Halloween is right around the corner. How do I know? The Christmas decorations are going up in stores around the country, and the dulcet strains of holiday tunes are streaming from their sound systems. Macy’s has announced their Black Friday hours (6:00 p.m. Thanksgiving evening), and the seasonal catalogs are already arriving in the mail; can the toy “books” be far behind?
I haven’t bought my Halloween candy yet, and I’m just not sure how much to get. Our neighborhood is on its second wave of small children, so I never know year-to-year how many visitors we will have. I’d rather err on the side of having too much candy, but I don’t want a lot lying around afterward either. Last year I picked up two big multi-variety bags and poured the tasty, colorful bars into the plastic cauldron I offer to our trick-or-treaters, anticipating their excited faces. But I couldn’t give the stuff away. Literally. We have no gluttonous ghouls, voracious vampires, or insatiable specters coming to our door.
Here’s how it went down:
At 6:15 our motion-sensor gargoyle screeches, alerting us to the arrival of the first trick-or-treaters.
I swing the door open to reveal a small cadre of costumed crusaders.
“Trick or Treat!!”
“Oh! You all look so cute/scary/amazing.”
They smile adorably (even the bloody mummies) and say, “Thank you.”
I hold out the cauldron. “Here you go.”
Their big eyes stare into mine. “How many can we take?”
“Whatever you’d like.”
They search the bowl and gingerly remove one bar from its depths.
Sensing that there aren’t that many trick-or-treaters out, I say, “You can take more than that.”
They look at each other warily as if I’ve just invited them to watch a show on network TV.
A couple of kids reach in again and draw out one more bar. If they happen to grab two, they put one back. “Thank you,” they say again.
Darn these easy-to-please kids! They’re hardly putting a dent in the terribly tempting treats!
“No,” I say, “take a handful!” I rattle the cauldron. “Here!”
They turn and run down the walk to their parents as I yell out, “Just one more Kitkat? How about a Twix? One Starburst? Pleeese?”
I think I’m known as “that scary lady who makes us take candy.”
I don’t know why I’m surprised at these kids’ good manners; my kids are the same way. Once, though, when my son was in kindergarten, he stood at the door of the eeriest house in our neighborhood—the one with the undead rising from its crypt, the spooky music, the spider webs, and the tombstones—and asked for more. More money for his UNICEF box. When our neighbor dropped her coins into the slot, he deemed it “not enough,” and asked, “Can’t you give more?” And, bless her, she did, hunting up more change from somewhere inside.
I think this is where my altruistic son got his start. Of course, maybe he was just making them pay in advance for the future Halloween when his little sister became so frightened of the zombie that jumped out of their bushes that she cried and never went back. Either way his heart was in the right place.
I know I’m not the only one who’s perplexed by holidays. Our local stores seem always to be swept up in some kind of celebration vortex in which products for two or more holidays mingle on the shelves. Right now it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas—or as I like to call it: Hallankstmas.
Soon we’ll be able to purchase sweets and presents for the December holidays while also planning ahead for Valentine’s Day (Hanistine’s Days). In January the chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and Easter toys will join the hearts and flowers (Valenster). At Stop & Shop one year—in a marketing gaffe that illuminated for me just how “fresh” holiday sweets really are—the Easter candy debuted on the same day as the Christmas treats. The next day it was gone, but I’m sure the Cadbury Eggs and marshmallow Peeps were simply lurking in the back warehouse waiting to make their entrance with the spring patio furniture.
Now that’s scary.