BY CAROLINE GENTILE
Making up for lost time.
I walked into CVS the other day and was caught in an avalanche of candy. After clumsily bumping into a shelf, bags of candy cascaded down on top of me. I was literally hit with the reminder that Halloween is just around the corner; the glorious time of year when the aisles of convenience and grocery stores are overflowing with candy corn, Reese’s, Twix, Nerds, M&Ms, Hershey Bars, Twizzlers, and more — king-size and fun-size alike — waiting to be bought in bulk and distributed to costumed youngsters on Halloween night. Trick-or-treating is one of the many joys of a truly American childhood. But it’s just that — American. Go to any other country, and Halloween is just October 31st, not the greatest day of the year for sugar-crazed children and CEOs of candy companies. It’s tragic, especially for the American children in these countries.
I have lived abroad for almost half of my life, between the ages of four and eleven (prime trick-or-treating years, might I add!), and know firsthand the lackluster attention given to Halloween. While I would never trade the experience of growing up in places like Paris and Melbourne, the one regret I have is missing out on the classic American trick-or-treating experience. Getting dressed up in crazy costumes with your friends, hitting the streets of neighborhoods expecting to get at least a thousand trick-or-treaters as soon as it gets dark, fighting through throngs of other trick-or-treaters to get to the front porch, filling plastic pumpkins to the brim with candy, then going home to sort the candy and eating it until you swear you’ll never touch candy again. Some people dream of a white Christmas, myself included, but another one of my dreams is to have that perfect Halloween experience. No matter how hard I tried in France and Australia, I simply could not replicate it. And trust me, try I did.
In Paris, I went to an international school, so there was definitely some Halloween fanfare, for which I was grateful. I’ll give it to Marymount — they gave a good-faith effort in attempting to give us American ex-pat children a true Halloween. We could come to school in our costumes and, on Halloween night, they arranged so that everyone could go trick-or-treating in a part of one of Paris’ arrondissements that was heavily populated with Marymount families.
But there were always kids who weren’t American who didn’t partake in the Halloween festivities at school. And the disgusted looks of the bewildered French people as you wandered the streets in your ridiculous Buzz Lightyear costume definitely put a damper on the trick-or-treating. The candy was also atypical. There were no Reese’s or Twix. Instead, there were Kinder eggs and Turkish delights, which, admittedly, are pretty good, but what bothered me was that this wasn’t the candy my counterparts in the States were getting in their plastic pumpkins. It just wasn’t the same.
Halloween in Australia was even worse. I didn’t go to an international school, so there were no special efforts made to give me an authentic trick-or-treating experience there. It was all on me. Every year, I roped my best friend into “trick-or-treating” with me. I use quotation marks because our experience was so far from normal that it wouldn’t be right to deem it trick-or-treating. Yes, we got dressed up, but as for actually obtaining candy, which is the whole point, we were mostly unsuccessful, no matter what neighborhood we tried.
My neighborhood would seem ideal since it was densely populated with lots of houses with short driveways, but the inhabitants of these ideal target homes were clueless about Halloween. When I wasn’t greeted with a blank stare, I was given money. While it sounds great to get money just for knocking on someone’s door, it sucks when you’re expecting candy. The feeling is comparable to the one you probably get when you drink Sprite thinking that it’s water — unpleasantly surprising and somewhat disappointing.
My friend’s neighborhood, though more spread out, was slightly better in the candy department. We got a whole bag-full of candy one year! And some of it was American! But it wasn’t actually that much candy, and we had to work for it. We walked up giant hills and driveways on our candy hunt, and were mostly dismayed to find that after walking up those driveways, the homeowners weren’t home or didn’t have anything for us. However, there were a few diamond houses in the rough that had, for lack of a better measurement, shitloads of candy. We took our loot home and ate all of it in one sitting once we were done trick-or-treating. In my perhaps extreme opinion, though, I thought that the sign of success in trick-or-treating is having so much candy that it would not be humanely possible to finish it all at once. A girl can dream, right?
Maybe my expectations for Halloween were too lofty. After all, it’s not like I flat-out never got to celebrate Halloween while I was abroad. In fact, I celebrated it every year. But part of me has always felt like I missed out during my prime trick-or-treating years. When I finally moved back to the United States, I was in 6th grade and reaching the age where it’s no longer socially acceptable to trick-or-treat. Knowing it was probably my last year to trick-or-treat, I went all out. My friends and I went as Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, and Ernie from Sesame Street. Armed with two pillowcases each, we hit every house in the neighborhood, strategically planning our route to avoid the masses. We even went to the houses with the hidden driveways, knowing the extra effort would yield King-Size treats. At the end of the night, we compared our booty, and tried to eat it all, but hadn’t gotten through half of it before our stomachs felt like exploding. In short, it was a perfect Halloween — one that made me realize my expectations for trick-or-treating were justified. Although it would have been nice to have had seven more just like it in the years prior, I’m glad I can say that I’ve had the classic American Halloween experience at least once. And luckily, I have younger siblings who still need someone to take them out trick-or-treating…
Caroline Gentile ’17 ([email protected]) will be masquerading as a minion this year.