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Storm: Haunted by memories of aging out of trick-or-treating


By Janet Storm

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I grew up in a big, boisterous suburban neighborhood filled with young families and lots of children. There were sidewalks along every tree-lined street and houses were in close enough proximity that going door to door was as easy as tossing a Frisbee from one yard to the next.

The neighborhood was great in every season, but it really shone as the year wound down. From cornucopia displays to Christmas lights, decorations (and celebrations) were taken seriously. I enjoyed every holiday, but looking back I have to admit that our neighborhood was particularly suited for Halloween.

The night set aside for trick or treating was a whirlwind of candy and costumes and glowering pumpkins. My brother, sisters and I spent days discussing costumes and carving Jack-o-Lanterns before heading out on the big night. My mother filled giant bowls with candy and waited by the front door for the onslaught.

The only thing that took the edge off the fun (besides Mom’s rule that we could only have three pieces of candy before we went to bed) was the knowledge that it could not last forever. My mom had a strict rule about trick-or-treating: once you hit the age of 13 your days of — as she put it — begging for candy from the neighbors were over. We only were allowed to watch TV or sulk in our rooms or help her hand out candy on the big day. 

“I don’t need my teenage children running all over the neighborhood for a few Snickers bars,” Mom declared.

As you might imagine, my siblings and I tried to argue this point. The “all the other kids get to do it,” argument was a total flop. Mom didn’t care what all the other kids were doing.

“Their parents can worry about that,” she said.

Other lines of defense fell as well. Mom didn’t care that she was dampening our holiday spirit or failing to support our quest to boost the national candy industry. The only argument that gave her pause was our plea that if we didn’t collect any candy, she wouldn’t be able to sneak the occasional treat from our bags. 

But even that appeal failed when Mom lifted one eyebrow and noted, “If I want candy I can go out and buy some.”

So every season started with the realization that we were on the clock. Only a few more precious years to see how many houses we could hit up and down the block before dragging ourselves home with loot sacks so heavy we could barely heft them.

I sadly watched my older sister and brother age out of the Halloween hullabaloo. When it was my turn, I opted to hand out candy at the door so I could attempt (and fail) to act cooler than my peers who still were allowed to make the rounds.

“Yeah, I thought I was getting a little old for this,” I told one flock of friends who waited for me to toss Milky Ways into their treat bags. 

“Riiight,” they intoned, rolling their eyes.

These memories came flooding back recently when I read a social media post from a mom declaring that teenagers should be allowed to trick-or-treat.

“Teens deserve to have fun on Halloween like the rest of us, and I’m sick of people trash talking the kids who want to hang on to childhood for a few years longer,” wrote Christine Burke. 

Hang on to childhood? That’s a solid argument that even my mom might have understood.

Where was Christine when I was packing up my costumes and standing guard by the candy dish?

Contact Janet Storm at jstorm@reflector.com or 252-329-9587.