As I put my two-and-a-half-year old son, Eddie, into his Buzz Lightyear costume and took him outside to go trick-or-treating, I thought, why can’t I be the one out there to collect candy? I’m the one who loves sugar. He still likes carrots. I can’t remember a single costume I wore on Halloween, but I do remember the excitement of having that huge bag filled with candy. I loved sugar as a child like a crack head likes cocaine. I’ve always loved sugar. Pop tarts, coffee cakes, yodels. I could eat a whole rack of chocolate cookies or Oreos with one glass of milk. M&Ms, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Milky Way’s, 100,000 bars, I will eat them one after the other until I get worms.
There are only a handful of things in life that make me mourn the loss of my childhood like one might mourn a beloved dog and one of them is surely Halloween. I loved carving the pumpkins and roasting the seeds with salt, even though the shells would sometimes accumulate in your mouth like wood chips. I loved the smell of a wood fire as the air turned cold, even though if it got too cold, it meant you had to wear a jacket over your costume. I loved bobbing for apples even though it was scary to be underwater, and I love candy corn, even if it looks better than it tastes.
But in the end, my love of Halloween was all about my love of candy, and the utterly orgasmic notion that you were carrying around a sack of chocolate bars, lollipops, toffee, taffy, wax bottles filled with juice and plastic tubes filled with colored sugar. There was so much booty, I didn’t even mind that my father would go through our bags and pluck out the Nestlé’s crunch bars, saying things like “I think this one has poison. I better test it.”
I thought about throwing on a cowboy hat and taking my own bag to collect candy, but I know how I feel when an adult, with a costume that took almost no effort, comes to my door and thrusts their empty pillow case forward.
“Really?” I think.
It pained me, but I decided to let my son have his day. It’s his turn, I thought. I’ll just ransack his bag later.
The problem was, he had bad taste in candy. As we went from door to door, and the homeowner would hold out their basket of candy from which my son could take a piece of candy of his choosing, I’d watch his hand hover over the basket and pause over the worst confections in there.
“No. No. Not the Twizzlers. Keep your hand moving,” I’d think, but I didn’t want to intercede. I’d be grateful when his hand would continue on past the Twizzlers and head over toward the peanut butter cups, only to veer off at the last minute as he’d reach for a packet of Sweet Tarts or Nerds or some other crappy choice.
“You don’t even know what Sour Patch Kids are. They suck,” I said as we walked away from one house.
“You already have Twizzlers,” I said, a few houses later.
One woman whose house we visited allowed my son to take a piece of candy, and then after he dropped it into his bag, she said, “And what does Mommy want?”
“Reese’s!” I said.
Eddie’s hand once again hovered over the woman’s basket.
“Go on. Take the Reese’s,” the woman said to Eddie. He reached toward it, and then said, “No,” and started to go for another pack of Twizzler’s.
“Mommy wants a Reese’s, dear,” the woman said. She surely must have been a saint in a past life.
My son reluctantly dropped a peanut butter cup into his bag.
Not far into our trick-or-treating, my son wanted to start eating the candy. I let him have one piece, and then another, and then after a third, I said, “This is the last one.” He finished a Snickers bar and then dug his fat little hand back into his sack.
“No more,” I said.
“I wanna eat one now. I wanna eat one now. I want this one,” he said, pulling out a rack of sweet tarts. “I just want a little bit,” he said, accentuating the word, ‘bit,’ as if it were so inconsequential, no one would mind if he had six.
As I watched his excitement about the candy, I knew that as much as I like chocolate bars and caramel, I would never find them as titillating as I did when I was young. Even if I put on a costume and collected candy, I could never recapture that feeling. We go back to Boston every year around Christmas because my husband and I both went to school there and loved it up there in our college days. But every year, I’m disappointed anew when I realize it’s not the place I want to visit but a time period, and that’s simply not possible.
As the last trick-or-treaters came to our door last night, I dumped the last of our candy into a basket and held it out to them like an offering. But as I looked in the basket, I noticed we were giving out the same seven or eight candies that everyone else was, probably because we all bought our candy bags in the same store. So we were actually going through this laborious process of walking from house to house, knocking on doors and saying, “Trick or Treat,” only to collect the very candy we already had at home. It made me think we weren’t really collecting candy. We were just switching it. And if that was the case, we’d might as well just sit at home and eat our own stash. It would save a lot of time and effort.