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Published Monday, November 5, 2001


A scary Halloween

`Ilove American traditions,'' she said -- my beautiful, greedy child -- while looking over her Halloween loot.

We had been ``trepidacious.'' With all the anti-Halloweeners -- including Jesse Jackson, who had based at least some of his warnings on urban legends of the type commonly debunked on (candy poisonings happen more at the regular school functions than at random house trick-or-treating, for example) -- we had wondered whether we would ever be able to feel the way we used to.

But the best thing about Halloween this year was Halloween. In our neighborhood, it wasn't a newly patriotic thing; it was just the same old thing. That was very nice.

Children were ghoulish, gory and greedy. Cool.

Many friends with whom we had trick-or-treated in the past were not going for fears of anthrax. No one living around our house was wearing costumes. We felt all dressed up and not sure if we had anywhere to go. But we went.

We went, as always, to the shopping district of Park Slope, the yuppie-ish family neighborhood where the dollars we have spent earlier ought to show up in generous Halloween bounty. Usually there are few ``Mary Jane's'' handed out; only current name-brand candy here.

We got off the subway. There were no trick-or-treaters on Flatbush Avenue. The newsstand at the Q subway stop and the stationery store did give out goodies, though.

We turned the corner to Seventh Avenue. Some of the brownstone row houses had cobwebs draped on them. They looked good. One costumed kid passed us.

Then, oh, joy. Oh, happiness. The Park Slope shopping district was crowded with costumed children. Treats were being handed out outside all the store doorways. Only once were we confronted with the closeness of danger -- the Mailboxes Etc. store was not handing out candy because of the mail they handle.

Halloween. Real, good, old Halloween, the way we've always had it -- even though the only child who will still trick-or-treat with me is old enough now to spend a lot of time cooing ``Oh, how cute'' at the littler kids in strollers dressed as unicorns, pumpkins, tiny pikachus and, of course, at every dog that comes along (Hi there, Yuffy! Great ladybug costume!)

My daughter: ``I love American traditions.''

Yeah. Me too.

Leah D. Casner lives in Brooklyn.

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