When I was 12 I went trick or treating for the first time. And I know that sounds weird, but it wasn’t really a custom that my parents observed. They’re from Poland. They were very proud too. When I asked, as a young kid, whether I could go, my mom would say something like “Let me understand. You want to go door to door begging for food? We have food here.” She didn’t get it. And we didn’t live in a neighborhood where there were a lot of kids trick or treating anyway. So it’s not like I sat in the front window watching all the other kids trick or treat. There was our family and the family next door who had kids, and that was pretty much it. And they weren’t even my age, they hung out with my brothers who were older. There was a giant corn field directly across the street from our house, and in the house beside it lived an older couple whose children had grown. So on Halloween I watched the Charlie Brown special about the Great Pumpkin instead. And it kind of wasn’t a big deal.

My mom never bothered to buy candy, because we never got trick or treaters. Then there was the time when a girl from my 4th grade class came to our house—her mom drove her. My mom gave her an apple from the fridge, and I was mortified. I guess it could have been worse, she could have given her one of the raw pork chops she was breading. And that was the only time I remembered ever getting a trick or treater.

By the time I was 12 my friends at school, in seventh grade, realized I’d never gone trick or treating. We went to Susan’s neighborhood. It was me, Susan, Sue, Kristin, and probably both of the Cindys, but definitely one of them, and Jody. We went from door to door and got mounds of candy. We didn’t even dress up in costumes. I had an oversized white shaker knit sweater on that I lived in when I was in 7th grade. I put a belt on my waist to make it different than how I normally wore it. And I put on purple eyeliner, which I wasn’t allowed to wear yet because I was only twelve. And that was my costume because it was completely different than what I would normally wear.

Then we passed the Bergmans’ house. This is not their real name, but they owned the local chain of stores back then. I ended up working there for my first job that wasn’t some overly trusting parent that let me babysit their children. The Bergmans lived in a mansion not far from Susan’s house, their driveway had to be at lease a half mile long. Like, they probably drove to the end of the driveway to get their mail. We could see the front light on, way off in the distance, a sign that they were accepting trick or treaters.

“Let’s go to the Bergmans’ house. They own a store. They probably have mountains of candy. And nobody’s going to walk all the way up there. We’ll score,” I couldn’t contain my excitement.

We walked all the way up the long curved driveway. That driveway was so long it was lighted all the way up. We got to the front door and Mrs. Bergman answered. “Trick or treat” a crowd of preteen girls shouted.

She dropped candy into our bags. She gave us each one of those bite sized snickers bars. Not even the fun size. The bite sized kind. You know, the really small ones. The other girls looked at me as if to say “You talked us into walking all the way up here? For this?”

And then it got weird. Kind of.

Mrs. Bergman invited us in. And she photographed our feet with various food items from her store.

No, just kidding.

She invited us in, and gave us a tour of her mansion. Like, the whole damn house. Except for the basement, thankfully. But can you imagine? “And here’s the dungeon, right next to the shelf where we keep the bite sized snickers. See how the walls and the floor are tiled? With the drain in the floor. Easy clean up.”

It was more like “Trick or treat.”

“Won’t you come in? See? I have a hot tub in my bedroom.” She really did. I saw it.

To this day I wonder why she felt compelled to invite a half dozen 12 year old girls into her house.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.