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Happy Halloween?

Halloween Candy

Candy from Trick-or-treating (All photos copyright Kai Moore)

I don’t know what it is but, I just don’t like Halloween. I used to really get into it with elaborate costumes and, often, two costumes for the kids.  One costume was for them to wear to their Catholic school (restrictions on what was acceptable) and the other was to wear around the neighborhood.  One year, the whole family dressed up as mummies (homemade down to the strips of dirt painted gauze) and won the costume contest.  But they got too old; I got tired of the teens overpowering the trick-or-treat route and felt it better for everyone that I not participate (for the sake of no jail time).

Now, I dread the whole thing.  Well, not the dressing up part; just the part where I have to spend $40 for a costume that is sure to fall apart before the night has even begun.  And the part where I spend an hour in the store looking for the right costume (ummmmm, not that one…not that one…) and then another hour waiting in line to pay for the costume. Let’s not forget the part where I have to take the kids out sloughing throw the crowds of other monsters, princesses, goblins, greedy teens and pushy parents.  And then, the part where I have to convince the child that mommy does need to check the candy.  “It is open. Really. I promise I didn’t do that.”  And the pain of the throw away, “yes, it is trash…look at it, it’s dirty.”

But, this Halloween was different.  This was The Boy’s first time trick-or-treating and he was so excited for this new experience.  I remember being a child and having a series of really stupid jokes locked and loaded for those that required the extra touch. People wanted something for their candy, a return on their investment in the form of a laugh.  There was an exchange.  “Trick or Treat” meant something and I knew that if I wanted a treat, or more of them, I had better have a trick.  Trust me, there wasn’t a house in the neighborhood that didn’t engage in the “fun-for-the-parents” and “nerve-wrecking-for-the-kids” game.

  • “What’s black and white and red all over?”
  • I don’t know what?
  • “A newspaper!” 
  • Why did the monkey fall from the tree?
  • Why?
  • Because it was dead.  (I know…cruel but it cracks me up every time.)

I had jokes and silly little tricks stored up and would alternate their use from house to house.  But, The Boy is only 4.  So, I decided we would work on only one joke.  We practiced it the entire way home from preschool.  He was ready.

  • Him: “Why did the chicken cross the road? I don’t know. Why?”
  • Me: “No, you have to wait for me to ask.”
  • Him: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
  • Me: “I don’t know. Why?”
  • Him: “How to get to the other side.”

Okay, so, it took a little work but, he was ready enough…it was his first Halloween and I am sure he doesn’t even know what a joke is.  It was good enough.

After getting him home, preparing a quick dinner, fighting with him to eat it all, including the macaroni, he was dressed and ready to go.  We headed off with a glow stick necklace and a flashlight in hand.  And although I am used to going out in groups, it was just me and The Boy.  It started off so well.  The first house loved him.  He was so cute, said “trick-or-treat”, only took one piece of candy, and thanked them with a beautiful smile, to which they replied with more candy.  The second house went the same way.  He was satisfied and ready to turn in after only three houses.

Three Houses? Really?

I was instantly a child again, wanting to get as much candy as possible and not ready to turn in.  I didn’t know what to do.  He wasn’t playing the part of the spoiled, greedy little kid that wanted all the free candy they could get because there was no way in the world that mom was going to buy this much at any point.  (And my mom let us eat it all.  Probably why I have rotten teeth to this day…thanks mom.)  Unfortunately for The Boy, he doesn’t get candy very often.  Thus, he was eager to get home and enjoy what he had.

I checked my own eagerness to force this ritual, which I dread anyway, upon him.  If he was happy with what he had, then I needed to be happy with what he had.  We agreed that we would do the other side of the street as we headed home.  And that is when I saw it.

"Please take two"

A lighted porch meant a welcome to trick-or-treaters.  It meant a greeting with a smile, someone in costume gushing over the creativity of the child’s costume (despite haven seen it at least three times prior), and encouragement to “come take one”.  A lighted porch meant someone was home and participating in the nights’ festivities.  But, at the house with the red door, it meant help yourself.   It meant maybe I am home, maybe I am not…don’t bother me but “Please take two!!”.

I couldn’t believe it.  I had just begun to think that maybe I had just been trick-or-treating in the wrong area.  Maybe instead of going to the neighborhood where everyone goes and all of the homes do extravagant decorations with haunted houses and parties, I should stay and enjoy my own neighborhood.  I had just started to feel as if this, in my neighborhood, would be our thing…The Boy and me…trick-or-treating.  But, standing in the face of that sign sucked that feeling out instantly.

Halloween is about the exchange, the look on people’s faces, the neighbors, the community.  Halloween is not supposed to be a do-it-yourself project.  Where is the person-to-person contact?  We have lost sight of the experience and feeling that is Halloween.  I was so disappointed and for that moment, even though we love the candy, I just wanted to scream, “COME ON PEOPLE!!!!” (Okay…after I got two.)

Bucket holding candy

Self Serve

Since when did Halloween become a “Just take it and go” holiday?