This is a creepy season, a time of year when ghouls and goblins roam the countryside, popping up randomly while you’re watching TV, scaring the bejeebers out of you so thoroughly that you feel obliged to give an extra-large tip to the laundry lady.
But enough about the upcoming election. This is also the time of year when we celebrate All Hallows’ Eve, a holiday that’s now known as The Halloween Pre-Christmas Blowout Sale.
Halloween is an ancient festival that we traditionally celebrate by dressing up in creepy costumes and wearing weird masks and by overindulging in ways that we would normally frown upon. And that’s just the adults.
Back in my day, kids were the only ones who dressed up for Halloween. The evening of the last day of October was a blur of driving from neighborhood farmhouse to neighborhood farmhouse, knocking on doors and yelling “trick or treat!” Not once did anyone reply, “Humph! I’ll take my chances with your tricks!” and slam the door in our faces. Which was fortunate, because we actually didn’t have any tricks.
Halloween evening inevitably ended in a confectionary bacchanal. My siblings and I would dump our bags of candy onto the living room floor so that we could revel in our treasure troves of sweet treats. Trades were made for the more desirable candies. Finding yourself in possession of a particularly coveted candy bar would be like owning a mint-condition Honus Wagner baseball card. You could pretty much name your price.
One of our neighbors, the Tisdels, habitually handed out popcorn balls to their Halloween callers. The popcorn balls were homemade and individually wrapped in waxed paper and unfailingly delicious. Nowadays, if you tried to give something like that to trick-or-treaters you would probably be arrested for attempted murder.
It was a sad Halloween when it was gently suggested that perhaps you were too old to dress up and go trick-or-treating. That sort of stuff is just for little kids, you were told.
This presented an excruciating dilemma. On one hand, you wanted to be thought of as an adult. You hoped that you would soon be given access to all those mysterious adult things that you simply knew were going on but that you, being a child, were denied. On the other hand: candy, candy, CANDY!
The October arrived when I decided that I was too mature for trick-or-treating. It was tough to watch my younger siblings dress up and go off knowing that they would be enjoying soaring sugar highs by the end of the evening. I instead volunteered to stay in the house and hand out treats to our nocturnal visitors, which was sort of like volunteering to try out the new equipment in a torture chamber.
Carloads of kids began to arrive at our farm. As their parents waited in the car, the little hobgoblins would troop up to our door and yell the requisite passphrase and I would dole out candy.
It shocked me when one particular carload arrived early that evening. The vehicle in question contained a family of our cousins, who lived in the neighborhood. The startling part was that the oldest sibling of this family – a boy who was exactly my age! – was trick-or-treating along with his little brothers and sisters!
I was too old for this, so why wasn’t he?
It was a bit awkward and embarrassing when I tossed some candy into the yawning maw of his paper sack. But it didn’t seem to bother him in the least.
This made me question my decision to bench myself for that fall’s door-to-door candy shakedown. Had I hung up my Halloween costume too soon? Could it be argued that I had one, perhaps two, good seasons of confectionary collecting left in me?
That line of thought caused me to alter my candy distribution strategy. From then on, I wasn’t quite as generous with my donations. As a result, there was a fair amount of uncollected booty left at the end of the evening.
“I guess there weren’t as many trick-or-treaters as last year,” I said to my parents after they finished chores and came into the house. “Too bad. I don’t know whatever we’ll do with all this leftover candy!”
These days, there are hardly any kids living in our neighborhood. It’s been some years since a little goblin has knocked on our door.
Even so, my wife prepares for Halloween by purchasing enough chocolate to feed Switzerland. And we can never figure out whatever we’ll do with it all come the morning of November first.
If you’d like to contact Jerry to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.