Trick or Treat

So I live in a big building with narrow walkways and usually on Halloween the trick-or-treaters go right by. There are big houses full of candy around the corner, after all. And usually Mr. A and I are on the road during trick-or-treating, but last year we happened to be home and saw all the costumes from our windows, and felt wistful that we missed out on the fun of seeing neighbors and passing out treats.

And then I read this, and my head almost exploded:

We had more kids at our door than we ever had in Oak Park! This time the majority of families were coming from Maywood. We ran out of candy in the first hour and I had to send Andrew to the store to scrounge up anything he could so we could continue to give out treats! In conversations we had at a neighborhood party following trick-or-treating, we were given some advice: buy a small amount of “good candy” to give out to the “neighborhood kids” and then buy tons of “cheap candy” to give out to the rest.

I have been quietly watching what happens on the streets of River Forest as I take my kids around on Halloween night and here is what I have found. Some houses give out full-size chocolate bars, gift certificates and soda pop, but only to the “neighborhood kids”. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this practice. On one hand I realize that , for the kids they know, they want to do something special. On the other hand, I think that the only way for most people to distinguish “neighborhood kids” from the kids coming from Maywood is by the color of their skin.

I get that the economy sucks and that not everyone can afford to buy candy for half the city. I’m not shaming anybody for deciding to opt out, close the door and stay inside. But what in God’s name kind of twisted satisfaction does anybody get out of counting out who deserves what candy at the door on Halloween? Every year this happens here too, even though my ‘hood is far from wealthy. Some knob whines to the local paper about “those kids” coming into “our” neighborhood and getting candy. Because those Milk Duds were rightfully mine! You’re actually going to make a federal case out of a popcorn ball? I mean, okay, but … really?

Even if this is true, and even if this gets your back up, there is no real solution. What exactly should be done here? Checking parents’ driver’s licenses for an address in proximity before giving the kid a Twix? Maybe some Republican legislator can pass a law that says you can only trick-or-treat two blocks from your house. Possibly if you are enough of an asshole all those kids will go away! After all, when I was a kid blah blah blah just go watch some TV, would you? Just go watch TV or take a nap or play Scrabble or something. I can’t fathom getting that amped about the candy, and I’ve been eating malted milk balls for breakfast.

Last year I saw some girls up the street with a fantastic idea. They put a card table in front of their apartment building, hung up a sign that said “welcome trick-or-treaters” and handed out sweets all afternoon. So this year Mr. A and I bought four bags of candy (we even had three left by Halloween!) and dragged down the lawn chairs and gave candy to Batmen and a doctor and some teenagers in cat outfits and three ninja daughters with their ninja mom and Smurfette and lots of pirates. Why should we miss out on the fun just because we don’t have a porch or a niblet of our own to take around?

We ran out of candy with about 45 minutes left, disappointing a wee ninja turtle whose witch-hatted sister got the last mini Hershey bar. I apologized to him, and he solemnly told me, “That’s okay. I can share.”


9 thoughts on “Trick or Treat

  1. Halloween has always been a favorite holiday for me. What a treat to see all those kids and shame on anyone who doesn’t want to share their candy with them! The righties are the meanies.

  2. Back in the day, forty years ago, the criticism was kids too old to be out there swooping into the “good neighborhoods” and sucking up all the snackies that the little ones should get.
    People who have kids know who the neighborhood kids are mainly because they have been seeing them every day, so I don’t think it is so very much a racist thing as it may seem. Or maybe it is. The separate treats is a stinker no matter why they do it. If the neighborhood kids are too special for regular treats throw them a party fer cryin’ out loud.
    I haven’t had a trick or treater except the grandkids for the 26 years I have been living out here in the bewilderness. I kinda miss it.
    We do a huge party at the Civic Center and even the “too big kids” are welcome. Trick or treat in the sticks is way too much work for any child. It would take them five hours to get ten candy bars.

  3. Couple things:
    1) I have no problem with putting together special packages for The Midget’s friends around the neighborhood. They run the gamut of “light” through “dark” so I’m a tad pissed at the allegation that deciding to give “good” or “extra” treats to the locals is something based on race. When I was a kid, Mom and Dad made up special lunch bags with treats, gift certificates and such for our local friends and when the kids came to the door, they got those. It was a nice way to show some additional favor to the friends of your kid. I”m apparently not alone in this, as The Midget came home from our neighbor’s house with about a dozen licorice whips.
    2) Separate treats in the sense of “Oh look! A Negro! Get him something from the ghetto bowl” separation is appalling. People should be ashamed of themselves.
    3) Read this column by Eugene Kane about why it is all these “urban youth” are coming into your fine little neighborhoods:
    Then, be very sad about how shitty our world is that a kid who can’t get a ride to your neck of the woods might get shot to death in pursuit of a Snickers in his/her own neighborhood. We had a couple vans of kids that were obviously not from around our area and the kids were what you would expect from people who can’t afford much: hand-me-down costumes, very excited in their rush to the doors etc. And yet, they were all grateful for what we gave out. In fact, we were tossing more into their beat-up bins than we did for most of the kids.
    For us, Halloween was a great excuse to get out and let the kids run around and get some candy. For some of those kids, this might be their only run at candy for the year. They should have as much as they can carry.
    Of all the stupid damned things people should do as a Machiavellian maneuver, Halloween should not be one of them.

  4. Eh, it’s not so much the giving of presents to one’s neighbors’ kids as it is the public declaration of the practice to others as some kind of Noble Protest.
    When my brother and I used to go out trick-or-treating Mrs. Hansen down the street gave us popcorn balls. There was a bowl of candy, too, for everybody else, but there wasn’t any “now YOU get this and THEY get that.” I think that’s what Laura was talking about.

  5. D had to run to the store, too, as we ran out of candy in the first hour. I could tell the difference between the neighborhood kids and the barrio kids, but it never ever dawned on me to give the latter set different or lesser candy. I mean, jesus, it’s one freaking evening of giving – make it good.

  6. If kids come to your neighborhood because they trust you not to hurt them, that is trust you might honor by not treating them like crap.
    So I’m agreeing with you, even though I’m growling.

  7. A funny story about River Forest. A few years ago the lily white extremely rich burb wa in a tizzy because there was a rumor that a “Mexican” family was moving in. (RF was the home of Paul Harvey for decades). Some people said “who cares? If they can afford this place then more power to them”. Others warned about 3 families all crammed into one little mansion, and all teh trouble they would bring, and the lowering of property values, etc.
    Well, the “Mexican” family bought the house but rarely stayed in it because they had another mansion on the north side of Chicago, and other houses around the world. The RF house was recently sold.
    The “Mexican” that sold it was Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano.
    Rich or redneck, they are all just plain old racists.

  8. oh, at en estate sale, a man gathered up all the old jewelry the lady had had. he gave it out at halloween. better for teeth and could be worth something.

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