Hearth decorated for Halloween
You don't have to turn the whole house into a carnival attraction. Concentrating your decor efforts on the table and one other spot—like a mantel, a sideboard, or a deep windowsill—is just as effective (and a lot less hassle). The key is amassing affordable multiples: here, a row of pumpkins and a cluster of monochromatic candleholders made from wine bottles. (There's that matte-black spray paint again!)
| Credit: Jonny Valiant

Halloween scares me.

It’s not the teenagers roaming local streets wearing Scream masks, although that’s pretty creepy. It’s not the fact that complete strangers are ringing my doorbell from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., although that’s pretty unnerving. It’s not even the presence of gigantic inflatable decorations rising from neighbors’ lawns every night like zombies—although that’s pretty, well, weird.

No, my Halloween fear is of a different sort: It’s fear of failure.

There’s so much pressure on Halloween! First of all, the fact that I have kids. They’re hopped up all day on expectation and then hopped up all night on massive amounts of sugar. (I used to be one of those killjoy parents who limit the amount of candy they are allowed the first night. I gave up.) Suffice it to say that they expect every new Halloween to be the best day of their lives. I’m just not sure I can deliver that.

Then there is the expectation that I will have perfect decorations. I was in Williams-Sonoma yesterday, innocently buying an oval serving platter, when the skull-shaped Halloween punch bowl on display sent me into a small spiral of despair. I don’t have a Halloween punch bowl! Am I completely inadequate?!?!

Finally, and most crippling, there is the fear that I am Not Capable of Generating Enough Fun. When their kids were younger, my friends Sharene and Matt used to have this spectacular Halloween party every year, with three kinds of chili and a huge maze in the backyard that Matt would spend an entire weekend constructing out of wooden stakes and black plastic sheeting. It was a marvel, a whole lot of fun, and something I could not pull off if you gave me an unlimited budget, three assistants, and 10 months to prepare.

But this year, suddenly, I am a bit less afraid. We all know that the magic of Halloween lies in the tension between perception and reality, and that is exactly where my fear can be conquered. As in: The reality is that Halloween is not as hard as I perceive it to be.

How to explain the change of heart?

This month’s Halloween feature has shown me, as it may show you if you share my issues, that you can pull off an amazing Halloween with nothing more than spray paint, felt netting, and old wine bottles. OK, I am simplifying a bit. (Isn’t that why you read this magazine?) But I am now convinced that Halloween is not as scary as I believed it to be for all these years. My poor kids! Maybe, to make it up to them, I will put on a Scream mask and buy a giant inflatable panorama for the front yard. And then they will be scared, because their killjoy mother will have—poof!—disappeared.