Although I’m in high school now, I’ll still be catching up on a couple of middle school posts.
It felt appropriate to close my time in middle school on Halloween. I always loved celebrating holidays in school, because everyone spent the day sugared up and in a good mood, and we didn’t get any work done in class. This week, on top of that, parent-teacher conferences had shortened Friday’s classes to 30 minutes each.
My brilliant “news junkie” costume idea (e.g. track marks on my arm spelling out “CNN”) was just not appropriate for school, so I decided to dress as a pirate, my favorite fallback. When I got to class, I saw that most of the teachers had dressed up, and a good number of the kids, too. At break, my 8th grade buddy, Janessy, and I stopped by the gym to watch the costume contest. My favorites are pictured here: Paulie Bleeker and Juno, the señor from the Tapatio sauce bottle, and the alter ego of an effervescent boy named Matt — a sassy diva named “Mateefa.” (He had described his costume to me as “A big blond wig, a spangly dress, and what I like to call ‘hooker boots.'”) I gave Mr. Ryan, my old classmate, mad props for dressing up as George Michael.
I’d hoped to go trick-or-treating during Reschool Yourself, because as a kid I’d stopped going before feeling ready. The last time I went was my freshman year of high school, when my best friend Katie and I dressed as “strumpets.” Given that we looked about 40 years old with our bright red cheeks and lips, heavily painted eyelids, and fishnet stockings, it’s no wonder that so many stodgy grown-ups asked us disdainfully, “Aren’t you a little old to be trick-or-treating?” Unfortunately, I let them get to me and never went trick-or-treating again. This Halloween, I felt willing to brave the judgment and invited Janessy to go. She accepted, and we agreed to meet in her neighborhood at 7:30.
At the appointed time, armed with a pillowcase and flashlight, I met Janessy at home. She had dressed like a witch, since her dad had snagged the Popeye costume. (One day, I, too, will have a communal family costume closet.) We set off walking. As we approached the first lit porch, I started having second thoughts about trick-or-treating at 28 years old. What if I ran into someone I knew, which would be fairly likely in Sonoma? What if people gave me disgusted looks? I decided to risk the embarrassment, because when else would I have the chance to trick-or-treat again? My personal philosophy is that anyone — age five or fifty — who makes the effort to dress up and go door to door in the darkness deserves candy. On Halloween, that is. (On all other days, restraining orders.)
At each house, with Janessy by my side, I rang the doorbell and said, “Trick or treat!” just like old times. Most people didn’t seem to bat an eye and just tossed mini Snickers or Butterfingers bars into our bags. Some said, “Don’t you two look great!” I felt slightly sheepish when young people came to the door, but they didn’t seem to notice that I was around their age. Only one older couple noted our age, and I briefly explained my project. They said it was a great idea and wished me well.
I loved trudging around the dark neighborhood in search of porches with the lights on, feeling a sense of community with the other groups moving from house to house. Janessy and I chatted as we passed toddlers in tiny Superman costumes and teenagers dressed as princesses. I told her that the kids in my old neighborhood used to love the one lady who gave away full-sized candy bars. And you wouldn’t believe the timing, but at the next house that Janessy and I visited, there was a lady doing the same! She let us pick from the bowl, and this is how I discovered Take 5 bars. I had no idea that you could improve upon chocolate-covered pretzels, but oh how wrong I was. Adding caramel, peanuts, and peanut butter creates a concotion so delicious that I would beg, borrow, or steal to have another.
Thumbs up for the full-size candy bar lady. Thumbs down for the woman who displayed a tray of inedible trinkets for us to choose from, the kind of junk you’d trade in for tickets at an arcade. She reminded me of the dentist in my neighborhood who would pass out toothbrushes to all the trick-or-treaters. I’m all for healthy eating the other 364 days of the year, but come on — embrace corn syrup and soy lecithin just for tonight! Scrooge is to Christmas as these people are to Halloween.
Around 9:00, when the foot traffic began thinning out and people began running low on candy, Janessy and I went home and dumped our loot onto her dining room table, separating our candy by type. Not a bad take! When I was a kid, at this point my mom would inspect every piece of candy before my sister or I could eat anything or begin our trading process. This time, I savored my grown-up privilege of snacking as I walked. Luckily, I didn’t find any razor blades in my M&Ms.
At the end of my grown-up trick-or-treating experience, I ended up giving most of my candy away. I do admit to eating more Junior Mints, Almond Joys, and Reeses than I’d planned and making myself a little queasy. I felt a bit nostalgic when I got that classic pukey feeling at the end of the night. Trick-or-treating just wouldn’t be the same without it.