Elliott, my glorious little nephew, is old enough now — at nearly four — to truly enjoy Halloween. What does this mean?
Last night, as we were all walking down the darkened streets of downtown Vashon, Elliott looked up at my sister-in-law, then looked down at his little plastic pumpkin receptacle, then said, “Mama, I want to get more and more candy!”
Way to go, little guy. You have joined the rest of American culture.
Halloween on Vashon was truly extraordinary this year. Since I became an adult, I’ve felt blasé (and perhaps even a bit hostile) toward Halloween. After all, the holiday seems to be an excuse for drunkenness and people trying to outdo each other with clever costume ideas. No thank you. And after I was about ten, I no longer felt comfortable parading around neighborhoods, asking for candy. But this year, I did, again.
This year, I went trick or treating with Boingy the Super Kitty.
Elliott decided a month ago that he would like to be a black cat for Halloween. “But not a scary one,” he said. “A nice cat, soft and friendly.” Well, who could resist that? But, after weeks of asking to put on his cat costume nearly every day, the little guy began to elaborate on his character. He became Boingy the Super Kitty, the cat with lasers attached to his claws. “You might even see him flying in the sky sometimes, actually.”
(Elliott has decided that actually is his favorite word in the English language, and he spills it through nearly every sentence he utters these days. “I would like to go play in the car, actually. Actually, Mama, I would like you to put on my costume now, actually.” The Chef and I sprinkled our conversations with it throughout the day, without ever intending it.)
Every day, for the past few weeks, Elliott has asked his dad, “When is Halloween, Daddy?” When my brother would reply — in about ten days — Elliott would come back fifteen minutes later and says, “Has it been ten days yet?” To say he was kercited really was an understatement. It was as though he had already eaten his night’s candy, every day.
So, how could the Chef and I resist the chance to spend Halloween with the boy? The Chef happened to have the evening off from work, and he loves my nephew. In fact, he has been referring to Elliott as his nephew for months now. This man. Oh, this man. The way he loves children, and Elliott in particular, just flattens me. The look in his eyes when we talk about the children we want to have? It gets me, every time.
It turns out that Elliott needed a babysitter for the day, since his daycare had fallen through, unexpectedly. So, the Chef and I rose at 6 to catch a 7:05 ferry, to take care of the boy. That’s love. And, once again, I was struck by the thought: I used to wake up at this time every day. How did I ever do it? Writing full-time fills me with delight, as well as a full-night’s sleep.
There were hundreds of wonderful moments with the boy, including a walk in the wintry woods. But the best part of the day was the hours after darkness.
Vashon — my dear old home — does Halloween right. The police close off the main highway in town, as well as many of the arterial streets, to cars trying to pass through. This makes the tiny business section of the island a child’s paradise. Every business, from the office supply store to the hunter’s pub, is decorated for Halloween and manned by an employee with a big bowl of candy. One of the real estate offices had an entire pirates’ dungeon in their office, complete with skeleton prisoners and pirates in striped tights fighting with plastic swords. There were horse and carriage rides down the main drag, as well as an inexplicable performance artist piece with dancers dressed in white horse masks pushing lit-up white baby carriages. (I don’t know any more than you.) And everywhere, kids in costumes, demanding candy.
My brother dressed up as such a realistic grunge guy, complete with a long black wig, that one of his fourth-grade students who spotted him on the street nearly froze in terror.
There was also a solid line of horse dung down the middle of the road. “Don’t be scared, Evan,” Elliott told his best friend. “That’s just poop.”
Boingy the Super Kitty was alternately kercited or terrified by the festivities. His hands were cold (it was only 29° here last night; brrrr!). The big kids were too big and swarmed over him in a manic attempt to fetch another miniature chocolate bar from the camera shop’s scary woman in a mask.
However, when all else loomed large and surreal, Elliott comforted himself the way we all do on Halloween. He pulled a lollipop from his plastic pumpkin tub, asked his mama to unwrap it, and popped it in his mouth.
He even offered one to me, once. Thank goodness, Toosie Roll pops are gluten-free.
All this joy and absurdity set me thinking, however. How hard it must be for a kid with food allergies on Halloween. Every kid is clamoring for candy, and your mom has to inspect every brand before she will allow you to put it in your plastic pumpkin. Do you have a nut allergy? There goes nearly every packaged candy. Can’t eat gluten, like me? There are few and far between. The holidays are just another reason to feel set apart.
Well, at least there is always the comfort of Tootsie Rolls, actually. By now, every kid in the country has a sore belly from too much candy, anyway. But I’m grateful that all Elliott has to worry about on Halloween night is cold hands, big kids, and the plastic wings of his Boingy the Super Kitty costume being bumped too hard and falling off into the road.