It was a good Halloween this year. Rain threatened but restrained itself to a few sporadic drops. I was chilly in the beginning, but eventually I took my hands out of my sweatshirt sleeves and undid the scarf around my neck. The gloom was actually welcome since it brought an early dusk; daylight savings time didn’t go into effect until the next day, and a sunny evening would have been a non-spooky bright start to the trick-or-treating.
I had a sense of holding on to everything, because who knows how much longer I’ll get to walk around the neighborhood with a Hooligan collecting candy? Already S.Hooligan deems Halloween beneath her. She stayed at Mom’s while Diamondqueen, That Poor Man, and I accompanied J.Hooligan on his rounds. J.Hooligan is now sixteen years old, very tall, with a deep voice. But his enthusiasm is childlike and authentic, and he was impressively decked out in the Alucard costume his grandma and I crafted for him last year.
So, for one more year at least, we all roamed Mom’s neighborhood while Alucard filled first one trick-or-treat basket, then a second. As we have every year Mom has lived in her Loveland house, we gathered around the kitchen table to survey the bounty of treats dumped from the baskets into the center of the table.
Halloween candy is so much better now than when I was a kid. In the early to mid ’60s, there were no junior or “fun size” candy bars. There might have been smaller containers of cheaper candy. I remember tiny packs of candy cigarettes with just two sugary cancer sticks inside. Full size candy bars were rare. I always tried to make a stop at our school janitor’s house one street over because he gave “real” candy, usually Nestle chocolate bars, which I almost never had. (Hershey was our staple.)
Most of our haul, collected in bottom-heavy pillowcases, consisted of small wrapped candies like Tootsie Rolls, suckers, and various Brachs products, which were fine. It wasn’t unusual, though, to receive a handful of loose candy tossed into the bag. This usually consisted of candy corn or those pumpkins, cornstalks, and cider jugs of the same consistency. I never liked eating any of them, but I enjoyed playing with them like small toys.
Often there was at least one apple, often bruised, usually not very tasty. It always seemed to turn brown quickly after the first mushy bite. Sometimes pennies showed up among the treats; on a good Halloween, there might be enough to scrape together to buy a couple of genuine, full-size candy bars.
In some ways trick-or-treat was more of a treasure hunt then because you really didn’t know what you might find when you got home. (This was before the razor blades and needles supposedly turned up in treats, so we never anticipated any dangerous surprises.) Now there’s a certain sameness to the goody mountain, although the candy is certainly of a better quality. However, the mass production of mixed bags of diminutive Reese’s peanut butter cups, Milky Ways, Almond Joys, Milk Duds and the like has taken away the mystery. Anything too out-of-the-ordinary is regarded with suspicion and even tossed away.
Still, it was a pleasure to enjoy the trick-or-treat ritual intact for one more year. Next year, who knows? This year we even suggested J.Hooligan could reap a similar harvest if we simply bought a mixed bag of candy apiece, tore the bags open, and spilled it all on the table in a jumble. But that just wouldn’t be the same, would it?