A Halloween Story

The Magic of the Emptying Pumpkin

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     Thinking back through the many years of Halloween, I sometimes wonder if it’s an evening of tricks or treats. Will it ultimately culminate in joy and happiness, or tears and fears? Memories of Halloween come flooding back: getting dressed in my costume, taking the biggest pillow case, walking up and down the neighborhood with my siblings and friends, and collecting as much candy as one could carry, was exhilarating! One year, I remember my mom spending weeks sewing an E.T. costume for my little brother. It was the talk of the neighborhood, especially since the movie had just come out, and the intricate details were incredible. However, with all the time and effort she put into his costume, it left no time to put anything together for me or my sisters, forcing us to fend for ourselves, making whatever would pass for a costume. Costumes aside, the candy was the most important object of desire for the evening.

     Even as a youngster I was always thinking about how to get the most bang for my buck. I was prepared to walk for hours, and I had also devised a clever plan to get the most candy possible. My plan was a smashing success! I brought along my tiny little plastic Halloween pumpkin, and the biggest pillow case, while my siblings carried only their pillow cases. Although my mom came with us, my dad stayed home, ostensibly to hand out the candy, but truthfully to watch some sports or news program. My mom’s routine was to wait on the sidewalk while we marched up to the door, rang the bell and declared in our most vibrant voices, “Happy Halloween, trick or treat,” to whoever opened the door holding the all too desirable bowl of candy ready to be distributed amongst the children. Despite getting to the door first, my siblings would push their way past me and hold out their pillow cases to collect their treat while I waited in the background. Being the last up – and in truth orchestrating the display of being rather aggressively brushed aside – certainly had its benefits and added to an already calculated strategy. I knew the candy giver would see my siblings in front of them with their bags of candy. This usually prompted the giver to carefully pick through the bowl of treats, dropping one candy, and maybe occasionally two, into their bags. I was last in line and my plastic pumpkin was either empty, or with only one or two lonely candies visible. This never failed in activating the giver’s kindness, which in any case was ever-present, especially for the last trick or treater in line. I made a habit of wearing a timid expression that suggested little expectation, and then I would hold out my little plastic pumpkin. A smile would quickly spread across my face as the giver placed a huge handful of treats into it. On occasion, the giver’s bowl would be empty, but do not fret! Did I already mention that the kindness of the giver was ever-present? They would scramble around their home, scavenging to find an even bigger and better treat, sometimes, much to my delight, I actually got money. I would graciously thank the giver and run back to my mom. The next step was simple enough, it involved dumping my pumpkin’s contents into the big pillow case my mom was holding for me, rendering it empty once again for the next unsuspecting candy giver. After a few hours with my magical pumpkin, my siblings would complain about being tired, and we would return home.

     Once at home, we gathered in the living room to dump our loot, creating our own piles of candy heaven. Our parents would sit on the sofa, as we inspected our candies, following their instructions of what could be kept and what needed to be tossed out. Sorting through my massive haul, my joy was quickly interrupted by my siblings whining and their litany of complaints. “Why does she have so much candy? That’s not fair? How come I didn’t get that kind of candy? What, money, she even got money!” Inevitably, the water works turned on, and eventually the blubbering became unbearable for my parents. My dad growled, not unlike a werewolf and high-tailed it out of the room, leaving my mom to deal with the fiasco caused by candy-gate. My mother’s solution was simply to gather all MY extra treats, count them off into five equal piles, one for me, one for each of my siblings, and one for herself. Alas, tricked out of treats!

     I still love Halloween with my own family, and my kids have plenty of treats, no tricks required.

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