I don’t remember what age I stopped Trick or Treating, but I do remember the empty feeling. Like the balloon of childhood had deflated just a little bit. Why did fun things have to come to an end? Why couldn’t I stay a child forever? Adulthood seemed as distant as the stars, and I wasn’t ready for that voyage yet.
I remember the early days of Trick or Treat, when I’d stumble along the sidewalk under the streetlights with my parents and a plastic pumpkin full of candy. Our town was small enough that everyone knew each other. The neighbors would even guess who was underneath each costume. But I was tall for my age which always gave me away.
I remember dyeing clothes different colors and piecing together outfits and wigs and cardboard props. In those days we still made our own costumes. We didn’t have Halloween chain stores whole selling the same handful of costumes all across the country.
I got older, and left Mom and Dad behind and Trick or Treated with my friends. We’d plot out a course through town, maximizing our candy potential. The leaves were brown and red and yellow. The air was cool, but not cold. Halloween always seemed like the true end of the lingering effects of summer in northeast Pennsylvania, just before we turned the clocks back an hour and it got dark even earlier every night. You could almost smell Winter around the corner.
But eventually our childhood faded, and the adults told us we were “too old” to Trick or Treat.
What kind of bullshit is that?
So, instead, we lurked in the shadows, filled with resentment, toilet-papering trees and throwing corn kernels at houses. I mean, what did they expect from us? We wanted to have fun, too, but we weren’t allowed anymore. We were outsiders, watching the younger kids still enjoying their childhood.
Our lives were changing, moving way too fast, and maybe we didn’t want them to. Maybe that’s why we egged the passing police cruiser and fled down the shadows of the alley.
As time went on, I didn’t care enough to cause mischief anymore. Halloween became drinking parties and clubs and girls in skimpy costumes, and I didn’t miss childish traditions like Trick or Treating as much anymore.
Those hazy years passed, and I grew tired of the parties, and Halloween became sitting on the couch watching horror movies and eating white cheddar popcorn and drinking light beer. I had all but forgotten about those childhood traditions.
And then I had a son…and my interest in Trick or Treating returned like a slasher in the night. Walking my son around my old town—stalking past my old house—stabbed me with a barrage of nostalgia.
I look at my son as he grows, still able to enjoy his youth, still able to enjoy the thrill of Trick or Treating. No one has come along and told him he can’t. Not yet. But I know the thrill is doomed. At some point, the world will choke the youth out of him as it does to all of us.
All I can do is enjoy the Trick or Treats we have left together.
Last year there were a surprising number of houses with their welcoming porch lights on, spooky music and blow-up skeletons on the lawns. Some houses even had Jell-O shots for the adults. I’m glad to see my generation keeping this tradition alive and fun as we grow old.
So this year I’ll take my son trick or treating, eat the Jell-O shots, come home and watch the World Series and Friday the 13th and crack a few beers while my son sorts his candy haul. And I’ll wonder if this is our last Trick or Treat together before he finds something better to do on Halloween.
The good times are just like a piece of Halloween candy or a good beer buzz, delicious and temporary, so enjoy them while they last.