All the Little Monsters and Beasts

At 5:30, I could hear Noah singing out in the yard as I poured orange jack-o-lantern lollipops into a bowl.

Everybody gettin ready for Halloween night
And the streets of Castleblanca made a freaky sight
But somethin’ kinda creepy’s taken over this place
And caused a spooky situation here on Cyberchase

That mean, rotten Hacker brought the gargoyles to life
To scare everyone away on Halloween night
The CyberSquad is freaked the party’s up in the air
Thanks to that borg’s goofy gargoyles and their dastardly scare

C’mon and howl
At the Halloween Howl

Everybody get ready
For the Halloween Howl

All the little monsters
And beasts that growl

We’re all gonna go
To the Halloween Howl…


I brought the bowl outside and set it down on the round table on the porch. Noah and June were playing in a pile of leaves under the dogwood while Beth watched.

“I think Mommy wants us to come in for dinner,” she observed.

“Why don’t we go TOTing instead?” Noah wheedled. Yesterday one of the characters on Cyberchase referred to trick-or-treating as TOTing and he’s been doing it ever since.

“Because we have to eat dinner and I have to fix your costume first,” Beth said. Noah’s storm cloud costume was a little worse for the wear after last weekend’s Halloween parade. As he walked down the three quarters mile-long route, he’d left puffs of gray spray-painted fluff behind him and one of the lightning bolts had come loose from his head.

It’s quite a costume, one of Beth’s best efforts and she has made some great costumes over the years. When Noah was three and taking Suzuki violin lessons he was a violin and last year he was the sun. My mom, who marched in the parade with us, repeatedly predicted his costume would win a prize. It didn’t, but a picture of it appeared in the Montgomery County Gazette ( “I’m famous all over Takoma Park,” Noah said, when he saw it. Like the doting mothers we are, Beth and I, independently of each other, both snapped up a couple extra copies from newspaper boxes yesterday and scoured the Gazette web site for the photo. Alas, it isn’t there.

We had a quick supper of grilled cheese and soup. While we were eating, Noah announced that there was trick-or-treating at his school tonight. Beth and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. This was the first we’d heard of this. We’re always hearing things like this from him at the very last minute. I wondered if he wanted to go. He didn’t ask, so I decided not to say anything one way or the other and play it by ear.

Once dinner was eaten and the costume repaired to Beth’s satisfaction, Noah started lobbying to leave. We were all sitting out on the porch. It was not yet six, still quite light, thanks to the extension of Daylight Savings Time, and we hadn’t seen any other trick-or-treaters out and about. Beth was worried that if they set out too early, no-one would be home to answer their doors, so she talked him into waiting until at least 6:15. He considered making a menu of candy choices for our trick-or-treaters while he waited, but he lost interest in the project before implementing it.

At 6:13 Noah went inside to change into the flannel cloud pajamas Andrea made for him to wear under his costume. While we waited for him, I thought I spotted Xander, one of our two jumbo-sized black cats, in a neighbor’s yard. We don’t like for him to be out on Halloween, for fear harm might come to him, but he’s sneaky and fast and almost impossible to keep inside. Here I’d like to offer my sincere apologies to the Montgomery County Humane Society ( We signed an agreement when we adopted the cats four years ago that they would be indoor cats. Matthew, Xander’s more sedate brother is, and we tried for years to keep Xander in, but it just wasn’t in the cards for him.

At 6:21 Noah emerged from the house with his pajama top on backwards. After a brief argument about whether the v-neck went in the front or the back, he agreed to let Beth turn the top around.

“I wonder if people are waiting to go out because it’s so light,” Beth mused. “It’s messing with the natural order of things.”

“Maybe we’re just not going to get many people this year,” I said. “Sometimes we don’t.” Our street’s a main thoroughfare and a lot of people prefer the quieter side streets. The number of trick-or-treaters we get varies a lot from year to year.

Beth speculated next that people might be leaving later since it was not a school night. (Today was the last day of the first marking period and students have Thursday off so the teachers can work on report cards. Either that or they just don’t want to try to teach over-tired kids who overdosed on sugar the night before and they came up with a likely sounding excuse.) Around 6:40, I convinced Beth to leave already so Noah could get home in time for the long bedtime ritual preceding his strict 8:30 bedtime. I told her if hardly anyone answered, she could always drive him over to the school. When Beth gave Noah the okay to leave he was off like a shot down the porch stairs and out the front gate, clutching his orange plastic pumpkin.

“Noah,” I called. “You’re not wearing your costume!”

“Noah,” Beth called. “You don’t have a grownup with you!”

He came back, got into his costume and they left. About thirty seconds later, they called to me from the sidewalk, wanting me to come to the fence and hand them the hand-held lightning bolt he’d left on the porch.

June and I sat on the porch and waited for trick-or-treaters. Xander sauntered up the porch stairs and and rubbed against my leg. I scooped him up and deposited him inside the house. I rummaged through the candy bowl, unwrapped a Hershey’s miniature and gave it to June, selecting a lollipop for myself. Watching me, she immediately pointed to my mouth. “Try dis?” she pleaded, “Some?” I bit off a piece too tiny to be a choking hazard and gave it to her and then another and another. When the lollipop was gone, she was thirsty. “Juice? Juice? Milk?” she said. I opened the front door to go get her some milk. Xander dashed back outside and down the porch stairs. “Uh oh,” June said, “Fast cat.”

At 7:25, Beth and Noah returned. Noah’s plastic pumpkin held a modest haul of candy, popcorn, pretzels, a rubber ball, crayons, tiny spiral notebooks with Halloween designs and other non-edible trinkets. No need to go to the school. We had not had a single trick-or-treater while they were gone and they had only seen a few. Beth reports his costume was much admired (though one person took him for a dust bunny) and someone even requested his photograph. Noah told a lot of people he was in the Gazette and then subjected them to a long dissertation on his candy-selection criteria. He picked the miniature Milky Way, for instance, because the Milky Way is up in the sky, like a cloud (“but much higher up”).

Finally, at 7:35, we got our first trick-or-treater, a red power ranger with his green-skinned, horned monster dad. Xander came to the gate to greet them and Noah followed with the candy bowl. “We’ve got Reese’s and M & Ms….” He ran down the choices. They picked some candy, admired the ghosts in our tree and left.

We stayed on the porch a little while longer. Noah ate the three pieces of candy he was allotted (he chose all Reese’s peanut butter cups). At 7:50, we all went inside, leaving the bowl of candy on the porch stairs so we could put the kids to bed without having to answer the door. Beth spilled the candy trying to transfer some of it into another container to take inside. (We wanted to have some reserve candy with which to replenish the bowl if someone got greedy. As it turned out, this was a wise move. Later that night a couple kids emptied the large bowl and took off running.) As we gathered up the candy to put it back it the bowl, Noah picked up a rock off the porch floor and in his best Charlie Brown voice said, “I got a rock.”

As Noah was getting ready for bed, Andrea called. They chatted about his evening and the novelty of having his picture in the paper. Right before he got off the phone, he told her, “I already know what I’m going to be next year. A light bulb. No, not a lightning bolt like you’ll see in the picture. A light bulb. A fluorescent light bulb.”

I heard Xander meowing outside and went to let him in, wondering how Beth will transform Noah into a fluorescent light bulb. But she has a whole year to get ready for that Halloween night.