If I had to give one piece of advice to a new homeowner, it would be this:
When you buy a house in a new-to-you neighborhood:
DON’T LIVE OUT YOUR OWN CHILDHOOD FANTASIES ABOUT BEING THE ‘FULL SIZED CANDY BAR’ HOUSE UNTIL YOU ASK YOUR NEIGHBORS WHAT HALLOWEEN LOOKS LIKE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD.
I’m not being funny. I’m being for realsy. Let me tell you a little story.
When I was a kid growing up in an idyllic working-middle-class suburb outside of Cleveland, Halloween was the most magical day of the year to me. I would don whatever homemade costume my mom made for me (or made for my sisters and then handed down to me) and with pillow case in hand (you could get more candy in a pillow case than a bucket, I reasoned), I set out house-to-house in our densely packed residential area, coming home with a nice, satisfying bag of loot. There were a lot of kids in our neighborhood, but there were a lot of older people whose adult children didn’t live there anymore, so I suppose that kept the crowds to a minimum. There were always lots of people, I though, a nice steady stream of friends from the neighborhood and friends from school.
When we moved to our new house in Oak Park, just outside of the Chicago, I didn’t ask my new neighbors what Halloween looked like in our neighborhood… it never occurred to me that it would be something different from what I grew up with. I expected it to be busier than any Halloween I experienced while living in the city (when you’re in a third floor walk up, surrounded by many non-married post-college “kids” like yourself, you don’t get many trick or treaters), but I didn’t know it would be the kind of Halloween that we had:
I’m telling you, our street was packed with cars—people coming in from Chicago neighborhoods, just to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood. Minivans would slow—not stop—and I’m not kidding dozens of kids spilled out of the moving cars to go collect candy. When trick-or-treating started at 3p (wtf time is that to start?? Half the kids and parents are still in school… but whatever), throngs of kids, some in costume, some not, started appearing at my door. Throngs. Dozens. Myriad. And I panicked. It was my first homeowner-Halloween so I wanted to live out a fantasy I had as a kid as being the ‘Full-Sized Candy Bar’ house. This was a big fucking mistake. Also a mistake was letting the kids pick out their candy from the bowl. They would reach in, grab handfuls and throw it into their buckets, turning and running, not a thank you to be heard. Sometimes the moms standing in the background on their cell phones would reach in and grab themselves a few candy bars. Hardly anyone said thank you. I was kind of appalled. Occasionally there would be a very polite kiddo that just made me so proud… that kid would get two candy bars.
But I started panicking… by 4:30p, I was down to about four pieces of candy. Seriously? When I ran out, I had to turn off my light and pack it up—we weren’t even halfway through the trick or treating hours! But even turning off the porch light and blowing out the candles in the jack o’lanterns didn’t stop the hundreds of kids from knocking on my door, looking for candy. I felt like such a jerk, standing in my dark house as mobs of kids kept on knocking on the door.
As I went house to house with my own kiddo a bit later, I started talking to my neighbors… “This is insane!” I told one. She replied that yep, this is what it’s like in our neighborhood… she will usually buy 800-900 pieces of candy every year and always runs out before the end of the T-or-T time is over. Houses in the neighborhood had signs up on their doors that read “Sorry! Out of candy” and one had even carved the words “No More Candy” into a pumpkin and left it illuminated on their porch.
So this year, I’ve made this sign, printed it out and laminated it, so that when I run out of our (fun-sized) candy, I can hang this along the bottom of my porch steps, alerting the kids that we have no fun for them anymore before they have to traipse up the stairs. Feel free to do the same!
And yeah… definitely no more full-sized candy bars. I’d have to take out a second mortgage to provide full-sized candy bars for everyone that comes knocking.