When Tricks Were Treats!
Halloween night, and thankfully, I am prepared. A week ago, I went to the grocery store and bought two dozen eggs. This was necessary because on Halloween, the Almacs grocery store in my hometown of Blackstone, Massachusetts does not sell eggs to kids. For good reason.
I’ve also painted my eggs black. I’m not sure how much this is going to help. I like to think that the eggs will be camouflaged as they fly through the night sky at their targets, but many of my targets are houses, which can’t exactly dodge the attack. But with some luck, I may find some small, human targets as well on this night.
It’s going to be the best night of the year.
“That’s how you spent your Halloween night when you were a kid?” Clara asks.
Charlie punches me in the arm. “What’s wrong with you?”
Clara, age 10, and Charlie, age 7, are eating grilled cheese sandwiches as quickly as possible so we can begin trick or treating. I thought they might like to hear the story of their father’s childhood antics as they devour their dinner.
I shouldn’t be surprised. Something disturbing has taken place on this planet since I was a child. I had initially chalked it up to my move from a small farm town in eastern Massachusetts to the center of a more conservative, more sophisticated Connecticut, more than two decades ago, but I don’t think the change is geographic. I think the cultural landscape has shifted, and somehow a newfound sense of decency, order, and rigor has not only infected parents but their children, too.
“But what if we all had eggs?” I ask my kids, hoping to light a spark. “You have a dozen. I have a dozen. We go to the cemetery on Halloween and battle it out!”
They look at me like I’m crazy.
“Your mom brought you to the cemetery on Halloween?” Clara asks.
“Of course not,” I say. “No one brought us anywhere. I was on my own on Halloween night. We dressed up in terrible costumes and were off!”
“How old were you?” Charlie asks.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Fourth grade? Maybe fifth grade?”
“I’m in fourth grade!” Clara hisses.
It turns out that I need no Halloween mask on this night. My children are looking at me like I’m a monster.
I try to explain to them that eggs and toilet paper and general mayhem sound outrageous by today’s standards, but I promise that it was a far more innocent time to be a child. You strapped a plastic Spiderman mask to your head or rubbed some coal on your cheeks, declared yourself a hobo, and went ‘a walking. You collected candy along the way, devouring it in fistfuls as quickly as possible, looking for the right target for your eggs and toilet paper.
For me, it was always the house near the bottom of the hill, where an old lady would hand out Chex mix in Ziploc bags.
“Trick or treat!” demands a treat, and repurposed cereal did not qualify as a treat, so every year, she got a trick.
Toilet paper in her pine tree.
“Stop talking and finish taping us!” Clara demands. I’m wrapping my children in the requisite reflective tape in the unlikely event either one of them would ever be permitted (or ever want) to leave our sight for half a second and venture into the road where a driver might not spot them.
Doubtful considering the path chosen for this evening is primarily small side streets and tidy cul-de-sacs.
“What if someone toilet papered you?” Charlie asks.
“Actually, they did,” I tell him. When I was 19 years old, I exited my apartment on the morning after Halloween in order to go to work. I went to the parking lot and walked past a car so covered in toilet paper that was completely invisible.
“That poor guy will be digging out his car for hours,” I thought as I walked to the end of the row. Then I realized: Wait. That was my car.
“See?” Clara asks, “How did you feel?”
“Actually, kind of great,” I say. Two girls, Jen and Sherry, spent hours toilet papering my car, then then they stuck a small block of wood under the windshield wipers with their names written on it, as a calling card.
“You call that great?” Charlie asks.
It was great. Two of my friends spent their time and money on an unforgettable prank. Even though I was the victim, I was kind of happy. They could’ve pranked anyone. They chose me.
Almost 30 years later, I still look back on that morning with such fondness.
My kids look at me like I’ve lost my marbles.
And off we go, to trick or treat.
I spend the night refereeing whose turn it is to ring the doorbell. Reminding my kids to say please and thank you. Saying hello to neighbors who offer Clara special treats to avoid her peanut allergy.
“Pat and Ken always give us the best treats,” Clara says. “You’d really want to egg their house?”
No, not Pat and Ken’s house. Nobody’s house, really. Other than my high school science teacher’s home, there was never much joy in egging inanimate objects.
But if I had a chance, I think I’d like to egg my kids. Break a well lobbed egg atop each of their heads, hoping that the combination of egg, yolk, and shock might rouse some inner ruffian lurking within, desperate to emerge and offer the world a little bit of mayhem.
Sadly, I don’t think that will be the case. For reasons I will never understand, these kids are rule followers. Upright citizens. Respectful, responsible little souls.
This is fine most of the time, but tonight is Halloween. A night for tricks and treats.
Instead, I’m saddled with flashlights, reflector tape, and disgustingly well-mannered children.
Kids these days are the worst.
Matthew Dicks is an elementary school teacher, bestselling novelist, and 50-time Moth Story SLAM champion. He was once brought home by police on a Halloween night after getting caught by his high school science teacher while egging his house. Bad night. Good story.
Sean Wang, an MIT architecture graduate, is author of the sci-fi graphic novel series, Runners. Learn more at seanwang.com.