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I'M SORRY, I let them down.

I forgot I was a kid once, too.It was a stuffy, humid Halloween night. All day I felt sort of left out. I wore no costume, but many of my co-workers did.

We don't get many trick-or-treaters. Our house is on a dune, and it takes a bit of effort for kids to trudge up our steep driveway. One year, we had no kids. But we light it up brightly and always have scads of goodies waiting.

This year, I feel like I failed the kids.

My wife answered the door as groups of little ghouls, goblins and ghosts arrived, faces wide with excited smiles. Hey, this was NEAT-O!

Dracula was a small fry who looked shy, frightened and unsure as he held out his candy basket. At the bottom of the driveway, a witch (mom) waited watchfully.

Another group came, Kermit the Frog, Dr. Zeuss' Cat in the Hat and Spider Man. Spidey boldly stepped inside and began searching our living room like Sherlock Holmes. "Where's that good gum you had last year, lady?" he asked my wife. (We'd handed out gum made like a rope last year and he remembered.) Oops. All we had were M&Ms and Atomic Fireballs.

That was just fine with one little girl. In a dignified manner, she raised her royal chin slightly and pronounced: "I prefer ONLY M&M peanuts." She was, of course, dressed like a princess.

This Halloween, my wife handled candy duty while I flopped on the couch like a slob, watching some goofy drivel on the boob tube. I let the kids down. I didn't make a fuss over their costumes, or dress up myself.

After we'd turned off our bright lights, making the yard black as the final night of October, we heard a tiny knock at the front door.

I didn't even go look at them. My wife opened the door to two straggling little Halloweeners, a brother and sister about 10 and 12 years old. Their costumes, she said, looked like something they'd grabbed from around the house at the last minute.

No parent waited at the sidewalk.

"Their little faces were so long and sad," she said, "like they didn't have a friend in the world. It took courage to walk up to this dark house. I wish I could have cheered them up."

I felt like a slob. I could have gotten myself off the couch and made a big "to-do" about them, admired their courage or given them extra candy . . . maybe they would have remembered me as the "neat neighbor guy" years after I'm gone.

It was a chance I let slip away.

I'm sorry I let the kids down. Two words come to mind: carpe diem (seize the day).

Next Halloween will be better at our house.

I hope that gives you neighborhood kids something to look forward to all year. Come back then, kids, especially you two late ones, you'll be in for a real treat!