My first Halloween in California is now over. And it was a weird one.
Angie and I stayed in and handed out candy to the throngs of neighborhood kids. Now, I know this is more than a little indicative of the kind of life I've led for decades, but this is the first time in my life I've ever done that. Hand out candy on Halloween, that is. After it got dark here, Angie busied herself in the kitchen cooking another astonishing dinner. She said, "I'm going to be in the kitchen cooking dinner, so you hand out candy while I'm in here." Sounded easy enough. Just hand out candy. No big deal.
Well, I choked. Well, not exactly choked, but I did it wrong. The last time I was involved in the 'candy' part of Halloween (as opposed to the nihilism part of Halloween) I was 10 years old and I held a big bag out and someone put a handful of candy in it. Then I went to the next house and repeated the ritual. So that's what I did as the 'hander-outer.' The door was open (it's California) and I heard a lot of munchkin-like voices yell, "Trick or Treat!" I went to the door, followed curiously by Franny and Zooey, reached into the bowl and handed out huge handfuls of candy to each kid there. They were not in normal clothing. Instead they had on what is called 'costumes.' This is the first thing I noticed. When I was growing up, my parents drank through Halloween. The idea of taking an hour or so to dress up the kids was out of the question. So I always just put some dark make-up under my eyes and went as a 'football player in normal clothes.' These kids had on actual costumes. At first I thought the cast from 'CATS' was at my door. Angie wandered in to the living room as I was handing out the last, heaping handful of candy. I was waving to them and saying in my best Ward Cleaver voice, "Happy Halloween! You guys look great!" I turned around. She had a disapproving look on her face. "What?" I said. "Now what?" She said. I didn't know what was wrong. I thought I'd done great. "What?" I said again. She pointed to the bowl. It was nearly empty. "You just gave out almost all the candy on the first group of kids." I looked at the bowl. She was right. I was horrified. I thought that's what I was supposed to do. "It's six o'clock and we have no candy left." Oh, dear. My mind raced furiously. "You're only supposed to give out one piece of candy to each of them." I thought the CATS cast members had looked a little overwhelmed. "One piece?" I asked, stunned. "Yes. One piece. Now we have no candy for the rest of them." What do we have in the house that I could use, I thought, beginning to panic. I had staples. A bunch of little boxes of staples we'd recently bought. Maybe if I threw them in quickly, sort of covering them up with my hand, they wouldn't know. What else? I had a huge box of 'teeth whiteners' in the bathroom. They came in individually wrapped pieces. The look a little like the mouth guards I used to wear when I boxed. I could throw those in there. I had a whole jar of milk bones in the kitchen for Franny and Zooey. Again, with a little slight of hand, I might be able to get away with that. Franny and Zooey, however, seemed to be reading my mind and were already looking at me accusingly. Damn. My first gaggle of kids on Halloween and I'd messed it all up. Finally, Angie, seeing how stricken I looked, put me out of my misery. She'd planned for just such a contingency and had bought some secret 'back up' bags of candy. She got them out of their top secret hiding place (she knew I'd eat it if I knew where it was) and poured the 'second string' candy into the bowl. It was definitely the Jr. Varsity candy, I could see. The off brand stuff. Instead of 'Snickers' it was 'Snuckers' and had, presumably, a lower grade of chocolate and less nuts in each one. I didn't care. The night had been salvaged by my forward thinking wife. I resigned on the spot. SHE would give out the candy for the rest of the night. I would act as security. Standing imposingly behind her. Talking into an imaginary microphone on my lapel. Looking around hawk-like for snipers. And that's how we did it for the rest of the night.
So the rest of the night went smoothly. Angie handing out the candy, complimenting the neighborhood kids on their outfits, me standing ominously behind her, silently daring anyone to get out of line.
Kids intimidate me. The littler the kid, the more intimidating. When they hold out their bags I see, in my mind's eye, an armed burglary of sorts. I give them everything. Just don't hurt me or my family, I think. It's just candy, I think. We can buy more. Nothing compared to our health.
Honestly, I don't know how actual adults do this stuff (as opposed to me, a guy pretending to be an adult). Things other people seem to know by instinct: handing out candy on Halloween, wrapping presents on Christmas, having people over for dinner and actually eating dinner, mowing the lawn or taking excess tomatoes from the garden to our next door neighbors, leaving a freshly-baked cup cake for the mailman, buying new lightbulbs for the house instead of just carrying around the one left that works. It's all advanced geometry to me.
But I love it. I love it with all my heart and soul. I love learning how to do it. And I have a very patient, smiling, amused teacher. And most importantly, Angie doesn't seem to mind teaching me.
See you tomorrow.