Forget the costumes, the parades, the scary stories: When I was a kid, Halloween meant one thing and one thing only — candy. Free, limitless, don’t-care-how-much-it-rots-my-teeth candy.
When I was growing up, candy was the forbidden fruit. And being Catholic, we knew all about forbidden fruit. I never understood why the devil tempted Adam and Eve with an apple. Because if the devil came at me (or any one of my siblings) waving a Snickers bar, we’d follow him straight to hell.
My parents allowed us only one piece of candy a week. On Sundays, after Mass, my dad would drive to the stationery store to pick up the paper, and each of us could choose one piece of candy. It was our gastronomic highlight of the week. In the car we swore we’d make our selection last, drag out the indescribable pleasure bite by bite. But each Sunday — like little anacondas — we swallowed the candy whole before Dad pulled out of the parking lot. Then it was seven agonizing, sugar-free days until we got our next fix.
Halloween, then, was our Mardi Gras. When darkness finally came, we threw on our costumes and ran into the night like racehorses out of the gate. Charging up to the first few houses, we yelled “trick or treat,” then thrust out our open palms. Don’t bother dropping it into the pillowcase, Mister — whatever you give us will be unwrapped and devoured before we get off your front step.
Once our blood sugar level redlined, we settled down and concentrated on quantity. Like moths to a flame, we flocked to any house with a light in the window. When our curfew hit, we wandered home, where Mom was waiting. And thus began the annual Candy Negotiations.
The first rule was that everything unwrapped had to be thrown out. Fine, Mom. Go ahead and confiscate the apples (we’d all heard those razor blade stories) and that lone clementine the lady on the next block gave out. It’s fruit — who cares? Next up was anything not wrapped by a candy-making conglomerate. Out went those mini paper bags some neighbor had stuffed with candy corn and Smarties and stapled at the top. Away went the colorful candy dots stuck on paper as wide and curvy as a cash register receipt. Why argue, I figured. I’ve got 17 Hershey bars, a fistful of Mary Janes, and enough Baby Ruths and Twizzlers to make my head spin (or at least vibrate).
Then came the tithing. It sounds odds now, but tithing was something we accepted: Adults had to do it with money, we had to do it with our candy. But we gave way more than the usual 10 percent. The sweets were donated to a children’s hospital or a school for the handicapped. At least that was the story.
So, barely a week after Halloween, we were horrifyingly low on candy. All our favorite pieces had been eaten, so we foraged in the pillowcases of our siblings, hoping to find some hidden chocolaty goodness. This led to hurled fists, accusations, and (inevitably) tears. When my parents couldn’t take any more, they demanded that we eat every last piece we had. “Just get it over with,” Mom said.
And even though we saw it coming, it was always a shock to reach into that pillowcase and find nothing there. Halloween was over, our house was once again sugar-free, and so we went back to waiting for Sunday and the stationery store. What else could we do? •
A Westchester resident, Gregory Alderisio did his youthful trick-or- treating in Valhalla. He has yet to outgrow his taste for candy, and continues to “gobble up as much as he can” each Halloween.