I was briefly at home between meetings at around 6pm — the time of day when most of the local kids decked out as dragons, fairies and pandas were out with their parents doing the trick or treat thing.
This is the first time I’ve ever had to encounter this custom first-hand. Trick or treat wasn’t a big thing in my community growing up in England. I don’t think I ever went around the neighborhood begging sweets, and I have only the scantest memories of putting on fancy dress. And in this country, until I moved to Denver three months ago, I’ve always lived in massive urban apartment buildings where you simply don’t have to deal with children brandishing plastic pumpkin containers demanding candy on October 31.
In my new reality as a homeowner in a leafy, family-oriented neighborhood, however, I was determined to get into the spirit of things. Though I stopped short of donning a fright wig and fangs, I went to the grocery store on my way home and bought a big bucket of chocolate buttons in festive colors to hand out to the local kids.
That turned out to be a mistake: Not being a parent myself and never having trafficked in Halloween treats before, how was I supposed to know that it’s illegal to hand out unwrapped confections to minors?
I only found this out when my friend Dan informed me, after I’d answered the door a couple of times and blithely shared my candy with crowds of eager small people, that the naked chocolate buttons that I was cradling in a bowl might lead to a lawsuit. “If the kids get sick, their parents might blame the unwrapped chocolate buttons,” Dan helpfully said.
I was incredulous.
When the doorbell rang a third time, I found myself standing on the stoop in front of a gaggle of children asking if I could speak to their parents who were standing in the shadows behind them. “Hello parents!” I said in my most be-nice-to-me-i’m-a-clueless-brit voice. “I’m from England. I don’t know anything about Halloween and I just found out that I’m not supposed to give unwrapped candy to your kids. But these chocolate buttons are all I have. I promise they’re not poisoned!” I said, emphasizing the point by shoving a few of the sugary morsels into my mouth.
I heard laughter from the shadows. My neighbor, Tica, stood on her stoop next door giggling. An adult in a cat costume finally came to the rescue. “I’m Tracy. Don’t worry, I trust you,” she said. The kids grabbed handfuls of chocolate, stuffed them into their pumpkin containers and disappeared into the night. One or two of them even managed to say thank you.
After repeating my performance three or four times every time the doorbell rang, I finally got fed up of making excuses for myself. I switched off the porch light and retreated to my kitchen where I sat in the dark with the remaining candy and a glass of Pinot noir.
Next year, it’ll be mini Mars bars firmly embalmed in shiny wrappers all the way.