By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist
Diet commercials used to start in January, after people gained five pounds from holiday binging. Now they begin before the Thanksgiving turkey. Maybe they should run before Halloween. That’s when sweets appear in bulk.
Halloween is like the pre-holiday kick-off, but there are no fat busters screaming over the television to just say no to tempting chunks of chocolate. Even bite-sized candy bars have gotten smaller, but the catch is more people seem to be giving them out these days, and in greater quantities. It’s like those new mini-sized Cokes that say “only 100 calories.” But then after you’ve had one, you have to have another because it’s “only 100 calories.”
When I was a child, it was like striking gold when you found the house on the block with the chocolate bars. Now it’s every other house. I don’t know that by actually trick-or-treating, but by surveying my young nieces’ bags of treats these past few Halloweens. I’m just the responsible adult examining goodies for tampering, and sneaking a few Kit Kats and Reeses into my pocket for quality assurance. Adults, always inspect children’s candy, and make sure you’ve got plenty of pockets.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, the goodies. In fact, if your kid has a good game plan (this is where your coaching skills come in), then they can score pounds of goodies in only a couple of hours. Of course, these goodies, especially the M&M’s, Crunch bars, Kisses and Gummy Bears, which will be screaming out to you while your children are at school, “Eat me. Just one won’t hurt. We’re loaded with sugar-free sugar!”
Of course, not all Halloween candy screams out, “Eat me.” Some Halloween candy, like those gooey orange and black paper wrapped, hard-as-brick cavity carvers, scream, “I dare you to just try and eat me! See what I can do to your dentures!”
When your children shop — I mean trick-or-treat, in the same places year after year, they learn where the goodies are. When I was a child, my sisters and I would first do a quick run through our block on North Avenue B in Portales. After that, Mom and Dad would load us up and we’d head to Grandma Emma’s house on South Avenue B, a street full of gold mines.
First we’d visit Grandma Emma’s door, and usually Grandma Madrid would greet us and give us handfuls of candy. Like my parents, Grandma Emma made candy go further by mixing in peanuts. But they were local peanuts, fresh roasted, from Borden’s or Sunland’s, so we always ate them. With Paul and Mark and the gang, our next stop would be next door, to Miss Maldonado’s house. Miss Maldonado always gave us little bags with apples, oranges and nuts, and sometimes even homemade popcorn balls.
We didn’t care much for the apples and oranges back then. We went because Miss Maldonado was Paul and Paula’s “nina,” but I must say I looked forward to the pecans because I’m a nut person. Grandma Emma always had pecans for Christmas, and sometimes Thanksgiving and back then, Halloween was about the only other time I had pecans to enjoy.
After Miss Maldonado’s, we’d hit the road and go up and down South Avenue B, C and D, and sometimes to the other side of 18th Street. Even in the cold, we’d be out, shamelessly seeking tricks and treats from strangers who gladly dished them out. And we’d seek as late as we could. If Dad was following along in the car, we’d keep on until he said it was time to go home. Or one year, when we were on foot and Paul was leading the way, we stayed out until people started to frown and turn off their lights.