Monday, November 14, 2011

Three days after Halloween

Happy Belated Halloween!

I have in my house a giant jar of Halloween candy left over from two weeks ago. I always buy some candy in case we have trick or treaters at our house. Three years ago we had two. Two years ago we had one. Last year we had four. This year we had none.

I get it. We live in a very big city. We live in a predominately Jewish neighborhood. Parents are much more cautious about letting strangers give their children candy.

Trick or Treating was a strong tradition when I was a kid. Unlike today where I start thinking about my costume for next year starting in March, as a child, the most important thing about Halloween was not what was I going to wear, it was the free candy.

In elementary school, costume thoughts started about 5 pm on October 30.

"What are you gonna be for Halloween?"
I dunno'. What are you gonna be?
"I've got a cowboy hat left over from my birthday party. My mom says I can wear a plaid shirt with it and go as a cowboy."
Cool. I think I'm going as a gypsy.

Okay, let's be fair, I was five and I was gay. I was scared and excited to get to dress up in all the costume clothes my sister got to play with all the time. One year I went as a Gypsy, the next year an old lady (added a gray wig), another year I was a housekeeper (added an apron) and since Bewitched was popular on the TV, I once went as Aunt Clara. I was also a cowboy, a bunny, and once I think I was a frog. Since I was the youngest, I was never the first to wear any costume and didn't have any say over it (except those costumes that involved wearing high heel shoes).

Halloween night had the same routine every year. Dad was in charge of answering our door and giving out candy (talk about scary!), Mom was in charge of walking us around the neighborhood. You'd see all the kids you went to school with early in your tour. All the moms would stand back on the sidewalks while you went up the path to the door. No shortcuts. Sidewalk, path to door, back to sidewalk, path to door, back to sidewalk... Respect for the neighborhood and if you want their free candy, respect their yard and garden as well. At houses where they had a dog, my older brother would always wait on the sidewalk. "May I have another candy for my brother?" (point our kid dressed as G.I. Joe on sidewalk,) "He's afraid of your dog." (stoop down, pet miniature poodle.)

Later in the evening, a bunch of people you'd never seen before would be running wild across the lawns. That's when dad would shout, "They're busing in those god damn kids from across town!" and he'd turn off the porch light. We'd give out about 60-100 mini candy bars depending on the year. The next day he'd talk to his co-worker Gerald, and find out that he had given out 500 mini candy bars and realize that our neighborhood wasn't nearly as bad. (Seriously, every year, the same conversation on Halloween night. Then same revelation on November 1st.)

After 2-3 hours of trick or treating (depending on the weather) we three kids would come home with our pillowcases stuffed with candy, clear off the dining room table, and pour our bountiful harvest onto the table. Like thieves after looting a village, you could trust no one. Once the candy was on the table you could not leave to use the bathroom or answer a phone call because someone else was certain to steal your Nestle's Crunch or Resse's Peanut butter cups. There is no honor among sugar buzzed siblings.

We would stack and sort our candies. If you were lucky enough to get a full size candy bar, you pulled that one out and hid it back in your pillowcase. DO NOT SHOW IT TO ANYONE. Next you sort the "fun size" candy bars: Kit Kats, Three Musketeers, Milky Ways, Snickers. On to Junior Mints and Whoppers in their tiny boxes. The lesser candies: Dum-Dum suckers, Sugar Daddys, Starburst, Sweet Tarts. And finally loose hard candy and licorice from cheap people.

Highly prized:
Mountain Bars (they were large)
Mounds and Almond Joy
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
M & M's

Not valued:
Loose hard candies
Black licorice

And then a sickeningly sweet sugar based game of poker would begin.

"I'll trade you these plain M&M's for a Peanut M&M's."
No, but I will trade you these Peanut M&M's for a Mountain Bar.
"No way, TWO Peanut M&M's equal a Mountain bar!"
Do not! Fine, ONE Peanut M&M for a Mountain Bar, but I'll add in a Sugar Daddy.
"Uh... plus a bubble gum."
Okay deal.

And then with complete suspicion from both parties, each commodity was slid across the table and the transaction was completed.

This was repeated over and over again for an hour or more, all under the watchful eye of our mother. Inevitably the phone rang and my mother would leave the dining room to take the call. Deals would start to fall apart, promised goods were shorted on the slide from one side of the table to the other and all hell would break loose. That is when my dad would get up from his chair in the living room and shout, "If you kids don't shut the hell up, I'M gonna come in there and take ALL your candy and you're NEVER GOING TRICK OR TREATING AGAIN!!"

Absolute silence. All trading stopped on the commodities floor. We waited for mom to come back from the phone and only then did a whispered trading begin again in earnest.

As payment for all her hard work overseeing the deals, my mom got all the black licorice she wanted. Which was, let's face it, all the black licorice we'd received. Years later I was offering to buy her come candy and said, "Well you like black licorice, do you want that?" and she said, "No thank you. I don't like black licorice." But you always took all our black licorice that we offered you on Halloween? And she answered, "It was all you ever offered." Wow mom, way to make us feel like bad selfish children years after the fact.

At last, all the candy is sorted. The sugar rush has peaked and we are all starting to crash. We are probably about 5 minutes from my inevitable crying moment (sugar buzz, certain I was cheated in at least five of those trades, not allowed to carry a purse again for a whole year... who knows why I would cry this year, but I would still cry). My mother (The Tupperware Lady) would bring us each our own 5 gallon Tupperware canister with Tupperware lid to keep our candy organized and most importantly, fresh. Gary, the oldest, would take some of his candy up to his room and place the remainder in a different piece of Tupperware in the freezer in the basement for later. He would create this piece of theater with great flourish, counting each piece of candy headed to the freezer as he placed it in the alternate container, then seal the Tupperware lid and say, "I know EXACTLY how many candy bars are in there," eye contact to my sister, "I know exactly where I am going to place this in the freezer, " eye contact to me, "and NO ONE better touch it," eye contact to my mother, "or ELSE." (eye contact all around once more to seal the threat).

My sister never said a word. Much more subtle, she would quietly take her candy up to her room and hide it. Probably in her underwear drawer. I don't know. I never found it. She was stealth.

Me. I had a small problem with sugar. Okay it was a big problem. I couldn't get enough of the stuff. My birthday is three days after Halloween and every year I had the same goal: To make my Halloween Candy last until my birthday candy arrived.


5 GALLON CANISTER of candy... and it NEVER, EVER, MADE IT.

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