The last couple days, I’ve been looking at that cauldron filled with candy bars. I’ve experienced my own version of the scene from “Animal House” when the devil is standing above Pinto’s right shoulder and egging him on to do something that is very wrong, while an angel stands above his left shoulder and implores him to behave himself.
So far, good has triumphed over bad. The angel standing to my left is nodding his approval and telling me in a squeaky voice, “I’m proud of you, Kirk!” But how long will that be the case?
I bought all these candy bars a couple weekends ago with every intention of passing it out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. As it turns out, I tossed some of my all-time favorite candy bars into the shopping cart. Hershey’s bars were my first love even before all my baby teeth had come in. My inner George Costanza is reminding me, very loudly, that Twix is the only candy with the cookie crunch. Kit Kat or Almond Joy? Please don’t make me choose.
I’m still physically active and at a pretty healthy weight, but that won’t be the case after I’ve consumed our cat Donny’s weight (9 pounds) in chocolate. My last visit to the dentist was more than four years ago, and I know I likely will need major work done on my teeth when I eventually make an appointment and go. Doc, if this post somehow finds its way to you, go ahead and preorder that new sports car you’ve been eyeballing.
If I could request one favor of you this weekend, it would be this: Take our candy – please.
I know Halloween falls on a school night this year. But if you have grade school-aged kids, send ‘em over and we’ll fill up their bags. Have teenagers with a sweet tooth whose idea of a costume is wearing sunglasses and a turned-around baseball cap? I won’t give them the stink-eye if they need a sugar rush. Do you still have that Darth Vader costume you last wore in 1979 that’s now, shall we say, a tad snug and you want to relive your youth? Hey, I’m not judging you. Adam Sandler, you can show up at our door as crazy one-arm man and I’ll give ya some candy!
I might be well into middle age, but Halloween brings out the 7-year-old in me. Trick-or-treating hours in the city where Cindy, Nolan and I live typically run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. I always open the front door of our house precisely at 4, bucket full of candy well within reach. It’s pitch black by 6:30, and activity on our street is pretty much nonexistent by 7. Yet I fight the urge to turn off the outside light until the very last minute, lest a kid who got off to a late start have to go home with less candy because I’m scanning channels hoping I’ll find a station showing “Night of the Living Dead.”
Christmas naturally was my favorite holiday when I was a kid, but Halloween was a pretty close second. You think whatever type of mask you might be required to wear for your job is uncomfortable? It’s got nothing on one of those Ben Cooper masks that clung to your face like the alien did to John Hurt’s mug. Want to show off your costume? Not here in the upper Midwest, where winter coats were almost always a necessity at the end of October.
That didn’t matter to me. I’d rush home after school, change into my costume, and my mom would take me trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. And after slamming a quick dinner, my uncle would come over, pick me up and take me to the nearby town where he lived with my grandparents. I’d hit as many houses as I could and stay out until well after dark, at which point my uncle would bring me home and I’d dump my rather sizeable haul on the living room floor. I typically ate most of it too, little by little, until about Thanksgiving. And I never had a cavity, either. I don’t know if my dentist at the time owned a sports car, but I didn’t help bankroll it.
Me enjoying Halloween, circa 1974 or 1975.
When Nolan was born in 2005, I looked forward to taking him trick-or-treating when he was old enough to go. Even when he was diagnosed with Autism in 2008, I thought he still might enjoy Halloween, but not so much. There was the year he entered a neighbor’s house, plopped his backside on the recliner in the living room and didn’t want to leave. There was the year he turned his candy bucket into a hat. But the common theme until 2015, the final year he went trick-or-treating, was that either Cindy or Cindy and I would be lucky to reach the last house at the end of our block before Nolan declared trick-or-treating to be over, either verbally or by sitting down in the middle of the street. Sometimes both.
That’s when I really started looking forward to staying home and passing out candy – if my son wasn’t having any fun, maybe I could bring some happiness to the Transformers and ballerinas who climbed our front steps and knocked on our door.
I know kids and their parents are trying to squeeze in as many houses and neighborhoods as they can before it gets too late, but I try to talk to them for at least a few seconds, tell them I like their costume, ask them what they think of the candy that Cindy and I have purchased. Sometimes I’ll drop an extra piece or two of candy in a kid’s bucket. It makes me kind of feel a little like Santa Claus, only much younger, thinner and sans hair.
Since 2021 has turned out to be even lousier than 2020, if you can believe that, I really want to spread a little bit of joy in my little corner of the universe. And on Halloween, nothing says “I hope you have a blast tonight” quite like milk chocolate, peanuts, vegetable oil and artificial flavor. I want to see both the young and the young at heart lined up outside our front door. As much as I enjoy sweets, I want that cauldron to be empty by Sunday evening.
So, are you hungry? Have a Snickers. Have five Snickers bars if you want them, because we have two different kinds – traditional, and with almonds – and we’ve got plenty. My dentist might not be grateful if you take them off my hands, but I sure will.