Some people are naturally good at Halloween, some aren’t. I don’t mind saying I, personally, suck at it and always have. That may be, in part, due to my upbringing. No one in my family really took it seriously.
I always had the crappy costume in a box that ripped after you hit three houses leaving my ass exposed to the fall chill while I made my candy demand rounds. Those costumes always included a mask with such sharp edges you looked like one of Freddy Krueger’s victims by the time you returned home.
I lived in a massive garden apartment complex in Queens, N.Y., that outer borough of New York City people in other boroughs kissed off as “out on the island,” meaning Long Island. No matter Brooklyn is also on Long Island, but that’s another battle for another day.
My street was one of three that intersected at a single point, meaning you could hit literally hundreds of apartments just by walking around. I’d score so much candy I’d have to make periodic stops at home to dump my bag. Bad move!
While I was on my next round my parents were picking through my stash keeping the good stuff and pulling aside what they deemed the losers—Mary Janes, marshmallow peanuts, Smarties, candy corn.
Oh no, they weren’t going to eat them. What was going on was a scheme worthy of Bernie Madoff. Instead of actually buying candy, they skimmed my sugar proceeds to dump in some other poor kid’s bag.
Like any pyramid scheme, the perps eventually either tap out or get busted. In my parent’s case, once the supply of their ill-gotten goodies was depleted they had to come with something, anything, to satisfy the treat or treaters.
That’s when things got ugly. My father would call for the extreme, and always, unsuccessful, backup plan—the Boston bean pot. It was way up high in the cupboard when they kept their booze, collection of swizzle sticks and matches. Indeed, the bean pot never made an appearance until late on Halloween night when the door bell still rang but the pile of pilfered candy evaporated.
But no one panicked. The Boston bean pot was moved near the door. When the next group of goblins arrived and demanded satisfaction my father gave them a big smile…reached into the bean pot, pulled out a penny and tossed it in the poor kid’s bag.
The bean pot held the ultimate booby prize– hundreds of pennies, saved all year long just for Halloween.
One kid just stood stock still and stared expecting the penny was just a down payment on something better, until an older kid who’d suffered similar disappointment at our door advised the tyke, “may as well move on. That ‘s all you’re fuckin’ getting here.” The little kid therefore learning a new lesson and a new word.
My brother and I tried to explain the penny thing wasn’t working and would certainly lead to some sort of Halloween retribution in the form of eggs on our door or windows, or us getting whacked with crushed colored chalk stuffed in a sock leaving our clothes and faces with clear signals we’d committted some heinous Halloween crime. Hey! It wasn’t us…it was our parents! Tough gezatz, as they’d say back then.
Once I grew up, got married and had kids I made sure we not only had candy in the house, but tons of it! We never ran out. In fact, we always had extra by the time Halloween ended, which is why we always bought stuff we all liked—Kit Kats, Twix, M&Ms—because we’d be snacking on that sugar all year long till we replenished our supply for the next Halloween.
Oh no…we would not be using coinage to conceal our bad planning and we certainly never stole our kids’ candy. I did tell them the story of my father, the bean pot and the pennies, to which they responded quite earnestly, “you do that, Dad, and our relationship is over.”
But damn, now what am I gonna go with all those pennies? I do have some spare nickels…hmm…