Halloween Sugar Rush

This post is a little embarrassing. Perhaps those who have a sweet tooth will understand. Take it with a big grain of sugar, and have a very Happy Halloween!

You never get over being one of 7 children. This can be a good thing– there is always a sibling to call who knows the various strange ways of your upbringing. (Yes, everyone has a dysfunctional upbringing, but some are more dysfunctional than others!) And every family gathering becomes a mini-reunion replete with retellings of family stories that prompt eye-rolls from older in-laws and terror/disbelief from new and potential siblings’ spouses. They can’t say we didn’t warn them!

I’ve been part of a big family for a long time now, and thought I pretty much knew what it had made of me– I’m not the “center of the world,” à la Only Child Syndrome. I’m not the smart/less smart or pretty/less pretty sibling in a binary family reality. I’m part of a clan, and I love that. I do have to acknowledge, however, that there are some issues that go along with it.

Take staying in a hotel: I am constitutionally incapable of passing a restocking cart and not grabbing as many of the little conditioners and shampoos as I can. Believe me, I’ve tried. Even when I’ve had enough money (and perfectly fine shampoo at home), I just have to grab the FREE. I’ve seen people’s eyes widen as I do this but I can only shrug– I know my limits. I remember being a kid at a friend’s house when her mother called us to come for hot chocolate. She and her sister nodded calmly and headed in– 5 minutes later. Where was the urgency? The stress? The fear that it would be ALL GONE?? In our house, between the thought and the action, the deed and the serving of the marshmallows, 5 other kids would have swooped in and scored. Once in a while, for a treat, our mother would buy something like Smurfberry Crunch (I cringe on writing it!) or Applejacks. On such occasions, my sister closest in age and I were duty-bound to shovel in as much as possible as quickly as possible before anyone else could rob us of our right to Smurf-induced nausea.

My husband is actually appalled by how I approach a sample table (that’s a meal, right?). You know your “issue” may be a bit out of control when someone from a developing nation thinks your grabbiness requires intervention. Two years ago we were at a town-sponsored Halloween party. It was in a cold and dark firehouse and since one baby was 2 years old and the other 9 months, it became clear that taking off their coats and putting on fairy wings wasn’t going to happen. Besides, it was too dark to really see and wasn’t that an actual policeman, complete with gun in holster, happily mingling among the bees, witches, and Harry Potters? Was I the only one who saw this as a recipe for disaster? Clearly we weren’t going to stay long, but could the evening be salvaged? As I eyed the heaping plates of home-made doughnuts and local cider as well as ubiquitous bowls of candy, I decided Yes, yes it can.

My husband, sensing which way the wind was blowing, said with apprehension, “You know, this isn’t about the free food.” “Of course it is!” I shouted, grabbing the 2 year old and heading for the doughnut table. “You keep the baby– I can’t get the carriage close to the doughnuts.” Hmm, one doughnut hole in the mouth, one in the bag, and onto the candy. I grabbed a handful of microscopic candy bars from a plastic pumpkin. What IS this stuff? No more “Fun Size,” only ridiculous BITE SIZE? And what the heck do I want with Milk Duds anyway? While musing on the terrible corporate downsizing of the candy world, I noticed a look of surprise and disapproval on another mother’s face. What? What’s wrong? I looked around. Ohhhh, you don’t get to just take some quark-sized Whoppers, you have to play for them. You have to stand in line behind a child dressed as a lamp and wait your turn while jolly high schoolers give too many chances to the 5 kids ahead of you. Come on, he missed it 7 times in a row, just give Batman a mini-mini-mini Snickers and let’s go! Finally, your 2 year old gets up and is expected to toss a bean bag through a hole. This isn’t going to happen. A model of efficiency, I pick up both her and the beanbag and move right up to the target. We shoot, we score, where’s the plastic pumpkin? We get through a few more stations, garnering meager rewards and a compliment from the policeman for my daughter: “Don’t you look sweet and pretty?” Thank you, yes, yes she does, and don’t you look like you’re packing heat? Let’s pass around you on this side.

We get back to my husband who has not yet exhausted his patience. Claiming my third doughnut hole (wrapped and tucked in the baby carriage), I acknowledge that we should call it a day –or a Night of the Undead, as it were…As we load up the kids, I look in the bag. Sigh. I have shamed myself for this, this sad haul of sub-par candy and a few (admittedly very good) bites of doughnut. What, exactly, IS this disorder? Alas, I do not think there is any help for it. When my sister (an inveterate and unapologetic grabber herself) heard about my take of goodies, she just said, “I told you you should have gone Trick or Treating!” I know she’s right. I also know I will be a very efficient Mama next year. But I think I’ll wear a mask….

Has anyone else embarrassed themselves for treats? I’d love to hear your stories.

Catherine Ahlawat

About Catherine Ahlawat

I grew up in Maine, am a teacher and an actor and have lived in New York, California, Vermont, and Italy (where I met my husband, who is from India). We were married in his hometown, and naively thought the cultural differences wouldn't be that big a deal. (!) I write about my experiences as a mom, as well as about what it has been like to bridge such a great cultural divide in our marriage.