Under the Sun
Grownups find sweetness in Halloween abandon
THERE are no sacks of Reese's peanut butter cups in the pantry, no mini-Hershey almond bars, no Snickers, no Mentos, no lemon drops.
Except for a half-eaten pack of Tic Tacs, dried apricots and stale omiyage cookies, the house is empty of anything that could be remotely deemed a treat for Halloween tricksters.
Three years running, none has ding-donged the doorbell or scrambled up the steps to call out the words that get handfuls of candy in response.
Time was when the neighborhood teemed with children in costumes and masks, some store-bought, but more often homemade from whatever was handy, like paper bags, old sheets and frayed pillowcases.
Sidewalks and streets were turned over to kids, who slowed briefly to identify a friend or school mate masquerading as a fairy, cowboy or astronaut before hurrying to the next house to continue candy collection.
Being allowed to roam after sunset with minimal adult supervision was a fun part of Halloween, but candy was the goal, the abundance as dizzying as the fact that it was delivered so generously.
There were a few households that kept lights off, curtains and blinds drawn to signal nonparticipation in the holiday. But they were the exception and seldom suffered tricks since kids then weren't inclined to interrupt treat accumulation.
The local church and YMCA would sponsor parties, but bobbing for apples and a costume contest in a brightly lit hall, no matter how colorfully and cleverly decorated, was tame compared to the intoxicating street scene.
There was so much candy kids would have to make a drop at home before covering the rest of the territory. Afterwards, came the wonderful task of sorting the take.
Premium goods -- caramel apples, cupcakes, full-size 5-cent chocolate bars and the oh-so-rare bottles of Horlicks malted tablets -- were set in the middle, ready for first eating. Bubblegum and regular chews were pushed into one pile, peppermints and nuts in another, lollipops and suckers here, Tootsie Rolls and Chunkies there, and things least favored, like jellied orange segments and licorice sticks, relegated to the side.
Parents didn't worry much about danger lurking in every Halloween nook and cranny. Not that there weren't any. Children got hurt when the then-typical papier-mache pumpkins lighted by candles caught fire. Even though motorists drove slowly, mindful of the hoards of little bodies scooting across roads, there were accidents and close calls. Pedophiles probably prowled around, though then such matters weren't talked about much, and few creeps thought to implant razor blades or contaminants into treats.
At the time, Halloween was a thrill, when children could run free in the night, fears of darkness and peril kept at bay by porch lights and loads of company.
Today, it is the adult who covets that freedom to depart from customary behavior, to collect the sweetness of carrying on at the edge of usual boundaries without having to worry about being judged.
The strange evolution of Halloween from a mainly childish fancy to an opportunity for the fully matured to get crazy is probably grist for the psychological-sociological mill. But not mine. Whether for a return to innocence or for pure release, there is space for some silliness in this sullen world. If the holiday brings a trick of lightness, it is a treat to be savored.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org