Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Best Halloween Ever.

On Saturday, we had the best Halloween ever. It was a pretty simple night; we carved a pumpkin, went trick-or-treating with friends and their little boy, grabbed some food on the way home, and watched Hocus Pocus until our eyelids grew too heavy to keep open.

In order to understand why this pretty normal-sounding Halloween was the most awesome Halloween we could imagine, I will tell the story of our other Halloweens.

Our pre-kid Halloweens were pretty lame afairs; we never got invited to parties, so there was never any reason to dress up. We never got trick-or-treaters at the apartments we lived in. The one time we tried to have a Halloween party of our own, hardly anybody showed up and we were left with a keg of beer and a freezer full of Jell-o shots. Halloween had been my favorite holiday when I was a kid, but once I reached grown-up status it just left me feeling uncool and unfulfilled.

Once Piper came along, we had a reason to look forward to pumpkins, candy, and all things spooky again. However, her first Halloween did not turn out so well, which really upped the ante for the following year's festivities. Not only would it be her first trick-or-treat (at 16 months, she was old enough to enjoy dressing up and carrying a plastic pumpkin, even if there was no way we were going to let her have all the candy), but we had a crappy first Halloween to make up for.

I scored a bat costume at Old Navy the weekend before Halloween for just $5, which was good, because prior to that we were sort of clueless about what to dress her up as. My mom had sent not one but two cat costumes, which Piper was intrugued by. However, they were far too large and had way too many pieces (main body suit, tail, hand pieces, foot pieces, hood) for either one to be practical. So bat it was.

I dressed her up and took some pictures outside while the light was still good. We waited until dark, nervously anticipating the first doorbell ring. We had bought candy and handed out a few pieces while wrestling the little bat back into her costume. Since it was her first trick-or-treat, we both wanted to take her. We put some candy in a pumpkin bucket on the front porch along with a little sign I had made:

We figured this would hold them for the 30 or so minutes it would take to walk Piper to a few houses up and down the street. We'd only lived in our house less than six months, so we were just going to hit the houses of neighbors who waved "hi" most often and then call it a night.

We turned on the porch light and set off down the sidewalk. We didn't even get to the edge of our yard when a group of kids came up to our door. I turned to watch them, hoping our honor-system candy dispensary would meet with trick-or-treater approval. I heard rustling and a whoop, and dread crept into my chest. More noise came from the group and the kids started to scatter. I felt my stomach drop to somewhere around shoe level. I started back across the yard toward the group of kids, feeling horror-struck and confused.

"They jacked all you candy!" yelled one girl as she hurried past. "It wasn't me, they took all you candy! They jacked it all!" The group of kids streamed past me, and one of them kicked the tiny pumpkin we'd carved for Piper. It spun like a top and wheeled out into the yard, its lid flying into the darkness beyond the porch light.

I looked at our front door area. The Halloween pictures Piper and I had colored together earlier were still taped to the door. My naive little sign was still there, too, hanging above the now-empty candy bucket. It lay on its side, forlorn in the yellow glow of the porch light. I picked it up and unlocked the front door, then put it just inside the doorway. I took down the sign and tossed it inside the house, all the while trying not to cry.

I felt dumb for being so shocked, but I couldn't help it. The very first group? Really? While we stood at the edge of the yard? I didn't understand how those kids could be so...callous. Hadn't they seen my charming sign? Didn't they care about the time it took to carve the little pumpkin they had just used as a soccer ball? Wasn't this just a fun night, not a symbol for the limitless greed of poorly-parented children?

I like to play the supreme cynic, but, as I discovered that All Hallow's Eve, it turns out that underneath it all I still assume people are basically good. And I was wrong. It was also one of those times when you get slapped hard in the face with the knowledge that the world does not think the way you do. I would have never, no matter how rabid my thirst for chocolate, have EVER taken more than one piece of candy. Even my little brother at his most candy-hungry or my all-her-teeth-are-sweet-ones sister would never have dared. We would have known that God could see us, and our mother, and our own consciences. We would have known that it was wrong, undeniably and unquestionably wrong, to take more than our share. To find so many kids who did not have those checks and balances, kids who were living in our neighborhood and would be my daughter's schoolmates one day, was more than disappointing. I felt crushed.

So I took her up one side of our street while Ryan stayed home and handed out candy. I walked with her up to the first house and giggled as she held out her little plastic pumpkin and chirruped "tweets!" We'd been working with her for a couple of weeks, and this was as close as she could get to saying "trick or treat." Our neighbor three houses down chuckled and put a tiny candy bar in her bucket. Piper peered over the rim of the bucket at it, then looked at me with big round eyes. By the third house, she was running up to the doorways and confidently saying "tweets!" all on her own. We did the west end of our street, then I traded with Ryan and he took her up the eastern side. She got enough candy to fill her little bucket halfway, and we even let her have some (after, of course, we *ahem* checked the quality on several of her mini-Butterfinger bars). The rest of the night wasn't bad, but even with all the good stuff, the sour feelings left by the candy-robbers lingered, for me at least.

This year, when a friend invited us to come to her neighborhood and trick-or-treat, I jumped at the invitation. Right then and there, I made the decision to leave our neighborhood in the dust as far as Halloween was concerned. Our feelings about living here have grown steadily more bitter over the past year, for several reasons (like, oh, I don't know, our neighbor's stupid dog killing our beloved cat, for starters) and I just wanted to go somewhere else for the night.

And you know what? It was fantastic. Our friends' little boy is only 13 months old, so he spent a lot of time tugging at his costume and staring saucer-eyed at the parade of costumed kids as we wheeled him around in his little red wagon. Piper had a great time, alternately riding with him, walking up to the houses, and being carried around. We hung out with our friends for a little while after the kids had had enough, and then we picked up some food on the way home and watched my favorite Halloween movie. It was pretty much exactly the Halloween I envisioned.

I hope yours was as good as ours. Welcome to November!

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