For years and years, more than 45 of them in fact, I have been saving something. It hasn’t accrued interest or gained value, but it is precious to me – so much so that every year about this time I debate whether to get it out and use it up, or leave it for another, better October. What is this treasure, you ask?
It is … one night of trick or treating.
Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to October, 1967 and Bethesda, Md., where young Mike Redmond is planning his Halloween strategy. It is three days to Halloween and he is ready. He has the costume (Dracula, his old reliable for the last three years); he has the candy bag (one of those big department store shopping bags from last Christmas); he has the route planned (once through our neighborhood and then on to the bigger houses where, it is rumored, the people are so rich they hand out full-size Milky Ways).
He also has a slight headache, a bit of a chill and a cough. Or, as it is called by the doctor the next morning when it has exploded into a full-on 104-degree fever and a diminished ability to breathe, pneumonia.
So much for Halloween. Under no circumstances will our young vampire be allowed to swoop through the streets of Bethesda this All-Hallow’s Eve. You can’t very well swoop when the very act of sitting up in bed to take your medicine makes you woozy.
My disappointment was palpable. Not only had I perfected my Bela Lugosi impersonation (“I vant a treat or I’ll trick”), not only had I found the perfect candy bag, but I was butting up against a family rule that said no trick or treating after age 13. I had just turned 13. This was to be my last Halloween Hurrah.
I tried to argue that I felt fine and that I probably had walking pneumonia, which meant I could still be a trick or treat vampire if I wore enough sweaters. Mom, always the unreasonable one on matters like this, refused to even entertain the notion. So the last Halloween on which I could trick or treat, I stayed at home reading comic books and coughing up a lung while everyone I knew went out to extort candy from the neighbors. It was unfair. I was owed a trick or treat night. I still am.
As far as I’m concerned, that last night of trick or treating has been suspended under glass all these years, just waiting for me to take out a hammer, break the pane and claim what I was denied. Every year since then it has crossed my mind that I should just get out and do it, although as I have grown older I have added the idea that it should be in a city where nobody knows me. A man my age trick or treating would tend to raise some eyebrows to say the least. That’s the reason I probably won’t do it, ever. But I kind of like the feeling that I could, by the logic cooked up in my fever-addled 13-year-old brain. Although, I’d have to get a new Dracula costume.