It was a long time ago, but I still remember the first time I took my son trick-or-treating. I stood beside him as he carefully chose treats from the heaping bowls held by our neighbors. I had to bite my tongue to keep from whispering, “No! Not that one! I don’t like SweeTARTS! I mean, you don’t like SweeTARTS.” Then in between stops, I coached him, “Remember; when given a choice, always choose chocolate. Now go get ‘em Batman!”
We came home early from that first outing, and I put him to bed after two small pieces of candy. He was young; he needed his sleep. Then, being a responsible parent some of the time, I carefully looked through his take for safety reasons. Plus, I was dying to know what he got. It wasn’t bad for a rookie.
Of course, there was a lot of candy he didn’t care for—or maybe I didn’t care for it. But there was also plenty of the good stuff—and by good stuff, I mean chocolate. In my opinion, if it isn’t chocolate, it’s a waste of fat and sugar. You may feel differently. Back then, if you were one of those people who snitched the hard candy, licorice and Bit-O-Honeys your children brought home on Halloween night, I would have happily traded you for all your chocolate. In fact, that’s kind of what I did.
After checking out my son’s take for the night, I had a brilliant idea. I unloaded a bunch of his non-chocolate treats on the older trick-or-treaters that came by our house later. That saved him a lot of artificial coloring, preservatives and goo in his teeth. And it saved for me more of the chocolate bars I bought to give away. That became my Halloween tradition, at least until my son was old enough to start wondering what happened to all his Jolly Ranchers and Laffy Taffy.
Don’t act so shocked. You know as well as I do that Halloween is just an excuse for adults to stock up on their favorites. Then they give their treats to other people’s children and other parents give treats to their children. And were it not for the net increase created by empty nesters doling out goodies, everyone could just as well keep their kids home on Halloween and feed them their own candy for supper.
Instead, they send their children out into the cold, dark night hoping they’ll be safe, have fun and bring home treats they enjoy at least as much as what they bought to give away. It’s the Great Candy Exchange.
Now that I’m an empty nester myself, my son is no longer around to gather up undesirable candy for me to give away. And I’m sure not going to buy anything I don’t like. There could be leftovers. And there probably will be. To be on the safe side, I buy enough Halloween candy for about a hundred trick-or-treaters. Our average is ten. But you never know.
There are people who have so many trick-or-treaters they spend all of Halloween evening sitting on their front step passing out goodies like they’re on a jellybean assembly line. Eventually they run out of candy and finish the night off hoping they won’t be tricked for giving away Ramen Noodles and instant oatmeal.
But I live at the top of a big hill that isn’t well lit. If only they knew, kids all over town would flock to my neighborhood with their flashlights and hike up the hill to my house. Every year, I buy enough chocolate treats that I could give a heaping handful to every trick-or-treater who comes to my door. I don’t, but I could.
Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact [email protected]