When I grew up, in New Jersey in what was then a small town, Halloween was time to stump the neighbors. Every house was lit up, and every family invited trick-or-treaters inside to sit down for cider and popcorn, or a candy bar, or a lowly apple. Then, with great fanfare, began the guessing. First, who were we supposed to be? Then, who were we, really? The adults pretended to be obtuse. And we all hoped to have gotten them good this time.
But even if their memory of our names was imperfect, they remembered our faces, masked or not: "Oh, you're the girl with the squirrel!" She had seen me once, out in front of my house, with a pet that miraculously had stayed an August.
But it's different in a city. Kids have been cautiioned not to go inside, or, at least, they're shy about someone fussing over their costumes. When Halloween isn't a neighborhood celebration, they may go to organized events - haunted houses, costume contests and libraries where they're ready scary stories.
For kids who like their ghoulies and ghosties in little groupies, here's a partial list of Halloween alternatives.
STERLING, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., Meadows Farms Nursery, Route 7, Sterling. Sponsored by Broad Run High School Booster Club. "Meet a Monster De-Scare Unit" unmasks for ages seven and under. Call 703/430-3313.
BELTSVILLE Community Center, through Sunday, 3900 Sellman Road, 6 to 9. Adults $1, children 75 cents. Call 937-6613.
NOTTOWAY PARK, Monday, 7:30, 9601 Courthouse Road, Vienna. Costume contest. Free. Call 938-7532 or 941-5008.
ALEXANDRIA Jaycees, through Tuesday, 1421 Powhatan St., 7 to 11. Admission $1. Call 836-0986.
LAUREL Jaycees, through Tuesday, 126 Lafayetta Ave. Weekdays 6 to 10, weekends, 5 to 11; adults $2, children $1. Call 725-6152 or 953-7766.
ADELPHI Jaycees, through Tuesday, 7405 Columbia Ave., College Park, 8 to midnight. Adults $2, children $1. Call 277-3998.
ROCKVILLE Jaycees, through Tuesday, old B&O Station, High Street, 7 to 11. Tickets $1 in advance, $1.50 at the door. Call Tom Treacy, 589-8107.
HALLOWEEN HARVEST FESTIVAL, Saturday, 10 to 2, National Presbyterian Church, 4121 Nebraska Ave. NW. Haunted house, attic treasures, fortune telling. Call 232-4046.
ALL HALLOWS' FALL FESTIVAL, Saturday, noon to 3, Congressional Cemetery, 1801 E St. SE. Games, booths, music, self-guided tours. Admission $5. Under 14 with adult, free, and urged to wear costumes.
GREAT PUMPKIN PARTY, Sunday, noon to 5, Shockoe Slip, downtown Richmond. Costume judging, ghost stories, pig roast, bands, magic. For directions, call 804/644-1434.
HALLOWEEN FAIR, Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m., St. Aidan Montessori School, 3100 Military Road NW. Haunted house, bake sale, costume parada, booksale. Call Joy Martin, 362-8129.
ELLICOTT SPOOKIE, Sunday, 10 to 6, Main Street, Eddicott City. Arts and crafts show, catfish rodeo, family pumpkin carving contest, ghost stories, costume parada. Call 301/992-2483.
CHILDREN'S COSTUME CONTESTS, and animated film "Mad Monster Party," Saturday, 2 and 4:20, Takoma Theatre, 4th and Butternut Streets NW. Admission, $1. Call 829-8802.
POE WEEKEND, Saturday and Sunday, 10 to 5, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Reenactment of student life in Poe's day, in 13 West Range, the room be occupied. Call 804/924-7116.
HALLOWEEN FUN, Saturday, 2 to 4:30, Prince William Forest Park, Va., nature center. 703/221-2420.
GOSLIN NIGHT, through Monday, sponsored by Rockville Department of Recreation at various locations.Halloween activities include G.H.O.S.T. Bingo. For schedule, call 424-8000, ext. 309.
HALLOWEEN PARTIES, through Monday, at 16 different community centers and schools in Prince George's County. For the location nearest you, call 277-2200, ext. 257 or 261.
SPOOKS' HOUSE AND STORIES, Monday, 7 to 8, Greenbelt Branch Library, 11 Crescent Rd. Ages six to 10, costumes required. Call 345-5800.
GHOST TRAIN RIDES, Tuesday, 3 to 6 p.m., Burke Lake Park. Scares on the tracks.Costumed people ride free. Call 323-6600.
STORIES AND SPOOK HOUSE, Tuesday, 4, 4:15 and 4:30 p.m., New Carrolltom Branch Library, 7414 Riverdale Road. Ages six to 12, in costume. Call 459-6900.
WITCHES' WALK, Tuesday, 4 to 6, Market Square, Alexandria. A children's costume parada and puppet show. Call 750-6325.
FUN HOUSE, Tuesday, 6:30, Fairmount Heights Branch Library, 5904 Kolb St. Ages seven to 12. Call 925-9700.
GHOST CRUISES, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Lake Accotink Park, 5660 Heming Ave. Watch out for pirates, ghosts and witches. Free rides to people in costume. Call 569-3464.
HALLOWEEN PARTY, Tuesday, dusk, Wakefield Recreation Center, 8100 Braddock Road, Annandale. Spook walk, costume party. Call 321-7080.
HALLOWEEN HAPPENINGS, Tuesday, 7, Hyattsville Branch Library, 6530 Adelphi Road. Ages five to 10, wearing costumes. Spooky stories, games and a film. Call 779-9330.
HALLOWEEN HAPPENING, Tuesday, 7 to 6, Fort Ward Park, Alexandria. Children should wear costumes, and bring along an adult and a flashlight. Call 750-6325.