On a Dark Night

So this waiting until the last minute strategy worked out pretty well for Noah this Halloween. He didn’t call Sasha to see if he wanted to go trick-or-treating until Thursday afternoon. They’ve gone the last few years together, but usually Sasha calls Noah, so I thought it was possible he was going with someone else or maybe not going at all. Noah’s almost thirteen and a half and Sasha’s fourteen and it’s around that age some kids start feeling too old. It wasn’t that, though–Sasha was going with someone else. Maybe next year, he told Noah.

Noah was puzzled about what to do. He couldn’t use June as Plan B because June and Maggie made plans to trick-or-treat together at the Halloween parade last weekend. It’s the first time she’s ever gone with a friend. Because Maggie wanted to go near her house and June didn’t care, Maggie’s folks were taking them. I told Noah that Beth or I would be happy to go with him, but he said he was too old to go with a parent without the cover of a younger sibling. He didn’t seem to like the idea of going out alone either, though.

Out of curiosity, or maybe desperation, I looked in his school directory—which has the convenient feature that after the alphabetical listing, kids are listed by zip code—to see any of his classmates live near us. (Because he’s in a magnet program kids come from a wider area than they would if he went to his home middle school.)  I thought if anyone lived in walking distance it would be easier to set up a last minute meeting. It turned out there were no eighth grade magnet boys in Takoma Park, but three girls, one of whom went to preschool with him, but he has no memory of that and he says he doesn’t know her. The other two he knows but wasn’t interested in calling. Then I wondered if a teenage boy calling a girl to go trick-or-treating might be interpreted as asking her on a date. I have no idea. In a few years June might be able to tell me but in the meanwhile, I decided it was just as well he didn’t want to call them.

By coincidence, Noah’s friends Richard and David were coming over on Friday. (The kids had the day off school because Thursday was the last day of the first quarter). So when they arrived at two o’clock on Halloween, Noah asked if they wanted to go trick-or-treating that night, either in our neighborhood or theirs. They live in Silver Spring and not the closer part, which is the only reason we hadn’t considered them before—they are good friends of his. One twin said yes enthusiastically and the other said no, he’d prefer to stay home and hand out candy, which was their original plan. According to their dad, they’d been thinking they might be too old, but given a willing partner, one of them jumped at the chance to go. I felt as if I were watching them all teeter on the edge of their childhood, right there on my front porch.

June had Megan over Friday afternoon, too, so it was rocking here with five kids playing Forbidden Island and Sleeping Queens and hex bugs and hunting for fairies in the basement and playing Mad Libs and whatever else they were doing. I got into the Halloween spirit by updating my Facebook photo album of all the kids’ Halloween costumes since they were babies (I had not updated it for a few years) and in reconstructing our Halloween playlist, which mysteriously disappeared off the computer. I bought a couple new songs for good measure—“Witch Doctor,” and “Love Potion #9.” I was also making vegetable stock, so the house smelled cozy and autumnal. It was also rather hazy, as my kids wanted to demonstrate our new fog machine to their friends and while the front door was open it drifted into the house. It’s very durable fog.

As lively as the afternoon was, the evening felt strange. In recently years I’ve been the stay-at-home-and-pass-out-candy mom and Beth’s the trick-or-treating mom, so being home alone on Halloween is not new, but this felt different, knowing they were out with their friends and not Beth, who ended up staying at work late.  They weren’t even on our usual route, as both were in their friends’ territory.

The twins’ father took all three boys around five so they could they pick up burritos to eat at their house before the festivities. I dropped June off at Maggie’s, leaving around 5:40. Because I forgot to preheat the oven in time to eat at home, she had to eat her slices of frozen pizza while we walked. On the way, someone asked if she was Wednesday Adams, which was a comment we’d heard about her costume at the parade, so I had to explain to her who Wednesday was, in case she heard it again.

I got home at 6:15 and started handing out candy to little kids in dinosaur and ballerina costumes and middle-sized angels and superheroes and teenagers just barely costumed (one in street clothes and an Obama mask) or not at all.  The strangest costume had to be the dragon with bunny ears. Strangely, we didn’t get a single Anna or Elsa.

Noah called twice to remind me to turn on the fog machine and then to see if I had—I did and it was much appreciated by the people who came to the door. A boy from June’s bus stop called it our “mistifying” machine, but I’m not sure if he intended the pun or not. Noah also texted Beth to say the trick-or-treating was great in the twins’ neighborhood.

Beth got home around 7:20 and June followed around eight. She said after trick-or-treating, she and Maggie and Maggie’s brother and Maggie’s brother’s friend had a big candy swap and she got rid of all her nut-containing candy (she’s not allergic, she just doesn’t like nuts) and steadfastly refused to part with her wild cherry nerds. Just before I put June to bed at 8:20, Megan came to the door, dressed as witch, with a very nice spider-covered veil descending from her hat.

Beth called Noah a little before nine to see if he was ready to come home. He was in the midst of his own candy swap, but it’s a longish drive, so Beth left to get him. They were back by 9:25, thanks to sparse traffic. Beth looked into his bag and predicted it would last him a year. It might. He makes his Halloween candy last.

It was a strange Halloween and probably a preview of many dark October nights to come as the kids celebrate more with their friends and less with us, and increasingly far from home. Originally, June and Maggie were considering asking if they could trick-or-treat alone, without any parents, though they scotched the plan before asking both sets of parents. Since June had asked me, I’d consulted with Maggie’s dad and we decided as a compromise they could go with Maggie’s older brother, who is in sixth grade, if they asked. As it turned out, they didn’t ask, and Maggie’s parents were with them the whole time. I’m pretty sure it won’t be long, though, before June is trick-or-treating without adults. I think Noah was ten the first time he did.

They insist on continuing to grow up, both of them. That’s a trick and a treat, all at once.