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As a kid I spent a lot of the month of October planning for its last day. For 364 days we were told not to take candy from strangers and for one day we were escorted out to do just that. I would spend all month trying to think of which costume would be that perfect combination of colorful, unique, and awesome that would give people an uncontrollable urge to put a little more candy in my bag than any kid they saw all night. Trust me, when you’re 7 years old, that makes perfect sense. The only time I really got motivated about doing anything involved a) covering up a mistake or b) sugar-laden foods.
The section of Ewa Beach I grew up in was filled with sweet and hard working folks who didn’t have the biggest “Let’s give out free candy to anyone who knocks” budget. I never really realized this until my first year of private school when on November 1st the Kahala/Hawaii Kai kids brought in candies that had beautiful French names and were made from rare cocoa plants found in Tunisia and sprinkled with the shavings of 24 karat diamonds. I had candy corn and Dots. Just in case you don’t know, candy corn is made by a company called Brach’s, who makes 90 percent of their budget in the last week of October. Their customers buy it to give away, not to eat. And Dots are chewy fingertip-looking candies made from sugar, food coloring, and epoxy glue. Both were available for $1.00 per ton.
Also, the costumes were different. After seeing a Niu Valley kid’s Luke Skywalker costume I realized mine was just a bathrobe and a broomstick. By the way, my sisters did not dress as Darth Vader that year, but I constantly felt the need to protect the galaxy from them with my light saber/broomstick. When I think of the time I spent hurting or annoying my sisters, I am surprised they still talk to me.
One costume that you never see on the mainland is the “tourist”. Or, more specifically, the “Caucasian tourist”. Or, more specifically, the “Caucasian first time to Hawaii tourist who bought matching outfits for him and his wife at Hilo Hattie’s right after the plane landed”. Other costumes unique to Hawaii were the Hula Dancer, the warrior, and for the bigger kids the double-hulled canoe.
Once dressed we would reluctantly pose for pictures and then finally head out into the darkness to hunt and gather. Remember candy cigarettes? Today if you want to enjoy those you have to go outside and stand 25 feet away from the door. Then there were Pop Rocks, a chemical reaction that, when eaten with soda, would cause teeth to shoot out of your mouth.
Some people would make treats. There was a guy who would make brownies which we were never allowed to have. Looking back on it I realize the Cheech and Chong poster and Bob Marley t-shirts gave a clue to at least one ingredient. One woman made little musubis. What the hell?! You don’t give candy-craving kids musubi! Unless the ume is a chocolate mac-nut, don’t even think about it.
One of my uncles (I believe he was a second cousin, which in Hawaii is referred to as ‘Uncle’) would make his garage into a haunted house. It was very popular. That’s the beauty of Halloween: one night a year a scary man gets to share his talent with the neighborhood. He would watch horror movies the way my wife watches “Trading Spaces”, for decorating tips (“You know, a few red paint splatters right under this window would really highlight the severed arm”). I went in there one year, and never again. Man, just remembering it means I have to sleep with the light on tonight. And with my binky.
When we returned my parents would begin the inspection process by which they would go through all the treats and take out the ones that were potentially tampered with or looked tasty to them (brownies maybe?) The wait was excruciating. We would watch each candy get picked up and hope it would make it to the “keep” pile. Occasionally we would contest the negating of a candy and try to open up debate on the merits of said piece. But a stink eye would communicate to us that candy inspection was, in fact, NOT a democracy.
Finally, we’d be given the green light to partake in the spoils and the carnage looked like lions on the Discovery Channel. Then we’d bounce around the house like a pinball machine in multi-ball mode. After that it was three hours trying to stop the shakes. Oh, good times.
Now that I have children old enough to trick or treat I really see it through different eyes (meaning I get to do inspection, which literally translated means ‘taking candy from a baby’). Have a fun and safe Halloween everyone. And if any of you head out to Hawaii Kai this year, please save me a French/Tunisian diamond-laced chocolate bar. Mahalo.
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