In Search of Sweetness: A Reflection

AP Photo/ Todd Williamson

AP Photo/ Todd Williamson

“Come on, Pat, Ben is already outside!” my brother yelled to me, as he headed out the front door. I quickly donned my mad scientist wig, lab coat, and aviator goggles and ran to catch up to my brother and neighbor. I couldn’t blame them for leaving without me, as Halloween only comes once a year, and school today had taken long enough with such an exciting night ahead. Nevertheless, I now had to race after them, awkwardly clutching my wig to prevent it from falling, while trying to catch up before they reached the first house. I couldn’t possibly miss a house, as maximizing candy was what trick-or-treating was all about, and the contest to get the most candy by the end of the night meant every house was critical.

“Trick or treat!” we all exclaimed to the woman at the door, holding out our pillow cases while she distributed candy bars from a bowl. Those three magical words were our tickets to limitless amounts of candy, provided that we could visit enough houses. At no other point during the year could we get so many sweets in one night, and as a result, we thanked the lady for her generous portion sizes and ran off, eager to continue our quest for sugar.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to race for very long, as the houses in my neighborhood aren’t very far apart, and we quickly reached the next house, where we repeated the same process: ring doorbell, yell “trick-or-treat,” have costumes admired, obtain candy, and then sprint off to the next house. Ben and I, being the older kids on this adventure, had this process down to a science, as our candy fortune depended on it, but we had to reiterate the Great Candy Theory a few times to my younger brother to bring him up to speed, so that he could keep up with pace. Although this theory lacked the formality of those we memorized in math class, Halloween required no such correctness.

After several hours of intense travel around the neighborhood, we returned to my house for the annual Candy Trading Session, where we practiced becoming good capitalists by attempting to rip each other off for the best candy. Although my neighborhood seems fairly small in the daylight, Halloween always made it seem far bigger, judging from how much candy I brought back, at least according to my eleven year-old self’s distorted view of the world. Even now, my love for Halloween has not faded, even as the effort required to celebrate it has exponentially increased over the years.

I find it a little upsetting how as we all become older, trick-or-treating and the idea of Halloween become increasingly childish, as people who minimize the holiday miss what I consider to be the point of the day. Does running around one’s neighborhood, collecting candy, become repetitive after a number of years? Yes, but I’ve come to realize there is more to trick-or-treating than just candy. My eleven year-old self couldn’t understand this idea, but Halloween allows people to use his or her imagination and escape the problems of the real world for a little while, an opportunity that does not come often. Will I be trick-or-treating this year? No, as there is a point where your neighbors won’t answer the door to you, but it doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy the holiday for what it provides, a way to dress up in a costume to escape the adult world.