The pumpkins have arrived. Costumes that have been discussed for weeks are getting picked out for fixing and fitting. And final plans are being laid, as serious as Marines storming a beach. In spite of its careful camouflage, the neighborhood is about to be invaded, flanked, porches will be swarmed, pesky pooches evaded, targets acquired and taken.
Everywhere youngsters are rip-roaring ready to fill overflowing sacks with sugar, heavier than they can manage to lug themselves. Halloween. The candy makers holiday.
This year my twins, who’ve outgrown princesses and witches and Disney characters, are even too old for trick or treating for candy, and for the first time, they’re made up helpers, to walk the younger two.
‘You can’t eat candy til you get home’, I hear them scolding my youngest daughter, who looks as fully surprised and let down by the news as a fisherman who finds his lake’s been drained bone dry.
‘Maybe one piece’, I say. Maybe there’s still fish in there yet.
‘We check all the candy when we get home, and then decide what candy to keep, and what to give away’, they continue.
‘What?!’ my youngest says, now truly alarmed.
‘Don’t worry,’ I say, trying to signal the twins to cut it off. It’s not something we make a big deal about. The girls catch me drawing a hand across my neck and take the hint.
It is the rule, however. We decided on it to keep the kids from gorging themselves for days on sweets. Or hoarding and sneaking, then showing up for dinner with no appetite at all. Like someone else I vaguely recall.
And, because, truthfully, my own kids don’t spend time after school running and playing til it’s so dark you can’t see a ball, the way we did.
‘You’ll have plenty of candy, believe me,’ I say to reassure her. More than plenty. How much more sugar does a child actually need a day, anyway? I just don’t remember being tempted by anywhere near the sugary foods kids are being sold these days. Candy was some real kind of treat. And, we still had to portion it out.
Just when I think things are under control, the twins repeat the rule, for good measure. A real issue is brewing now, and off my youngest goes, near tears, to ask Mom why she’s not getting any candy this year.
‘It’s better this way, Dad’, the twins tell me when it’s quieted down. ‘A whole lot better than the other way.’
‘What other way’? I say. I just assumed they didn’t pay all that much attention, and we got away with slipping it out, to drop at the shelter, or into the trash.
‘When our candy disappeared, it used to scare us. Then Mom told us you were eating it.’
I heard oak leaves rustle on the big tree outside, like water falling over stones in a brook. And saw the dawn a second time that day.
‘That’s why nobody ever wanted to come to a Halloween sleepover at our house’, they said, and looked at me with years of secret candy missing suspicion in their eyes.
‘That’s what your Mother told you?’, I started, and could feel the heat rise.
‘Til last night. Then she told us, you didn’t really eat all of it.’
‘Girls, I did NOT take your candy to eat!’ I said. And, I certainly ate no more than your mother.
‘Well, Mom said….’
‘….we could take care of checking and separating all the candy this year. Ok’?
And they smiled, at each other, and at me. Plans had been laid, and just deserts secured.
Oh, times, they surely do change. I could see, a new order had come.
And so I set off to clear up a few Halloween ghosts of my own.