“Am I TOO OLD to go Trick-or-Treating?”


This was my son’s earnest question, asked two days ago.  Halloween is next week.  He is in ninth grade.  He’s been ill for much of this “pumpkin patch season,” as we used to call it.  And the weather is exactly the way we like it: reminiscent of crisp apples and crispier nights, of the woodsy breath of fireplaces, of the anticipation of football games and cozy sweaters.  Trick-or-Treating weather.  Yippee! 

“I’m not too old for that?” he asked softly, prepared to be disappointed.

I may be immature (I won’t dwell on the towel I used as a “diaper” for my baby costume when I was fourteen). I may have too much whimsy in me and too many costumes in my closet from the combination of plays, Renaissance Faires, dance recitals and Halloweens.  I may not be the best teacher in this topic of when it is too late to play, to be silly and irreverent, to be imaginative, to knock on doors and chat lightly with new neighbors, to accept a small gift of candy in exchange for the visit—but this is my heartfelt opinion.

Halloween is the only time that we can try on any identify whatsoever.  When else do children and grownups get to choose who they are—male or female, nice or nasty, enchanted or condemned—without disapproval or censure from the world?  Even before motherhood, I enjoyed picking which character I would usurp that year.  Feeling bloated and crabby?  Turn into a blobby ghost or a monster.  Tired of the modern rat race?  Become a pirate.  Need more sex, more bling?  Transform into a belly dancer, a flapper, a gypsy. I don’t care for masks—it’s hard to breathe through the little holes, and I’ll never forget the years of the October wildfires, when the air was so difficult to breathe in the first place.  We skipped Halloween then, though my son was little.  But no fires this year, thank goodness, if he is not “too old” to go. 

What about the other, more mature Halloween options?  Yes, greeting Trick-or-Treaters at our own front door is also a grand thing.  But in the last few years no one has knocked; maybe because our neighborhood has no sidewalks and few lights and thus might be genuinely scary instead of pretend scary.  Who knows.  Maybe the party tradition is taking over—and parties are also a grand thing, especially when you get to wrap loved ones in rolls of toilet paper and admire your handiwork.

Still, it’s not the same.  Sorry: it just isn’t.  Parties are planned, coordinated.  Haunted Houses are wild and fun but crowded and expensive.  Trick-or-Treating, or “guising” is…old-fashioned.  Simple.  Friendly.  It’s the 1950’s transported to our modern age.  Families decorate their houses so differently: a spider web here, a monster or skull there, and maybe lights or groaning sounds or some kind of cat with glowing eyes or a zombie that pops out of the bushes…it’s ALL juvenile.  Which is why we like it.  And it’s not a video game.  Yay!

So: No, son, you are not too old to go Trick-or Treating.  But wear a costume.  And make it a good one, entertaining or scary or original…and have fun. That’s what this country’s Halloween is all about.

And P.S.:  Can I go with you?  Or are you too old for that?

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