Our son John, 14, is on the fence about Halloween tonight. He’s the youngest of six and we haven’t rushed him to put away childish things like trick-or-treating. His friend Will already gave up Halloween two years ago, opting instead to stay home and hand out candy to the younger visitors in his neighborhood. John has made tentative plans but we have the feeling this may be the last time. I know one thing: he’ll be ready to give up Halloween before I am.
You can’t do Halloween without youthful accomplices, either your own or someone else’s. Unless you are invited to one of those adult Halloween parties that require you to dress like a naughty nurse. Was it just yesterday that I was dressing my daughter, now 27, in a pink stretchy and bunny ears? How many flashlight batteries did we burn through as we lurked on the sidewalk, fidgeting in the cold, while our kids ran eagerly from door to door? The parade of costumes is marching through my head, their order blurred by the passage of time: the clown collar and hat I made for my son, now 24; the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Sonic the Hedgehog outfits; the year my daughter dressed as a football player and my son as a cheerleader; the year my Evan-Picone white coat became a pimp’s costume; the ghouls and ninjas and arguments over which costumes looked too bloody; the year son Ben dressed himself as a bag of trash; John’s portrayal of wrestler C.M. Punk last year, in which he looked less like Punk and eerily like big brother Jesse. Last year was the first time we let him go around unsupervised, although it was in a familiar and well-lit neighborhood that could be easily conquered for a quick and generous haul.
As I wrote a year ago, our neighborhood gets few visitors at Halloween because we are on a lonely country road. The small children who once lived next store – the only reasons we bought candy during the last week of October – moved to California last month. Still, as long as our youngest is into Halloween, the Styrofoam tombstone and plastic skull will take their place beside the tasteful mums in the front yard. We’ll gingerly scrape out seeds and pulp from a boulder-sized pumpkin, place a candle inside it and revel in the holiday’s cheesy ghoulishness.
What happens when he is no longer into it? Will it happen next year, or the year after?
Last night I visited our basement freezer and found dozens of candy bars and bags, leftover from John’s adventures last Halloween. We had gorged ourselves last Halloween night, gradually tapering off to one candy item each day after that, until we were sick of sweets. The leftover candy was inedible, tasting of freezer burn; not sure why we kept it that long.
The memories of those past Halloweens are still unspoiled by time. So tonight we will send John, dressed in his Homer Simpson costume, into the darkness once again. We’ll wait for him to return home, hoping for a generous number of Three Musketeers bars. I’ll eat at least three of them and hope we get another chance next year.