Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

A New Jersey Halloween for Joe the Thermos

Trick or treating was quite the endeavor growing up in rural South Jersey. (Yes, there is such a thing as “rural” New Jersey. I grew up on a farm that was five minutes from the New Jersey Turnpike. I am a picture of paradox.) There were insufficient neighbors within walking distance of my house to go door to door on foot in search of candy, so I was at the mercy of my parents’ driving tour of local, acceptable neighbors (i.e., family friends and relatives.)

Of course, my older sister and I were keenly aware of the omnipresent equation for disaster: Candy from Strangers equals Razor Blades and Death. As a result, we made our annual circuit, collecting a majority of traditional goodies intermingled with the unique flourishes of the occasional handful of pennies, the dreaded, non-caramel-coated apple and light bulbs. (OK, the light bulbs never happened. But I think I had a dream like that one time after chasing lightning bugs for three action-packed hours one brisk October night when I was 7 years old.)

My favorite costume from those days of yore would have to be the thermos. Dad brought home a large, cardboard barrel-type contraption. And it just so happened that we had recently acquired a propane grill … of the Thermos brand name. The grill had been ensconced in a cardstock wrapping emblazoned with the company’s name – the perfect thing for any self-respecting thermos to don as a sash.

Of course, there were a few logistical snags here and there, such as the problem that I could only have one armhole due to the large diameter of the opening of the barrel. (I was simply not a wide enough child.) Also, this just so happened to be the one year that the “neighborhood” (a.k.a. the two or three other families in the area with trick-or-treating aged kids) decided to organize a hayride. While it is difficult in the first place for a child to mount and dismount the flatbed attachment of a farm truck, it is all the more challenging within the confines of a large cardboard barrel. More often than not, my disembarking procedure involved two of the parents grabbing the barrel and moving me off the truck, as though I were a shipment of watermelons. On the whole, however, it was the best costume of all time.

On the other side of the exchange, we would always stock up on “fun size” candy – just in case anyone would happen to show up at our house. (At the risk of sounding redundant, I will reiterate the fact that I grew up on a farm. The distance from our neighbors was measured in miles, not feet. To make matters more desolate, there was a cemetery across the street and an abandoned army base up the road.) Over the years, I believe I can recall one person showing up. Ever. Yet we would always have enough tiny-sized candy on hand to employ a small dental school. As a result, we always had candy around the house, as we tried to eat our way through the disappointing attendance before it was time to stock up again for the next year.

Unfortunately, I have not participated in the most famed of Halloween traditions for the past four years here. I missed out on the action freshman year, as a horde of my costumed floormates (the same horde to which I belonged for just about everything I did that fall) visited the embassies in Washington’s diplomatic version of trick or treating. I was on the trick end of that exchange, sitting out the event due to room-confining illness – the same illness that prevented me from seeing Thich Nhat Hanh’s speech. But I heard the Thich-ster turned out to be kind of boring in person, so maybe that serves as the treat to even everything out in the end.

I have been forced now to realize the greatest treat of the Halloween season on a different level. Rather than measuring enjoyment in mini candy bars, lollipops and Smarties, I appreciate the occasion’s proximity to the ending of daylight savings time. This year, the events were aligned rather closely (it was this past Sunday, for those of you out there who have been exactly one hour late to everything for the past two days), and I thoroughly enjoyed my bonus hour of sleep.

Of course, I bet it is a little different now at home. A development of about 70 homes sprung up across the street (next to the cemetery, for those of you who were wondering). I am sure many miniature hellions will demand candy of my parents. And I have a hunch that while my parents will be happy to give away candy to adorable little costumed people, they will be secretly disappointed to lose their annual inadvertent stash.

Just Looking appears Tuesdays in The Hoya.

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