Choosing costumes, getting rid of pumpkin goop, avoiding shaving cream — all this is nothing to policing the candy-take of greedy trick-or-treaters. This is the petty control freak's moment to shine!
I'm not a natural disciplinarian. Maybe because I'm little and have a munchkin voice, kids don't tend to regard me as much of an authority figure, or listen to me when I try. But on Halloween, what I say goes, and I'm the candy-bowl dictator.
Growing up, this was generally my dad's role. He was strict about enforcing a one-piece rule, giving the stink-eye to uncostumed teenage carpet-baggers, and even making sure that each child take the obligatory box of Sun-Maid raisins my mother optimistically insisted they take along with their fun-size Snickers. However, one year, my parents were out of town.
That wasn't a particularly good period for me. I'd broken up with a boyfriend, wasn't doing much professionally, and was living at home in the suburbs, and I mostly remember a lot of experimenting with the spices in mulled cider and endless Upstairs/Downstairs DVDs. My first instinct, when my folks announced that they'd be in Connecticut come all-Hallows, was the coward's way out: a bowl of candy on the porch and an ineffectual "1 per trick-or-treater!" sign. I lit the jack-o-lantern, placed the bowl on the steps, and darted inside to observe furtively through the door. The first trick-or-treaters were little ghosts and brides escorted by parents (in my neighborhood there's usually some poor toddler duped into an arch political costume too) and the adults, if they didn't physically choose the candy, at least insisted on enforcing the one-per-child rule. (The raisins moved during this period too.) But then a pack of unescorted gluttons approached and, seeing the sure signs of a sucker's residence, proceeded to grab gleeful handfuls. I threw the door open, but I was too late: they were off, leaving a bunch of Sun-Maids to stare up at me balefully.
I refilled the bowl, donned a witch hat and waited. "Take one," I said sternly when the doorbell sounded, and watched with a hawk-eye. As the evening progressed, my methods become less draconian and more arbitrary. If I felt a "trick-or-treat" had been sullen, the child would receive not one but two boxes of raisins with his candy. If, on the other hand, a child was adorable, he or she would get two pieces. I was tough, but fair. And by the time the uncostumed teens came around, I was hardened. "No," I said coldly. "I'm out of candy. Here are raisins."
Later, I had the good-fortune to monitor the candy-bowl at the antique shop where I worked. It was here that I encountered the greatest act of audacity I'd ever seen: the phenomenon of parents - occasionally holding a newborn — who'd with great insouciance demand candy for an absent or toothless child. Luckily I'd doubled up on raisins for just this sort of thing.
This year presents a new neighborhood and a whole bunch of new children. I'm not anticipating trouble from the small, sweet weirdo who hangs around and asks if he can help me lock my bike, but there are always X-factors. These are why God made raisins. My other candy is always of the finest. Disregarding my boyfriend's suggestions of "Dove chocolates and Dum-Dums" (?) I've loaded up on those candies that, over the years and for whatever reason, always move: tootsie pops and fun-packs of Reese's Pieces, rounded out with Snickers, Peanut Butter Cups and, because I like them, Chunky. The house is Halloween-friendly, bedecked with a vintage-looking black cat in a crepe-paper ruff and a diminutive jack-o-lantern sporting a monocle. I want to be a highlight on the route, like the rich people on our block growing up (who may not have been rich at all, just really into Halloween) who gave a King-sized candy to every child, or the old woman who gave us paper cups of hot cider and fresh popcorn. (The cautionary converse? The elderly couple who handed out airplane-sized cans of Clamato.) I want to be a benevolent good witch. That said, it's not all treats. My fondest hope is that my hippie neighbors, for whom I cherish a totally unjustified animus and who so remind me of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros that I can't listen to that band, will descend bearing pillow-cases. I fantasize about, not filling their sacks with raisins, but refined sugar and capitalist propaganda. And, okay, they can have raisins too.