The trick is never getting too old for the annual treat


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I love Halloween. It’s my second favourite holiday, after Christmas.

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I love Halloween. It’s my second favourite holiday, after Christmas.

In preparation for the big day (today!), I’ve spent the month working with the creative geniuses that are my kids and going back and forth with my stepkids’ mom figuring out how to piece together the well-thought-out (and in one case, kind of obscure) costumes they’ve chosen: Veronica from Heathers: The Musical (the U.K. version), a modern-day version of Lemon Meringue (a Strawberry Shortcake character) and a demon clown.

It’s heartwarming to see the preparation and care the kids have put into their costumes, though the battle before heading out into the night, on whether a winter jacket should go over or under the costume is always a bit of a damper. When I was young, I used to get so angry about how the puffiness of my winter coat ruined the esthetic of my costume. Back then, the absolute horror and frustration of seeing my costume flogged by having to wear it over my coat was a real ordeal for my itty-bitty self. These are real kid problems, after all. So, I empathize with my children when they protest, but we live in Manitoba. It gets cold.

I remember the last time I went out trick-or-treating. I was in Grade 9, and I had been asked to take out a kid from my school who was several grades younger than me. I was not quite a babysitter, but not quite a peer. It was that murky middle ground, where somebody offered up a bit of responsibility to my teenage self, and I scooped it up.

That night I hadn’t planned on collecting candy, because I assumed I was too old to be taking part. I was, after all, a teenager. Instead, I stood at the end of each person’s step, behind the kids I was with, waiting for them to collect their treats. I didn’t wear a costume, though funnily enough, as we wandered from house to house somewhere in St. Vital suburbia, people answering their doors to throngs of costumed kids would ask me what I was dressed up as.

“Uh, nothing,” I’d tell them, at first.

My style back then was an epic concoction of second-hand clothes with loud, and often hideous designs. It was the mid 1990s and I had spent most of my teenage years trying to cultivate a style and make a statement in how I dressed.

When we got to one house, early in the night, I remember the couple handing out candy asking each of us who or what we were dressed as. When they came to me, I told them I was just dressed as myself. They offered me candy anyway, but I waved them off and told them I was just there to watch the younger kids. They insisted, and encouraged me that since I was out there, slogging from door-to-door in the chilly autumn weather, I may as well be trick-or-treating and collecting sweets, too. I think they may have even given me a plastic bag, but I can’t remember. All I know is that their encouragement was the only validation I needed to transform back to being a kid and join in that evening’s fun as though I belonged in it. By the time we were done I scored a great haul of candy, and wonderful memory that would far outlast that haul.

I think about that particular evening, and those people who hold a fuzzy but prominent spot in my memory each year when Halloween rolls around. They were kind and set a good example for me — one that I try to practise now that I’m the grown-up handing out candy.

When a teenager comes to my door, they are absolutely welcome to, and deserving of, the candy I’m handing out.

It makes me happy to see them holding on to this piece of childhood.

I hope you all have a safe and spooky Halloween.

Twitter: @ShelleyACook

Shelley Cook

Shelley Cook
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project

Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

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