeping, I keep moving. The orange fades from sight. The cheerful memories of childhood pass. I go on to my next stop. My first errand began at 6 a.m.this morning. Noon is fast approaching. I need a tiny piece of hardware that can only be found in a big box store. I prefer to support the local economy but that shop is all the way across town. Inside the Depot plastic Christmas trees of every description fill the front of the store with winter dreams of even more spending. I forget what I came in here for.