Here I am, sitting in the chill of Panera on October 31st. I’m here with a friend, because we’re both swamped with papers, tests, and projects. So we decided to escape the mountaintop bubble, come downtown, and get some work done. I work best that way: packing up the things I need to focus on, leaving behind familiar settings, and sitting myself down somewhere for long enough to crank out lots of productivity.
And as we drove down the mountain, solely focused on our scholarly duties, it hit me: today is Halloween.
Not long after this realization, my mom sent me pictures of her and my brothers at my church’s Trunk ‘n Treat. They looked funny, dressed in homemade costumes, surrounded by the grey parking lot of the church and the grey New York sky.
“Is this what it means to become an adult?” I wondered. Maybe this is it. Suddenly holidays, the days that I used to look forward to for weeks in advance, simply join the train of mundane days that fill mundane weeks. Welcome to adulthood.
For the past 18 years, the month of October has been dedicated to brainstorming and creating an elaborate costume: hand-gluing hundreds of individual blue sequins to transform a blue maxi skirt into an Elsa dress, browsing local thrift stores for the perfect pair of long, white gloves to complete my 1920s look, helping Mom pick out fabric to make Jedi robes, buying radishes to make Luna Lovegood earrings.
And up until now, every Halloween night has been spent roaming the streets of my neighborhood with my brothers and our friends: hesitantly ringing each doorbell, watching our breath as it puffs in anticipation, bragging to each other as our bags slowly grew heavier, dumping our loot on the living room floor and sorting it into piles to trade.
Sometimes the old ladies would open the door and say, “Help yourselves.” The boys and I would walk away moments later, comparing our loot. Heeding my parent’s lessons in manners, I always took a modest two pieces of candy, sometimes three. My brothers would walk next to me snickering, and reveal their bulging handfuls once the old lady had closed the door. “Boys!” I would say, half ashamed at their manners and half envious.
There was one house that was always our favorite. Mr. Ryan’s. He was a rich man who lived by himself, and he was young enough to remember what it’s like to go trick-or-treating. He always had a basket full of King-sized candy bars: Heath bars, Reece’s, M&M’s, Almond Joys. Whatever your favorite candy was, he probably had a King-size version of it waiting for you in the basket. He was also young enough to remember children’s greed. He never just offered the basket with a smile like the old ladies; he was always careful to say, “You can take one.”
Our hands would always be frozen stiff by the time they finally knocked on our own door, and when Dad answered we would rush to the kitchen where he had made soup and heated apple cider in the crock pot.
After thawing out, me and the boys and Rachael and whoever else was with us that year would each claim a section of floor in the living room. Then we’d dump out our bags and sort the candies: M&M’s in one pile, lollipops in another, Reece’s in the prized spot in the middle, miscellaneous candies pushed to the side. And once everything was sorted, we would trade. You’d always try to get a bigger candy for a little one, but only Timothy would fall for that deal. Evan was a hard-nose, a little capitalist in the making. He’d make you give him three little candies for a big one, or two little candies for a little one that he knew was your favorite.
Almost every year, Dad would use Halloween as an opportunity to teach us an economics lesson. One year it was supply and demand, one year it was taxes. Actually, most years it was taxes. In his demonstration, he always played the role of president and we always had to be tax-payers.
This is the first year in my life that I haven’t donned a costume on October 31st. It’s been a long time since I’ve traded candy, or experienced the pain of hypertaxation, or roamed my neighborhood at night expecting free candy. Maybe this is it.