Stolen Halloween

When I was a kid, Halloween was one of the events of the year. The others were my birthday, Christmas, the last day of school, and the first day of Little League. Easter was OK, but I think even then I viewed it as Christmas-lite. Also, rabbits sort of freak me out.

But who could beat Halloween? You dress up, you carry around a bag, strangers put candy in it – whether they want to or not – and you go home and eat it. No catch. Well, in my house the catch was that my dad took something of a house candy tax. It was due upon his inspection of our arrival and the official dumping out ceremony which took place on the kitchen table.

There was nothing like that moment – seeing all of your candy quantified on the kitchen table. Like something out of an adventure movie when the good guys see the treasure the baddies have been going for all along. It glitters in some production lights as they look on in awe.

In 1983, my sisters and I did just that. We dumped out our candy into separate piles with rigidly-guarded borders and we looked on in awe. And then my mother told us that we couldn’t have any.

There are those awful videos these days of parents telling their kids they have eaten their candy. The whole world gets to watch the viral videos of these kids losing their shit. This might be the pre-e-historic event of such a video. But my parents weren’t being, well, dicks, they were reacting to urban legend.

That year there was a paranoia about psychopathic strangers poisoning Halloween candy or putting razorblades into apples. As if handing out an apple on Halloween wasn’t enough to label someone as a psychopath. In any event, my somber parents informed us that while we could gather Halloween candy that year, we could not eat any of it. They, evidently dabbling in their own psychopathic tendencies, felt that collecting candy was good enough and that a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old kid would be content with gathering the candy and not eating any of it. In recent years, we have tortured my legendary-sweet-tooth-having dad with a similar proposal. He finds it as funny and reasonable as we did then.

We tried everything. We begged, pleaded, and threw what I am sure was reasonable and logically-sequenced temper tantrums. As a last act of desperation, I promised to squeeze in an act of contrition if the candy happened to be poison. No go.

My mom gave us candy. We wondered how her candy was different from the candy we’d received. Our line of logic was more or less thwarted by the age old human rights argument of Because I Told you So. My sisters and I sat in front of the TV and watched a special while we ate some candy, both refusing to turn and look at our piles of treasure on the kitchen table.

What was in the back of our heads was my dad. Even at that age we recognized that he had a sweet tooth. When he went into a 7-11 or a Wawa, we knew that we could easily coax him into bringing out a treat for us as well. When he came home from work we could hover around until a scoring a Rolo or a miniature Milky Way. We cast glances towards him and noted with anxiety that he wasn’t watching the TV, but rather the table with the candy. We had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, but our lamentations, though voluminous, were ignored by the high court. Two hours later, void of sugar and exhausted by our tantrums, it was ironically the only Halloween as a child that I slept like a baby.   

This time of year, I am always happy to see the kids in their costumes as they get ready to walk around the neighborhood. There’s not any part of it that doesn’t make me happy. Just looking at the pics of those kids standing outside near drifts of golden leaves in front of houses with decorations brings back the oddly-baked smell of dry leaves as the evening quickly gets darker and colder. I am never more jealous.

This year, for obvious reasons, trick-or-treating in many places was cancelled. There were some pics on Facebook of kids dressed up and probably doing a perfunctory trick-or-treat within their block or maybe something with direct neighbors. I don’t know. But I do know two things. First, if you’re bummed out, it’s OK. You’re allowed to be. Second, this isn’t permanent. It’ll get better. So keep your heads up and smile. Things will improve and in thirty years when you’re doing whatever the then-equivalent of blogging is, you will have a good story to tell about the Halloween that was stolen in 2020.

Before drifting into sleep that night, my sister and I snuck downstairs and caught my dad sifting through our piles of candy. Discarded wrappers surrounded the piles. We were amazed to have a dad bravely checking all of the candy for us. And then we went to bed and plotted our revenge.  

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