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Life With Liz: Tis the season to be simple

The Grinch has come early this year, and she’s orange and black, instead of green and red.

I know part of my grumpiness with the Halloween season is because it was by far Steve’s favorite holiday, and Halloween will never be the same joyous occasion that it used to be for me. But I don’t think it’s just that. There are larger forces at work.

I know that I shouldn’t judge how other people get their happiness and joy, and I don’t mean to take away from that.

But I am genuinely curious how people store those 20-foot skeletons and giant inflatables for the rest of the year.

When your yard is several times the size of your house, and every inch of it is covered in Halloween scenery, my brain just can’t wrap myself around the logistics.

I’ve downsized our seasonal decorations to two bins for each season: one winter, one spring/summer, and one fall. I have two shelves and four bins, and I’ve set up a rotation. One season comes out, one season goes in.

I still have to truck those two bins up and down two flights of steps, and maybe it’s my Grinch, or my old age, but I can’t imagine doing that more than twice and still being in the festive holiday mood.

Our family has always enjoyed our town’s parade, and the last few years with all the kids in the same activity, it has been a relatively streamlined process, but I have several friends whose kids are in activities that have them traveling to several different towns for several different parades.

Most of them have expressed a feeling of “being over it.” While I love a small-town parade, and strongly support participating in it, I question this need to participate in every one of them.

Towns have encouraged this by not having them on the same days or at the same time, which has only resulted in using up every single weekend in October. As a mom who is getting ready to prepare for the mad holiday season, and finish off fall sports seasons, I don’t appreciate this.

Then, there is the candy. As a kid, I remember first being taken to a few select friends and relatives’ homes for my first few Halloweens.

Most of the time, these people were expecting us, and had a small bag of treats or other “more special” items ready for us.

When I finally was old enough to trick or treat with friends, and walk around a neighborhood on my own, I remember coming home with a pillowcase full of all sorts of candy. It was a real treasure. That was it, though, one night of trick or treating, and almost every porch light was on.

Over the past 10-15 years, in the wake of creepy clowns, unmarked white vans, and the “stranger danger” movement, “daylight trick or treats” and “trunk or treats” have been branded as a safer alternative to traditional trick or treat.

Instead of being an alternative, though, they’ve just become a few more activities on the calendar. My kids haven’t participated in these events as trick or treaters, but some of their clubs and community organizations have participated as donors, and they’ve stepped up to help and I’ve seen the insanity firsthand. Just how much candy can one kid collect over the course of October?

Something has been lost in this glut of candy. One of the best parts of trick or treating with my friends was coming home and dumping out that bag or pillowcase. Sure, you got some real stinkers (I’m looking at you, boxed raisins) but you also got some real winners (full sized candy bars and dollar bills).

I remember dividing up my pile into the stuff I was willing to trade, and the good stuff that I had to ration out and save as long as I could.

When the kids were younger, we had a few times where we had a parade, a Halloween party or two, and then regular trick or treating.

Over the course of a week, the bags of candy started to pile up. I noticed that they didn’t really prize anything in the bag.

If they didn’t like what they grabbed out of one bag, they just went to another bag until all the “good stuff” was gone, and then the remains eventually melded into some gooey sticky pile that got thrown out around April.

When there was only one bag of treats, earned by walking to every door in the neighborhood, even the frooty tooties all got eaten, and eventually even the raisins disappeared.

I’m sure I will attract the haters who think I’m miserable and cranky, but as I come to the end of parenting “children” and start parenting “young adults,” and as I’ve picked through what traditions are worth continuing, despite the pain of memories, I’ve learned that a lot of the things my kids have loved the most and have the best memories of were the simplest things, times when they were allowed to enjoy and savor a single event, rather than when they were rushed from place to place and overstimulated.

Are the holidays really enjoyable when we’re all too tired and stressed out from trying to do it all?

Liz Pinkey is a contributing columnist who appears weekly in the Times News.