Punny costume: The columnist’s partner, Roger Aschbrenner, as “a salt with a deadly weapon.” (Erin O’Mara photo)

Did a coven of nutritionists invent bobbing for apples?

Only powerful witchcraft could convince people to dunk their heads in a bucket of water swirling with the oily lip balm, sweat, saliva and snot of every stranger who already bobbed — all to come up with an apple. An apple!

And to what end? Apples are plentiful, so getting one shouldn’t require water torture. It must be an enchantment that bends minds into believing fun must be wholesome and nutritious. Maybe we should lean into the spell and bob for kale. At least it would be quicker and easier to get your teeth around.

I’m not sure if Halloween is a holiday or maybe just a celebration, and I’m not sure if or how to mark it this year.

Adults don’t get to trick-or-treat. My friends and I tried during college and got turned away from house after house for being “too old.” We should have put more effort into our costumes since “grunge rock musician” described how everyone looked every day. I’m a lot older now and I realize that if adults went out en masse to trick-or-treat the whole tradition would crumble because nobody would be home to give out candy.

Before the pandemic, I’d have a house full of friends visit over Halloween weekend. I don’t know why people decided Halloween was the best time to visit Maine. You can’t trust the weather; it can be 70 degrees or snowing. The water is freezing, the kayaks are tucked away, and most of the seasonal businesses are closed. But Halloween became a tradition.

My very first Harpswell Halloween is memorable for my enthusiasm and the trickery of my friends. I had enough candy for every kid in Cumberland County and I had a living room full of guests preying on my anticipation of all those kids showing up. I was in the kitchen cooking up something (I don’t remember what, but of course it was incredible) and my friends were knocking on the floor or ringing the doorbell, so I’d sprint out of the kitchen, grabbing the candy bowl in mid-stride, to throw open the door and find no one in front of me and laughter behind me.

I fell for it over and over and over again. I had no choice. What if one time, there was a dinosaur and a president in search of a Butterfinger?

Does anyone remember the camouflage bus? It safely ferried local ghouls on a trick-or-treat route, unloading kids to hit up all the houses in the headlights’ glow and then loading back up to move on. Candy gathering couldn’t have been more efficient, and candy givers only had to answer the door once, so trick-or-treating didn’t interrupt the shenanigans happening inside.

We played lots of Scattergories, the game where you try to get your team to guess the clue without using any of the flagged, helpful and obvious words. I tried to get my partner to say “snowboarding” without saying “winter,” “sport” or “skiing.” Our normal mind meld evaporated. I know snowboards were dancing in her mind’s eye, but the word was stuck. Clues and guesses got louder. We were jumping out of our seats, gestures wild, faces red, and as the time ticked down, her eyes popped, her expression turned to triumph and she screamed, “Skedaddling!  Skedaddling!” The room erupted and I laughed so hard I cried.

I’m laughing as I write and need to pause to text her one single, loving word: “Skedaddle.”

We’d take an annual “hike” to the Giant’s Stairs and after our six minutes of exercise and a few group pictures on the cliff side, we’d stop at Cook’s for lobster tail bloody marys.

I think Halloween’s always been about connection, even when it felt like the point was the escape of a costume and sugar-centered greed. Connection, though, isn’t automatic. The bus hasn’t been around in a long, long time. Friends are waylaid by illness and schedules and the general drudge of adulting. Now when I buy Halloween candy, I pretend it’s for trick-or-treaters but it’s really all for me.

Connection requires work. And while Maine’s second summer is enough to make me forget fall is upon us, the appearance of pumpkin spice lattes (PSLs for those in the know) reminds me to make some plans. Maybe friends will skedaddle up to Maine or maybe Roger and I will skedaddle to the Halloween party COVID made me miss last year.

We will not, under any circumstance, bob for apples. If we have any kale, it will be deep-fried and salty. And should we fall victim to any spell, it will be the enchantment of friendship, community and connection.

Erin O’Mara lives in Harpswell and serves on the Harpswell News Board of Directors.