My kids are grown and I miss Halloween. It used to be so much fun.
It’s not just the door-to-door sugar fest of trick-or-treating that I fondly recall, it’s the excited anticipation, the creativity, the dressing up, the searching for the perfect pumpkin to carve.
I loved the months-long costume brainstorming sessions where my kids tried on every hat, vest, jacket and mask in their dress-up drawer. They could magically turn into an alien, angel, ninja or fire fighter. Occasionally there was a store-bought packaged costume, but usually we got inventive and pieced together outfits with what we already had. There were tinfoil wands and cardboard wings.
Over the years, my sons dressed as a pumpkin, wizard, devil, Cookie Monster (homemade by a babysitter) and every superhero you could imagine.
I always loved how the holiday brought out people’s originality, especially in costumes that you had to think about for a moment to figure out. One year, my son’s teacher wore all black and attached single socks and dryer sheets to her body. She went as “static cling”. Then there was a friend who dressed as a serial (“cereal”) killer; single-size cereal boxes were attached to a belt and stabbed with plastic knives covered with fake blood.
Friends in the suburbs wondered how we did Halloween in the city. They were used to neighborhoods of homes lined up in rows, decked out with witches hanging from their roofs and goblins on their lawns. Gaggles of kids roamed in packs on each block.
Trick-or-Treating in Manhattan
Little did they realize the joy of trick-or-treating in Manhattan; especially if you lived in a large apartment building (or had friends who did). Our building had 15 floors, each with eight apartments, all handing out treats under one roof ... you do the math!
No jackets required whatever the weather outside when you did it that way on the Upper West Side. Ride the elevator with all the other ghosts and goblins to the top floor and walk down, stopping at every apartment offering sweets.
We admired all the jack-o-lanterns and hallway decorations along the way. Sometimes there was a party in the lobby, with even more sugar.
Then, the best part; poring over the sweet stash at the end of the evening, looking for our favorites. Peppermint patties, gummies and candy corn for me, Hershey’s kisses for my husband, and everything else for my sons.
I also miss peeking into my neighbors’ apartments when they opened their front doors, to see what they’d done design-wise with their similarly shaped entryways. Sometimes I’d luck out and get a glimpse of the living room beyond.
It was great when my kids got invited to trick-or-treat in the Lincoln Towers complex. Those huge – and numerous – buildings were ripe for the picking. They made out like bandits, their pillowcases filled to the brim with Milky Ways, Skittles, M&Ms, Heath Bars, Reese’s, Butterfingers, bubble gum and piles of other candies.
The Apthorp on Broadway used to have amazing parties with live music and great food and drink for the adults in their courtyard, while the kids safely hit all sides of the building.
Then there were trips to 78th and 69th Streets, where it was a block-long party with neighbors who pulled out all the stops. And I can’t forget the adorable Halloween parades at the Hippo Park.
But times have changed. My kids grew up and moved out, leaving me with memories of the traditions we shared.
As poignant as it is for me to visit Staples during back-to-school time when I long for fresh black and white notebooks and just-sharpened number two pencils, Halloween also makes me reminisce.
This Halloween, you’ll find me donning a funny hat or clown nose to hand out treats to the little celebrants who ring my bell. Or I’ll get in the spirit and dress up and go to an adult party, leaving a bucket of treats outside my door.
Perhaps one day I’ll have grandchildren and can do it all again.
I can’t wait.
Bethany Kandel is a native New Yorker who has spent most of her life, and raised her two sons, on the Upper West Side.