It was our older son, Sam on the telephone. "Mom, since dad's out of town, why don't you come Trick or Treating with us? It's Sarah and Matthew's first time." I think Sam worries about me when I'm at home alone. He is now thirty-something, and these moments when I sense his desire to take care of me are disorienting; a flash of a future time when child becomes parent.
When I arrived, Sam and his wife were attempting to cajole the children into eating their dinner - "If you take just a few more bites, you can have some candy later" they pleaded, but Sarah and Matthew weren't buying it. They were preoccupied, grumpy and excited, all at once. Sarah, still bleary-eyed from her afternoon nap began to squeal and point at Matt, who was jumping up and down in his booster chair, shouting over the adult's conversations. "I have to have my pumpkin bag or I won't get candy! Who moved it?" he wailed.
My grandchildren were Halloween newbies, so the older children in the neighborhood had been schooling them. The important thing to remember, they had advised, is to not waste time. If the front porch light is on, they have candy. No light, we just keep going. Got it?
The sound of the doorbell caused both of the little ones to squirm, demanding to be released. The parents realized that they were defeated; dinner would be abandoned, prepared in vain. As Matthew wiggled into his Elmo costume Sarah became an adorable little Duckie. I answered the door and the neighbor girls entered, costumed as a beautiful young angel and goddess. They asked if everyone was ready to go, the essentials were quickly assembled and off we went into the night.
Matthew ran to keep up, trying to remain focused on instructions from the older girls. ... Don't miss this house; they always have great candy... these people always have creepy music playing.... watch out for the dog at this one - he won't hurt you, but he's big and he looks scary. The Halloween Coaches were taking their mentoring roles very seriously. This was a big night.
An older couple in the neighborhood, the Millers were having a big night too. Although they were moving very slowly, they were suddenly filled with life when they saw the children. They looked like someone's great grandparents, and it was obvious that they'd been together for their lifetimes. They pointed out the details of the children's costumes to each other, sharing observations about each one and commenting to the parents about the beautiful faces of their children. Unlike the elderly residents in the neighborhoods of my childhood, the Millers don't see these children every day from rocking chair vantages of the front porch. The homes in this ultramodern neighborhood don't even have porches.
"May we take their pictures?" Mr. Miller asked. The camera flashed as Elmo began to recite what he'd been taught that day... "Trick or Treat! Thank you! Happy Halloween!" Sarah, comfortably perched on her daddy's hip, stuffed another handful of Junior Mints into her mouth. "More joom-a-nints?" she asked, chocolate dribbling down her yellow furry belly.
"Come on, the next house gives money!" the angel and goddess urged. When pronounced correctly, their names are Lisa and Lindsey, although my grandchildren say their names with a "W" instead of the "L". Weesa and Windsey's mom said that she thinks the girls might be getting too old for Trick or Treating. I could hear the melancholy feelings in her voice and I thought of my own little boy's final Halloween nights. Time, time is indeed ticking away, to borrow a line from Don Henley.
Upon reflection, I realize that I'm feeling a bit melancholy too. I think of my grandchildren ten years from now, passing the torch to two new neighborhood apprentices, and of the Miller's camera being packed away for the last time with the rest of their things. As I think of tonight's adventures and as I look a little deeper into the future, I don't get those disoriented feelings. I see the elderly versions of my husband and me, staying up past our bedtimes, getting the candy and camera ready for our big night. Through the years, we'll be guided along the way by our own angels and goddesses.