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I am 10 years old, sitting cross-legged on the rug by my bed, finishing my homework in eager anticipation of the evening. I am filled with excitement and a sense of possibility. I think I remember this moment and feeling so well because it was the first time I experienced that rare joyful bubbling that exists on the edge of a long-awaited event, a feeling that often, in retrospect, is the best, happiest moment of whatever is about to unfold.

It was Halloween, and my family was having a lot of people over – my friends from the neighborhood and their parents. There was going to be dinner and a pinata and, of course, trick-or-treating. Halloween was my favorite holiday, even edging out Christmas (because it contained no anxiety about the arrival of Santa Clause). In that moment in my bedroom, I felt safe and excited at the same time, like I was at the beginning of something and in the middle of it too, surrounded by life, an eager participant.

I remember nothing else of that night. I can guess the generalities based on years of similar celebrations: people filling the kitchen and den. The moment when the dads assembled all us children in the front room, flashlights in hand, family dogs on their leashes to begin our expedition into the night. The way the neighborhood divided itself into houses we knew, like lights on a grid, and houses we didn’t (which we didn’t go to). The counting out of candy from my plastic orange pumpkin, separating it into piles and trading it with my brother and friends. How I could eat whatever I wanted and how all that sugary treasure was mine, just mine, for once in a year to do with as I chose and not as I was told.

I always ate a lot of my candy at first and then savored it for weeks, drawing out the preciousness of my own private stash. Years later, I remember being shocked at one of my college friends coming back from the grocery store on November 1st with bag after bag of mini candy bars and Skittles bags – all that precious candy purchased easily at a steep discount. Despite having been past trick-or-treating age for a few years (although I held onto it longer than most), it seemed amazing to me that those hard-won treats could be so easily gotten. It was a strange realization that I was an adult and could do whatever I wanted, including buying giant bags of fun-size candy bars and eating them all.

I never did that in particular, but I found a lot of ways to eat food that had been forbidden to me growing up. It was not to my benefit, that compulsive consumption of sugar cereal, ice cream by the pint, king-sized bags of candy every night with my homework, but I kept doing it for years and years because it felt like freedom to me. I saw it as the place I got to break away from restriction and choose what I wanted and when. And not just for one holiday a year.

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