Mary Ellen Collins
We joined Sam’s Club in October 2012 for one reason – we were moving to Old Northeast, Halloween was fast approaching, and we needed candy in bulk. We’d heard the stories. Our new neighborhood was known throughout the city as a place that took this holiday very seriously. I wasn’t sure I believed the hype.
We weren’t yet moved in that first year, but we came to the house and sat on the front stoop with four 200-piece bags of Sam’s mini candy bars. The reality was even crazier than the hype. Who knew the families would start arriving at 5:30? That two-way traffic on the sidewalk would get so heavy all we could do was pitch candy into every open bag and hope we didn’t miss anyone? I estimated that 700 pieces of chocolate were history by 7:00 p.m., and it wasn’t even dark yet.
By the next year, we were into the swing of the area’s traditions. People set up cocktails and snacks on porches and in yards, creating a neighborhood-wide party atmosphere. A few years later, Snell Isle friends joined us for the evening; and a few years after that, new neighbors shared bowls of chili with nearby candy-givers. Halloween night was friendly and sociable, but one thing started to get under my skin: the pillowcase–toting parents who expected and waited to collect their own candy.
I love to see the parents and grandparents who take the time and make the effort to don some kind of costume; but when they also line up for a treat, my curmudgeonly tendencies come to the fore. We see at least a dozen of these people every year, usually later in the evening. They bring families of various sizes, but apparently, they think their kids’ sugary haul won’t be enough for them. And at some point, the pillowcase (rather than a small bag or plastic pumpkin) caught on as the go-to personal candy tote for the grown-ups who don’t want a miss a chance for one more Snickers.
John is kinder than I am, so unless I were to wrestle the candy bowl from his lap, every trick-or-treater gets a treat, regardless of age. The little ones are allowed to choose what they want. The rest get what we give them. I’ve been known to raise an eyebrow at the pillowcasers and say, “Really?” but they are never embarrassed. Or the least bit sheepish. They just open the case wide, smile, thank us, and move along.
These Halloween visitors have bugged me more and more, almost driving me to the point of saying, “That’s it. I’m done. No more trick-or-treating.” But then the temperature drops, ghosts, and graveyards start popping up on every street, and I’m back in the spirit. Last year, Covid resulted in smaller crowds and several neighbors opted out altogether and posted friendly, “See you next year!” signs. We participated for a shorter time than usual and we’re planning the same approach in a few weeks.
This year will find us outside early, staying just until we distribute candy to a few dozen small trick-or-treaters, including our favorites – James, Lyla, Rowan, and Walker – who range in age from eight months to five years. Then we’ll close down while it’s still light out, having enjoyed the creativity, camaraderie and cuteness that defines a perfect, pillowcase-free Halloween.