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updated: 11/11/2011 12:21 PM

Let's reflects on numbers in the news

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Did anybody else connect the news that $7 billion was spent on Halloween and the 7 billionth person in the world was born by the end of October 2011?

For what it's worth, trick-or-treating has come a long way since my childhood in Muncie, Ind. Back then, we called going door-to-door "Halloweening" and no one kept track of the national sales.

The week before Halloween, our custom was to borrow from other neighborhood kids and pull together wigs, masks, baggy clothing, recital ballet costumes, sheets, blankets, and anything we found in the "rag basket." We created some creepy creature without adult interference. Occasionally we purchased a new mask.

Carved jack-o-lanterns aglow on front porches were the extent of decorations. We celebrated with a party at school, followed by trick-or-treating in our immediate neighborhood just after dark where neighbors tried to guess who we were under our masks.

By the time our three children were old enough to trick-or-treat in Chatham, N.J., moms had become more involved to please every child's wacky whim for a costume. Specialty Halloween stores with pre-made costumes had crept onto the scene. But the Penicks persisted with the tradition of "homemade."

In 1992, the year Ross Perot ran as third-party candidate for president, our then 9-year-old son had mastered impersonating the Texas industrialist. All Jeff wanted for Halloween was a Ross Perot mask to wear with his Sunday best. I spent one evening traveling to the candidate's nearest headquarters to pick up a campaign sign for Jeff to carry. What was I thinking?

Nearly 20 years later, Jeff continues to celebrate Halloween with verve whether in Seoul, South Korea, or Chicago. When he sent a photo of his most recent creation, "Dr. Cupcake," I asked if he'd purchased his distinctive costume.

"When have I ever bought a ready-made costume?" he answered. "Poster board, wide pink ribbon and an old mattress pad."

That's my boy!

Noting the calendar had been chock full of events prior to Halloween, I recalled that trick-or-treating in our neighborhood was way down a year ago. I wondered whether the alternatives had begun to impact Halloween night.

Not this year! Our doorbell rang frequently from 5:15 to 7:30 p.m. and I passed out treats to roughly 70 youngsters. And our little papillon pup barked every time.

More by the numbers

Already November has been focused on numbers, too.

For starters on Nov. 2, city officials, speakers and about 100 interested residents gathered at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Mill Street for the ribbon cutting of Naper Homestead. To commemorate Naperville's 175th anniversary in 2006, the city purchased the property, noting its historical significance as the place Capt. Joe Naper and his family had settled when they arrived along the banks of the DuPage River in 1831.

Going forward, Naper Homestead will serve as a gateway to Naper Settlement and another place to keep tabs on our city's past today. Now open for self-guided tours, the interpretive site with informative signage welcomes folks to walk where Joe Naper walked 365 days a year.

Then Saturday evening the Naperville YMCA marked its 100th anniversary milestone with a loving tribute to Evy Schum, a woman who has been an active member of the Kroehler Y for nearly 55 years.

All this week, North Central College has celebrated its first "150 Years: A Promising Start" with events leading to a Homecoming Parade and football game Saturday, Nov. 12. They're especially celebrating the date of the college's first day of classes on Nov. 11, 1861. This year that anniversary was Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, or "11-11-11."

Veterans Day, first known as Armistice Day for the time when World War I ended at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918, also was Friday. Veterans have long remembered that time as "11-11-11." For this year only, the time and date to show appreciation to all veterans for their service was "11-11-11-11."

Finally, last Sunday prompted another spirited discussion at our house. One year from Nov. 6, voters will go to the polls in the General Election. Here's hoping citizens will take the opportunity to become educated about our nation's challenges so the growing population can seek successful solutions.

It's a little haunting. Now it's officially days until we vote for president.

• Stephanie Penick writes about Naperville. Email her at

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