There are few text messages in this world that would prompt me to ditch a Chipotle burrito bowl and sprint back to campus. These anomalies include: “fountain of youth sprung from burst New House pipe,” “Random Hall milk gained sentience,” and “free pizza at Burton-Conner front desk.” On Halloween night, while taking advantage of the burrito discount, I received one such text of immense motivational caliber.
“Are you still going trick-or-treating? We’re leaving at 8:30.”
This text may seem uninteresting to some and even cringe-y to others. Not in my eyes; this was a summoning, a reminder of the festivities friends and I had planned. When winds sweep September away in a gust of fallen leaves and wrinkled psets, my Halloween countdown begins. I rarely have concrete plans for the night (with the exception of this year), nor do I have set expectations. Rather, the memories of past Halloweens — grade school parties, nights rich with the promise of candy, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown — are enough to conjure up my somewhat irrational giddiness.
As a bona fide college student, I wasn’t sure how (or if) I would celebrate. A week before the big night, my plans consisted of psetting to the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack and checking behind doors for mischievous suitemates. A few days before the 31st, though, a friend suggested we do the unimaginable: trick or treat. Before I knew what I was saying, I found myself squealing an affirmation along with my fellow psetters. The decision was unanimous — we would revisit our 8-year-old selves and wander the streets for candy.
Fast forward to Halloween night. By the time I returned to my floor, I was greeted by the tail end of frenzied costume preparation. Friends wrapped up their duct tape embellishments and scrounged for candy bags as I slapped on some black makeup befitting a panda. An upperclassman in the suite, our surrogate parent, swooped in with last-minute costume help. We headed for the T as a makeshift posse of characters — my panda self was accompanied by two matching skeletons, a soccer player, a ninja, James from Team Rocket, a banana, and “a gift from the heavens” (a boxy costume with an appropriately labeled gift tag). By the time we made it to Beacon Hill, a prime candy neighborhood suggested by my Bostonian suitemate, it was 10:30 p.m. From the lack of excited children, we quickly realized that 10:30 p.m. (though early evening for us) was well past bedtime for most kids. Nevertheless, we’d made the trip; we decided to soldier on.
Up until the moment came to knock on our first door, our excitement was unflappable. We were reliving our golden years, when nap times were scheduled into our school days, when we complained about 20-minute worksheet assignments, when it was acceptable to visit random houses for candy. Faced with the reality of knocking on a stranger’s door, though, our enthusiasm collectively ground to a halt.
We shuffled up the steps together, remembering the herds of sketchy teens in slapdash costumes that visited our own homes on Halloween. We had become those vultures, pecking desperately at the leavings of our childhoods, clinging to those unapologetic days when the scariest thing about Halloween was receiving Butterfingers when Twix was the ideal sugar delivery system.
We knocked tentatively at a few houses, targeting the ones with flamboyant decorations. Together, we weathered a few polite rejections and a number of doors that remained shut. Eventually, though, our knocks were greeted by a pair of small princesses.
“Sorry, we’re out of candy,” one of them chirped as the other fidgeted beside her.
As the door closed, we exchanged a sheepish look. “That felt so weird,” someone laughed nervously, voicing our shared thought as we scuttled away down the street. We took this jarring role reversal — small children turning the teenage trick-or-treaters away from their door — as a sign that we should call it quits.
We could have surrendered and retreated back to campus, but Halloween wasn’t over yet. We needed some sugar in our systems. After unsuccessfully searching for an open shop to frequent, we decided to make the 15-minute walk to Chinatown and settled into a cozy bubble tea place. Clutching our cups of iced tea and boba, we claimed a table by the window and played raucous rounds of Uno with the shop deck for hours.
We left the neighborhood with bags full of rejection. Yet, I found myself as happy as the moment I received my friend’s text. Yes, we didn’t receive any candy; yes, I’d felt trepidation asking for sweets at first; yes, I had to accept the fact that I cannot relive my childhood. Nevertheless, with each closed door, I felt the weight of my self-consciousness lighten.
Though our trick or treating did not go as planned, I had fun walking through Boston, talking with my floormates, and arguing gleefully over who screamed “Uno!” first. Though we could not celebrate Halloween as we did when we were younger, we at least propelled ourselves from our comfort zones and gave it a shot.
I may not have had the Halloween I was anticipating, but I would not trade this year’s experience for any other. Though it was scary to knock on doors as a college student, it is even scarier to think that had we been weighed down by our “failure,” our night together would never have happened. As long as I can still tap into the unabashedness of my child self, the memories I make will at least fuel my eagerness for the years to come. I cannot wait to open my own door to a motley crew of teens one day, to answer their “trick or treats!” with a fistful of the childhood dreams that they (and I) still pine for.
Chloe Yang is a member of the Class of 2019.