BECK: I grew up in a small town in Washington State, my Mt. Vernon. This is right about the time of year when I started to seriously think about Halloween. Not only was it the first real holiday on the fall kid calendar, but it was the day that celebrated all the things I loved: Dressing up in costumes and eating candy. Most other holidays have some sort of candy facet to it, but Halloween is all about giving, getting, and eating candy. Thanksgiving and Columbus Day are great, but whoever thought them up should have figured out a way of eating little boxes of Milk Duds as a main way of celebrating. I’m just sayin’. And being a kid at Halloween in a small town was great, but what happens to Halloween when you’re just about done being a kid? Do you remember that year in your life? Maybe you were 13 or 14? There’s a time in everybody’s life when the joy of being a kid does battle with the pull to leave your childhood behind. A day like Halloween gets caught in the crossfire.

That year came for me when I was 14, I think. I remember it because I dressed up that year as a hobo which, man, I only wore some of my dad’s clothes and an old hat of my grandfather’s. Those were the simpler years, you know, before hobos turned into the homeless. When you’re a teenager, there’s quiet rebellion in the hobo costume, dressing up but not taking it too seriously so your friends don’t call you dork. But to be honest, as too cool for school as you really think all of your friends thought you were, you did seriously miss dressing up. When you are little, your parents dressed you up in what they thought made you look cute. Maybe a little green onesy with a hat like you’re a pea pod in one of those nightmarish photos by Anne Geddes. Does it bother anybody else how they she is a toddler wearing butterfly wings is adorable? I hate those photos. I refuse to do that to my daughter, unless my wife tells me to and then I’m cool with it.

But I digress. When you graduate into choosing your own costumes, when you’re about 6 or 7, for me this was back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, my mom would take me to the Wells drugstore in Mt. Vernon where I would get to look at all the costumes in boxes. You got one of those masks with the rubber band that went around your head with the printed plastic smock that tied in the back. One year I went as Casper, the Friendly Ghost. I didn’t even get the printed Casper. My mom just cut holes in an old sheet. Another I was Batman’s sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder but mainly because they were out of Batmans when I got to the store but the very best years of the Halloween costume are those from about 9 to 13 years old. That’s when the creative juices really start to flow, you know? If your mom could sew, you were one of the lucky ones. If you could dream it, she could make it. Pirates, astronauts, monsters. We scared the bolts off of Boris Karloff, if your mom knew how to sew. Dressing up with your friends for Halloween was kind of like starring in your own little Broadway show. "I always knew he wanted to be in Broadway." All right, keep it to yourself. The best way I can describe it was Halloween was just fun. Those were my good old days.

And then there was the candy. The amateur hour kids used to use those plastic bags printed with ghosts and bats but quick thinkers like me knew that an old pillowcase was the way to go. It was a lot sturdier and held more. Nothing spoiled the momentum of Halloween more than having to make a pit stop at home to drop off some of the night’s loot and run the risk of having your dad say, hey, hey, hey, hey, that’s enough. Oh, is that a Milky Way there?

I grew up back in the days before Fun Size candy bars. And whoever, by the way, thought a tiny candy bar should have been called Fun Size was a moron. Trust me there’s nothing more fun than hearing a full size Snickers from one house drop into your bag onto the full size Three Musketeers you got at the last house. And back then people would still make caramel popcorn balls and you would actually eat them. They were good. Do you remember? Some people would drop little handfuls of loose change. Not my first choice, but I’ll take it. And a few old ladies would always try to pass off aging fruit as a healthy treat. The apples never really made it home. But then one fateful Halloween night you turn into that most frightening of all creatures, a teenager. All of a sudden you’re a tough guy who deep down wants to extend the fun and free candy for just a little longer. But dresses up as a goof. What? I didn’t think about this." Running around and laughing at all the babies trick-or-treating and having all the fun. Somehow at that age we decide that denying our true selves is a necessary part of growing up, and it’s really too bad. But it happens to the best of us. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find the joy of Halloween again when you get older. Maybe it’s through the sparkle in your kids’ eyes as they delight in the pure pleasure of vampire fangs dripping with fake blood or maybe it’s that you’re finally old enough to where you realize you don’t get any points for being cool, not really anyway. Life is hard enough all the rest of the days of the year. We might as well enjoy October 31st for the treat it really is. It is still fun, you know. Every bit as much today as it was back in my Mt. Vernon.