Halloween candy that was always given out at the end of class, the parade of costumes at the end of the school day and, of course, the building excitement over the chance to go Trick-or-Treating. Halloween was one of the greatest moments about being a kid! Alright, let me rephrase that: Halloween was one of the greatest moments about being a little kid.
By the time I hit high school, most kids had stopped Trick-or-Treating and would go to Halloween parties instead. Then there was always the dreaded job of handing out candy for your parents which, basically, read as “I didn’t get invited to any cool Halloween parties.” Sad as it may seem, going door-to-door and begging candy was uncool by the time you were a Sophomore in high school – we just didn’t do it.
Not until we met Johnny French.
We were Seniors in high school when Jean came over, to study in the U.S. as a foreign exchange student. That year, we had several different foreign exchange students, but I had the good fortune of sharing classes with Frank from Germany, Tatu from Finland, and Jean who was affectionately nicknamed “Johnny French.” Of course, it doesn’t take a Calculus student to figure out where Johnny was from – just about anyone could do the math.
It’s hard to say how the topic of Halloween and trick-or-treating even came up, but I remember the incredulous look as he leaned forward and asked me, “American kids go up to peoples’ houses and… they just give them candy?” He had a funny way of saying candy, sort of drawing out the “a” sound, so it came out as caaaaaandy. Naturally, we had to have a big discussion about this and, even then, he didn’t believe it was that easy to get holiday sweets. There had to be a catch.
It was the uncool thing to do but… we did it for Johnny.
There was a football game scheduled for that night and Jean loved American football, so we made a bargain with him – We would take him out to the football game if he would come out Trick-or-Treating for an hour, just so he could see what it was like. Alright… we probably wanted the candy too, but we did want our friend to experience this! It was, in our opinion, something as All-American as Chevrolet and hot apple pie. He had to at least give it a try.
It was a hilarious evening, right from the beginning – going to pick up Jean in Joe’s old Duster and the look on my best friend’s face when he saw this tall Frenchman come walking out of his house in his Halloween costume. Johnny French was over 6 feet tall, solidly built, and was now sporting ripped up jeans, a t-shirt, tons of safety pins and paint and, the pièce de résistance – a messy, goopy attempt at a mohawk that smelled suspiciously like Colgate toothpaste. Stomping up to the car in combat boots, he proudly declared, “I am punk rocker!”
Boy… he was something, that’s for sure!
We showed him how we’d go up and ring the doorbells and then yell, “Trick or Treat!” when someone came to the door, but he was soon racing up to the doors like an excited 6-year old, eagerly ringing doorbells on his own. Naturally, there were quite a few startled faces when they saw this large individual on their porch, but Johnny was anything but shy. He was quick to tell everyone that he’d never been trick or treating before, especially when he learned how quickly people gave him an extra handful of candy in his pillowcase upon learning it was his first (and probably only) time, trick or treating. In no time, his pillowcase was over half full and ponderously heavy.
It was a great night and granted us all the insight that, no matter what the in-crowd said, it was still fun to go out trick-or-treating – no matter what your age. Standing testament to this fact was Johnny French who, when told it was time to pack up and head out for the football game, shook his head and argued, “No, forget football. I want to go get more caaaaaandy!”