No Trick: A Thousand Treats
A whole new level on all hallow’s eve
After eight years of renting, I finally closed on my first home on Euclid Avenue in Fairfield last fall. I had scheduled the duct cleaners, the floor sanders, the chimneysweepers, and the house painters. But I had no idea that the most important thing—the only thing, really, that mattered—was buying the candy. That’s right: buying the candy.
On the afternoon of the closing, my neighbor, Jon, beckoned me across the street with a wave and a kind “hello.” His first question was one I would hear a dozen times over the next few weeks: “Has anyone told you about Halloween?” Jon explained that the previous year, he, his wife, Evelyn, and their son, Jack, had handed out a thousand pieces of candy. A thousand pieces of candy? I smiled, nodded, and made all the right sounds with my mouth, but I didn’t believe what Jon was telling me. A thousand pieces of candy?
I’ve been an English teacher for more than 15 years. I know hyperbole, and this was hyperbole—right? But Jon assured me that he was telling the truth. “A thousand pieces of candy,” he said again. So a few days later, I bought a thousand pieces of candy. The grand total? $165.96.
As dusk began to settle on Halloween night, my next-door neighbors, Tim and Liz (“Has anyone told you about Halloween?”), suggested that I forget answering the doorbell and instead settle in on my front stoop for the night. But as the sun began to set, the doorbell remained silent. I sat at the dining-room table, eating an early dinner and watching Children of the Corn on a television propped on a plastic storage box. A bag of Halloween candy—one of ten—sat patiently by the front door.
Do you remember that scene in Children of the Corn when Burt and Vicky are walking around the empty town, and everything is covered in cornhusks? That’s when the doorbell rang. It made me jump. I got up from the table and walked toward the door, where a Minion greeted me. “Trick or treat!” the Minion said. “One piece each,” Jon had warned, “or you’ll run out!”
When the Minion and its mother had left, I looked up and down the street. It was empty. A thousand pieces of candy, I thought, looking down at the bulging bag of Hershey’s bars in my left hand. Yeah, right.
Twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang again. But this time, I was greeted with a far different sight: a horde of costumed children descending from the northwest. Briefly, I thought back to Children of the Corn, hoping that my evening would turn out better than Burt and Vicky’s.
Over the next two hours, I sat on my front stoop and delivered a piece of candy each to over a thousand trick-or-treaters. I saw tigers, policemen, zebras, princesses, and a few Jason Bournes. And every single one of them said “thank you.”
Another little Minion, a girl who couldn’t have been more than five years old, trotted up to my stoop. After she stuttered through the traditional Halloween greeting and I dropped a piece of candy in her plastic pumpkin, the woman behind her leaned over. “Thank you, sweetheart,” she whispered to me as she gestured toward the little girl. “We’ve only been fostering her for a week. She’s never been trick-or-treating before, but she’s getting the hang of it.”
Stratfield volunteer fire chief Jason Prevelige told me that his firemen started handing out candy from a bowl 15 or 20 years ago. Now, he says Halloween has “turned into a great community event.” Stratfield firefighters close the street, open up the firehouse for tours, and pass out bags of candy and fire-safety information to trick-or-treaters and their parents. “It allows us to have that public interaction.”
When I asked neighbor and historian John Uhrynowski why he thought the event was so popular, his answer was simple: “It’s a family neighborhood.” Uhrynowski says that this community has always been this way—and he remembers when the streets were paved with dirt and Stratfield boasted a casino.
This year, I’ve already ordered my candy and have extended an invitation to friends: “If you’ve ever wanted to experience a thousand trick-or-treaters, come on by!”
And I’m going to order more than a thousand pieces this year. Just to be safe.