When I was young, I was a huge fan of Halloween, as I think many children are. There was the theatricality of the event, for one thing. Whatever I was most into that year, I could buy or fashion a costume that reflected that. I remember being a big fan of ninjas for two or three years. I used to rent the American Ninja movie series on V.H.S. from Blockbuster, and practice my moves in the backyard. There are pictures of me in my black pajama-like outfit in martial arts poses, brandishing my plastic katana.
Even more so, the holiday provided an opportunity to collect candy, which might have been a cause for joy with some children, but which took on a much greater significance for my sister and I. We weren’t allowed to have candy normally, so the idea that we were about to be gifted with this veritable smorgasbord of Twizzlers and Snicker’s bars was like some sugar-blasted dream come true. We were allowed two pieces of candy per day, and because of this restriction, it wasn’t uncommon for us to still have a few pieces remaining well into December. The last to go were usually things like Sugar Daddies, which no one really liked anyway. I vividly remember trying to surreptitiously gobble as much down on Halloween night as I could…sneaking candy out of its wrapper and stuffing it into my ravenous gob while my parents were preoccupied.
I also remember being very young, five or six years old, and getting back from trick-or-treating and being sent to bed. My teeth were brushed, and there would be no more glorious sugar till the following day. But I wanted more…I went back downstairs, and told my mom I wanted to “look at” my haul one more time. I snatched a box of jelly beans, and brought them back upstairs with me. Suspicious, my mother followed me, and asked if I had taken any of the candy with me. Naturally, bad little child that I was, I lied to her and told her that I hadn’t. She believed me, or seemed to, and went back downstairs. I’d stashed the candy in my favorite hiding spot, one of the cubbies formed by the cinder blocks which had been used to prop up a sort of shelf along one of the walls of my room. We were quite poor, at this point, and much of my furniture was makeshift or secondhand. I took the jellybeans out, opened the box, and gleefully ate them one by one, savoring the intensity of the sugar high. I was also sick with guilt and adrenaline, however, and got a stomachache.
Now, at thirty-six, I’m an adult by any rubric you’d care to judge such things. My trick-or-treating days are long over. Having moved out of New York, and being the owner of my very own house for the first time, it’s put me in a position to have to do things that I’ve never had to before. I need to pay property taxes and school taxes, for instance. I need to fix things around the house…or call professionals to do the job, where in the past, when I was renting apartments, I’d just need to contact the super, or the landlord. Another thing that I have the option to do, if not the requirement, is decorate the house, with Halloween a few weeks away, and pass out candy to the kids. I live in an actual neighborhood these days, and there are plenty of youngsters about. I have no doubt that there will be plenty of little ghosts and goblins and princesses dropping by, or whatever the hell it is that kids are into these days. The tables have turned. I’ll be the one distributing the sweet treats, and exclaiming how this one looks so adorable, that one so terrifying.
I can’t eat candy anymore. My gums are receding, probably from brushing too hard when I was younger, and I no longer enjoy the sugar. Even cold drinks are starting to bother me. About the best I can do is decorate the house, have a beer, and keep a watchful eye to make sure no one’s idea of a rocking Halloween night is lobbing eggs or toilet paper at the front windows. I was guilty of those things when I was younger, but what goes around comes around, etcetera. I guess the only reason this difference, this change, is going to hit me so hard this year is because, again, this is the first time I’ve been a homeowner, and it’s a different experience than apartment living. In New York, there was no point in putting a carved jack o’lantern in front of my apartment door. No little kids were getting in.
Doubtless, it’s going to feel strange. I don’t know how many of these kids are being deprived of sugar, as my health-conscious parents once did to us, but to see them taking such glee in the holiday…because Halloween is a holiday for children, much more than adults…will probably be bittersweet. Middle age is ahead of me, bearing down like a freight train, and childhood keeps slipping further away. A lot of the time, I don’t miss it. There are pleasures of adulthood, just as there are pleasures of childhood, and those suffice; they sustain me. Halloween, however, might be one night that I envy the young again. They have their whole lives ahead of them. As the guy passing out the candy, I’ve been relegated to the sidelines. At least I get to pay those property taxes and school taxes, though. That’s way more satisfying than all the jelly beans in the world.