It was a typical Halloween for us; typical, anyway, since Joan and I have reached the “other side” of the holiday, and by “other side” I mean we no longer have kids participating in trick-or-treating. That ship sailed years ago, and now, we simply enjoy the mixed bag of princesses, superheroes, law enforcement officers, plush animals and horror film villains who arrive at our door every October 31.
And their kids.
Seriously, I’m impressed by the number of parents who dress up with their kids for trick-or-treating. We never did. We saw our duties as merely custodial for Kate and Will. It’s not that we were party poopers by any stretch; it just wasn’t our “bag of candy” (so to speak).
Truth be told, I was never a big fan of Halloween, not even as a kid. Of course, I went trick-or-treating for a number of years without complaining or even letting on that, all things considered, I’d rather be home watching Marcus Welby, M.D, The Mod Squad or Laugh In (all solid weeknight TV shows of the day) than to be out and about collecting candy dressed as any of those characters, or more likely, something cobbled together from old clothes and household items lying around collecting dust.
The thing is, I didn’t want to be the one kid in my group (who am I kidding? It was a group of two: my best friend/cousin Mike and me) to bail out on what is traditionally one of the biggest “kid nights” of the year. So I’d go with the flow, and Mike and I (and sometimes, his brother Steve) would traipse around our neighborhoods, dressed as football players, hobos, ghosts, cowboys or popular cartoon characters of the time. Rarely did we stray too far from the norm, usually opting for something easy to assemble and not to itchy (much like how I choose my daily wardrobe now).
But I digress. Sunday’s trick-or-treating was nice. Traffic was moderate, with its usual peaks and valleys, and the costumes (both kid and adult) didn’t disappoint. The kids were extremely respectful and friendly, and we didn’t run out of candy, so we never had to make the tough decision between 1) going out to get more or 2) handing out hotel soaps, cheap pens and travel-size toothpastes, hoping the T-or-Ters wouldn’t notice:
Five-year-old superhero: “Mister, how come this candy bar smells like when my mom lights a candle in the bathroom?”
Me: “Uh, well, you see … it’s not a candy bar, heh-heh … it’s … tell you what, buddy, if you want to trade it in, I can offer you this nice pen, or if you don’t mind waiting, I can pop a frozen pizza in the oven.”
Over the years, I’ve learned through friends and acquaintances that there exists a set of unwritten “rules” for trick-or-treaters, things like: “You must wear a costume,” or “You’re too old to treat-or-treat,” or “I won’t give you candy (or travel toothpaste) until you say, ‘trick or treat’ at an acceptable volume and with a certain level respect.” Things like that.
I get it. We want people – and kids especially – to act appropriately, and strange as it sounds, trick-or-treating is a test of a kid’s ability to act with respect and grace, albeit while trying to grab sufficient breath as you talk through a Jason mask from Friday the 13th. Or navigating a three-foot tale on your dinosaur costume when you’re only 2’3” tall. Or hoping like hell not to lose your balance, since your dad thought it would be hilarious to make giant dice for you and your twin sister to wear this year.
After all, their behavior also reflects on us as parents, right? (Or so we think, and what good are we as parents if we don’t overthink everything?)
I don’t get hung up on all that. Fact is, the first kid I served was at least six feet tall (I pegged him as a high school sophomore), and showed up wearing a hockey mask, jeans and a sweatshirt (thus breaking at least two of the unwritten rules before he even reached the door).
I greeted him as I greet all trick-or-treaters, with a smile and a “Hey Buddy!” Through the mask, he mumbled what I presumed to be “trick or treat,” in a deep baritone any high school choir director would kill for, and I dropped a couple of goodies in his Adidas duffel bag (which no doubt held the hockey mask as he pulled it out of his trunk just moments prior).
As he turned to leave, this “rule breaker” said, “Have a nice night.” That comment caught me off guard, like he was working the counter at the local convenience store when I came in to pay for gas and a couple of doughnuts. “You too,” I replied weakly, surprised not only by his comment, but suddenly thinking maybe he was the guy working the counter when I paid for my gas and two doughnuts.
About midway through this two-hour candy “hunting season,” I noticed what appeared to be a superhero lying on our front lawn. His/her mom stood quietly by, waiting for whatever crisis he/she was going through to end. I felt like everything was going to be OK, since I’d just given a pint-sized EMT a Krunch bar and a mini-Snickers, and suggested he check to see if the kid on the grass needed oxygen or some IV fluids. (He said he’d check it out for me.)
One toddler, dressed as a monkey, quietly approached and stood in front of the door as his friends (a dinosaur and Wonder Woman), waited patiently. I got down to his eye level as his mom said, “What do you say? Do you want some candy?” like they’d practiced “Trick or Treat!” at home (and I’m sure they did). Immediately, the toddler said, “I want some candy.” I laughed and gave the kid his candy, nodding to the now-embarrassed mom as if to say, “I’ve been in your shoes. It’s all good.”
I could go on, but I really don’t have much to say except I really want to hand it to the kids and their parents who go out for trick-or-treat. And I also want to give credit to folks who deck out their driveways and make a big deal about it. As someone who never really loved Halloween, it’s nice to see everyone having fun, dressing up and yes, even breaking a few unwritten rules.
If you have treat-or-treaters in your family, I hope it was a safe, fun, successful year with no injuries, tears or travel soaps. And if you simply sat home and dished out candy, I hope you found a couple of things that made you smile or say, “Awww! That’s so cute! We did.
Just know that, while I may not be the best fan of -- or advocate for -- Halloween, your kids will always have candy waiting for you on when they trick-or-treat at the Haznaw home, even if they’re taller or have a deeper voice than I do, if they forget their one and only “line,” the one you practiced over and over; or even if they’re too shy or uncomfortable to say the words “trick or treat” and “thank you.”
And if you’re a parent, we’ll have candy for you, too.
© 2021 David R. Haznaw