As an individual piece of candy the Tootsie Roll is fine. It’s a classic. It premiered in 1896 and has remained a candy staple for decades. You can’t deny its chocolatey, chewy goodness. There is, however, a time and place for the Tootsie Roll like the everlasting candy bowl at the office or as a sweet treat after dinner. As a Halloween trick or treating staple? Unless it’s a giant handful of them — not so much.
As a child, I adored Halloween. Not so much for the costumes. I usually created my own costumes the night before like the literary character, Pippy Longstockings, or a mash up of mixed and matched clothes from my mom’s closet. I made an effort with my costumes, but I loved Halloween for the candy! Truly. If I could have gotten away with putting hosiery on my head and calling it a costume — I would have. My mom encouraged the creativity and some years actually challenged me to top the prior years’ idea. I never could beat Pippy Longstockings until I was an adult as Marge Simpson!
But, OH!, that candy!
It was that bag full of sugary, chewy, yummyiness that was the end-all-be-all for me. I loved coming inside from a long haul around the subdivision and dumping my collection on the floor and just staring at it. I usually sorted the best from the worst based on my preferences. The best type of candy varied from year to year, but the worst was always the same. The worst were those cheap peanut butter flavored chews. You know the ones. They were wrapped in black and orange paper and tasted like stale bread soaked in sugar. It was the signal that whatever house you were at that handed them out were instantly marked off the list for next year.
As in years past, and in the years following 1990, I was in the best subdivision for Halloween candy in my hometown. For the parents, it was safe and comfortable to take the kids. There were fewer concerns of harm coming to a child. Adults watched out for all children — their own and those they had never seen before or since. Children loved it for the candy, countless yard decorations, and streets upon streets of Willy Wonka child-like generosity. In a word, it was safe.
So when you’re that young it makes sense to equate outlandish and extravagant decorations with the mother load. Right? Yeah. I don’t know what my costume was that year. Nor do I know who I was with, what street I was on, or the color of the house I was at. What I do know was the disappointment I felt for an unmet expectation. It was probably an unrealistic expectation, or maybe, a child-like desire for my wishes to be reality. Regardless, I learned a lesson. A lesson I didn’t fully comprehend until I was an adult and on the other side of the moment.
When there’s a crowd at a house on Halloween night, there is bound to be something good there or at least worth seeing. This is what drew me to this house. There was a line! Oh my, there’s bound to be something cool there. I remember being directed towards the end of the line by someone in something black: a witch or vampire. There’s really no telling. As I stood in line, my anticipation grew. There were thoughts of Snickers, Milky Ways, or PayDays. The big ones — the kind that required you to behave at the grocery store as a reward for not bugging the crap out of your mom while she’s shopping for dinner. (God bless you, Momma, I had no idea how a day can take its toll on you.) As I’m waiting in line I can hear scary music — Frankenstein movie-like music. I heard organs, witches cackling, a wolf howl, and a creaky door. It was the quintessential music for Halloween.
There was also dry ice fog billowing from front door lit by a black light and guarded by a mummy. As I followed the line that runs the length of the wrap around front porch, my excitement continued to grow with each step. The fake cotton cobwebs startled me as I got lost in my daydream of the candy I was about to receive. A hot dog barks at my ankles. Literally. It was a little dog dressed up as a hot dog! My excitement continued to grow. I neared the front of the line and I could hear others happily, cheerfully say “thank you” as they hop down the makeshift steps the owners had created for the night’s event. At the front of the line there was a black blob moving about at the end of the porch. In nearing closer, I realized it was a gorilla. The gorilla — the big man, had the goods! I could hardly contain my excitement and it took the little cheerleader behind me to get the line moving again. It was my turn! My heart was pounding. My hands were shaking. I could barely eek out the required “Trick or Treat” for the candy. As I stood there, I could barely see from the lamp light coming through the window the large, black hand sliding forward on the table he was sitting at. He slowly moved his hand back to reveal my treasure trove that — wait! What? A Tootsie Roll? A stinking mini-Tootsie Roll? One. Single. Mini-Tootsie Roll. Are you kidding me? That’s all I get? What?
Dejected. I spit out the required “thank you.” I’m good girl. That’s what good girls do, but inside I was disappointed. Why? Why go to all that trouble and cheap out on the one thing I’m there for? I don’t care about the experience. It’s the goods I’m after! I’d be much happier with a simple porch light on and single serving bag of Skittles. Really. It’s true.
It’s true to this day. It is more about the experience today, but when it comes to Halloween, my porch light will be on. I may or may not be dressed up, but I promise you I will have the good candy. There will be none of the peanut butter chews and most certainly never, ever, be one single mini-Tootsie Roll when I’m on the other side of the door. You see: Halloween is still about the candy.
So tonight, please be careful. Be safe. Be smart. Enjoy. And may there be more than one single Tootsie Roll at every door you knock. Here’s to the good candy!