It’s important to me to be considered a “good” house.
At the entrance to my neighborhood is a small seventies-era split-level home. It’s not well kept: over-grown bushes, peeling paint and an eroded set-back—that eight-foot parking strip between the street and the lawn in rural neighborhoods like mine. There are no curbs denoting the start of the property, just that section of roadway that the homeowner is expected to maintain.
At some houses, the set-back is smooth as a parking lot, freshly top-coated and always swept clean. At other houses, it’s simply rutted dirt and gravel. This house has the rutted variety. Clunker cars, two at a time, occupy most of the set-back. For Sale signs adorn the passenger-side window, the side facing the street, as the cars are always parked facing the wrong direction.
About the residents, rumors abound. A youngish couple, childless until lately, who keep to themselves. They don’t seem to work except some light mechanic duties on the cars they sell—brake jobs mostly, maybe some tinkering beneath the hood. Day-traders is a common occupational guess. Drug-dealers comes up now and again. Trust-fund is what I think.
They are a “good” house. The best in the neighborhood. Each Halloween, they give out full-sized candy bars, the ones you get at the check-out counter, to all of the kids who come by for treats.
My house: We’re good, but not as good as the drug-dealers. Chocolate is mandatory of course, as well as some suckers for the little kids. Since Halloween is the most important holiday of the year, it’s crucial that we have something for everyone. This year we bought a bag of Tootsie Pops and a couple of variety packs of candy. Our eighteen-inch silver serving bowl is filled with Snickers Bars, Three Musketeers, Milky Ways, Twix, Kit Kats and Whoppers.
Abundance matters. “Take two or three” is what I say as the kids mumble “trick or treat” or “Happy Halloween.” And their parents, if present, say “Oh no, only take one!”
I encourage handfuls; we bought way too much candy this year. But Sophie, my daughter, sees it differently. This is her first Halloween to skip trick or treating. She’s hoping for lots of leftovers.
My neighborhood has changed. The first Halloween we celebrated here—with three-year-old Sophie and our two-month old son, Eli—was a lonely night. Maybe one in six houses were open for business, giving out candy, the rest were dark. A handful of kids stopped by my house to trick or treat.
But over the years, the retirees who populated our neighborhood continued to age and have either moved on to retirement communities or to the great beyond. The houses all have children now. Our teenagers are the oldest kids in the neighborhood.
As the evening progresses, Sophie and I the share the fifties-era glider on our front porch and argue about how much is the right amount to glide. I like minimal movement, a leisurely two-inch swing, whereas Sophie opts for seasickness. With the temperature dipping low in the forties, we sit beneath the ceiling fan and freeze. Five years ago, the pull-chain switch that controls the fan stopped working. If the light is on, the fan is too. And since it’s Halloween night, the light is on.
Mid-way through the night, the bowl becomes disproportionately heavy with Whoppers. The trick or treaters are dodging them. They don’t know what the hell they are. Sophie and I don’t really like Whoppers either, and we’re dismayed by the disappearance of our precious candy bars.
I fish the Whoopers from the bottom of the bowl and position them all on top of the candy. They do a good job of hiding the Snickers, Milky Ways and Three Musketeers. The Twix and the Kit Kats, being the best, are long gone. The night is winding down, the flow more sporadic. Mostly what’s left now are the older kids—young teens like Eli and his friend Jonah. Those two donned furry bear-heads and took off ninety-minutes ago. They’ll return with pillowcases filled with candy, enough to eat for months, but will only last a week or two. They’ll try to hit the day-trader house twice.
The late arrivals grab fistfuls of candy. To them, everything left is fair game. They know that the smaller kids are home assessing their haul. Each handful is mostly Whoppers. Our strategy has worked. The good stuff is left for Sophie and me.