By Carole Townsend | Columnist | Gwinnett Citizen
It’s late October, and we’re smack in the middle of my favorite time of year. From now through Christmas, I’m in my element as a mom and grandmother.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (or THE BIG THREE as I like to call them) are holidays filled with baking, decorating, parties, children, family, and friends. If my mom got one thing right when we were kids, it was THE BIG THREE. No matter what else was going on around us, she made sure that October, November, and December were memorable for her children.
I was telling my youngest just last week about the Halloween costumes we wore when we were kids. No doubt they violated at least a dozen safety regulations in place today, but we loved them. Mom would take us on our annual pilgrimage to the department store every October, and we’d wander the aisles with eyes wide and imaginations firing on all cylinders. Eventually, we would each take home the perfect costume, waiting on pins and needles until that chilly last night of October. Mom would fix dinner – usually, a pot of chili or beef stew, as I recall – and we would race through it, too excited to eat much of anything.
When dinner was over, my siblings and I would race down the hall to don our scratchy, thin costumes and too-big plastic masks (Did any kid’s eyes ever match the eye holes in the masks? Mine never did). Mom would hand each of us a large paper bag with plastic handles, designed specifically for collecting Halloween confections, and off we’d race. All of the neighborhood kids would meet in the back corner of our yard, then embark upon what seemed like hours of doorbell ringing and “Trick or Treat!” shouting.
I can’t remember how many years I was too short to keep my candy-laden paper bag from dragging the ground, but I recall at least two when I got home, threw off the sweat-filled mask, and looked into my bag of Halloween wonders just to find a few straggling pieces left hidden in the corner. Some lucky kid walking behind me got the rest, I suppose.
Eventually, I got tall enough to collect a bag full of candy and bring it all home, to sort and prioritize. Chocolate first, then the candy that was good but not great, and last, the Dots and licorice and weird homemade popcorn balls. It seemed we had a steady supply of candy up until Thanksgiving, at least.
I was in my mid-twenties, my mother long was gone and buried, before I realized just what a scam my parents ran on their trick-or-treating offspring in the early years. I’m betting other tail-end baby boomers suffered the same trickeration at the hands of Mom and Dad: the dreaded “candy check.” Until I understood the scam, I had just assumed my memory was a little foggy; don’t people usually polish up their childhood memories to near shiny perfection in their adult years?
See if this sounds familiar: after a couple of hours of grueling work trick-or-treating, running from yard to yard and avoiding the bullies at all costs, we would walk in the front door and inevitably be stopped by one or both parents. Armed with horror stories of apples with hidden razor blades, candy that had been unwrapped and laced with dangerous hallucinogens and such, Mom and Dad would tell us that, for our own good, they had to perform a candy safety check. We had to dump out our sacks of precious empty calories and submit to a piece-by-piece parent inspection. Now here’s the scam…it was always, ALWAYS the best chocolate that showed telltale signs of tampering. “Oh, no, this one looks like it’s been unwrapped,” she’d say, tossing aside a Snickers or Reese’s peanut butter cup in the “parent” pile. “Nope, dangerous,” Dad would mutter.
When candy check was over, we’d stuff the sad little pile of candy that was left into our bags, listening to our folks shaming the sickos who would tamper with candy to harm an innocent child. ”What’s this world coming to?” they’d ask, shaking their heads. The next morning, the pile of Grade A chocolate would be gone; I always assumed they had dutifully thrown the poisoned treats in the trash.
Honestly, I was near thirty years old before it dawned on me that they had actually sorted through our hard-earned stash, picked out their favorites, then unwrapped and devoured them while we slept. There would always be candy wrappers in the trash the next morning, but not the actual candy.
I guess they were smarter than I gave them credit for. Wish they were still around for me to tell them that.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was named Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with loving humor about the South. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she's not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South. Follow Carole on Facebook (Carole Townsend-Author), Twitter @caroletownsend, or Instagram @carole.w.riter.