Happy Halloween, little guy.

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.

14 comments on “Happy Halloween, little guy.

  1. Excelsior

    Actually… I think my mom has happy Halloween memories of getting to eat all of the Mr. Goodbars, Babe Ruths, Snickers, and Bits O’ Honey my brother and I received back in the day.

    I got a chuckle out of the phrase “downtown Vashon.” (-:

  2. Shauna

    Beccy,

    Come over for a visit some Halloween soon!

    Excelsior,

    I know. Downtown Vashon is about 100 yards long! I love that place.

  3. Anonymous

    I have to say this was one of the most unenjoyable Halloween’s I can remember.
    I had trouble finding candy for my son’s wheat and dairy allergy and it’s been a fight to keep it all away from him.
    It is nice to hear that there are still small areas around here that make it a safe Halloween!!

  4. Abby

    First time commenting, long time lurking.

    At our house, we have to be creative with Halloween. Our 8 year old daughter is allergic to all forms of food coloring, food preservatives & additives, apples & tomatoes. Chef’s restuarant sounds great, we could probably find a lot of yummy things to eat there!

  5. Shauna

    Christian,

    It’s kids like yours I was thinking of when I wrote that post. I’m sorry it was so hard for you. Wouldn’t it be great if entire neighborhoods chose candy that everyone could eat?

    Abby,

    Thanks for de-lurking! Wow. Apples and tomatoes? The food preservatives are easier if you give up packaged food, I am assuming. But no tomato sauce? Apple crisp? I’m so sorry. Yes, you would find yummy food at the Chef’s restaurant. However, it’s a wine bar, first, so no one under 21 allowed in. Curses. Maybe someday we’ll have our own, and then we can feed your daughter.

  6. Heather

    This year was our 2 year old daughter’s first Halloween.She was diagnosed with Celiac in August. We live in a small community and dropped off little baggies of candy for her at the houses we were planning on visiting. Dum-dums, Snicker’s, Tootsie Rolls, & M&M’s! She didnt suffer!!!

  7. kitchenmage

    I love small town holidays! I’m half-expecting an announcement that you and the Chef are moving (back) to the island to open a small restaurant there. We so need someone to do that here! Hey, that is it! Move here! LOL We’ve got waterfront buildings for rent/sale and we’re only ~90 min from Portland.

    The inexplicable artpiece sounds really cool! I’ve lived in a few small (and reallyTiny) towns that had random outbreaks of performance art, I just love it! So the explanation for the inexplicable:

    Apparently both of the horse and carriage pieces (rides for real people and people in horse masks) are linked.


    “Lullaby Carriage” is a celebration of night, the stars and their relationship to the heavens. Lucia did extensive research into various cultural mythologies about the night and the sky and the stars. She discovered that the constellation Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, is a seasonal sign common to many civilizations and closely associated with this time of year. The characters of the seven mothers in “Lullaby Carriage” are personifications of the Seven Sisters in the constellation Pleiades.
    Dressed in white, they represent idealized motherhood through a Victorian sensibility. These “mothers” attend to the riders in the beds, singing lullabies, reading bedtime stories, and offering bedtime snacks. The canopy beds are drawn by majestic Shire horses from High Bridge Shires in Monroe.

    i kinda like this:


    “I have a lot of artistic resources, a group of artists who meet and discuss ideas,” Lucia says. “We call ourselves the ‘Idea Gang’ and we call what we do ‘Soul — Sized Art.’ I always wanted to create a circus, something so big that’s not about money or corporations, that’s just about offering this little vision.” And thus, “Lullaby Carriage” was born.

    I mean, seriously, the idea of creating a circus is a pretty cool idea… it would be kerciting!

    (from the blog of one of the performers)

  8. tarynkay

    awww, “actually” is actually my nephew’s favorite word, too! nephews are one of the very best things about life.

  9. Erin

    As my husband went to put a handful of candy in a young boys bag, the lone child said in the probably just under 3 yr old voice ‘I can’t eat chacalate’. He was bundled up so much against the cold you couldn’t tell if there was a costume involved. My husband dug through the bowl and asked him ‘how about skittles?’. He beamed, ‘I like skittles!’, so my DH plopped a couple in the bag. The child stood on his tip toes, and using his free hand tilted the bowl and peered inside, informing the adult with a bigger smile ‘I like lollipops too’. My husband proceeded to drop two of those into his bag as well, as his mother whispered in the background ‘just one honey’. My husband leaned over and said Happy Halloween when he tottered off, he peered back giving a ‘thank you’, stumbling a bit down our stairs.

    We don’t have children yet, but my husband had a smile the rest of the night.

  10. Shauna

    Heather,

    Oh my goodness, that is one of the sweetest stories I have heard in a long time. Your daughter is lucky to have such a family.

    Kitchenmage,

    You kill me. Okay, I stand corrected. At least there was some intention in it. I still didn’t understand it, however.

    As far as the speculation of the Chef and I opening up a restaurant on Vashon, I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility. but nowhere in the near future. Somehow, we would have to make a LOT of money first. Um, I’m a writer, so.…

    Tarynkay,

    i agree. I’m all for nephews! I also loved when he told his mother, who came home for lunch, “We have made some lovely fruit salad, Mama.”

    Erin,

    That is a beautiful story. And it sounds like your husband is ready for children!

  11. In Recovery

    Most Smarties products are nut, gluten, peanut (and many other common allergen) free. One of the few candies that has such a comprehensive label.

  12. ysabet

    I was one of Those kids. The one with the allergy. To dairy. Broke out in hives all over at the slightest taste of chocolate, or cheese, or cream, or anything like that. Back in the day (20ish years ago) it was a case of ‘Well, surely a little won’t hurt her!’ from carers and well-meaning relations alike. Halloween and Easter were much more fun for other people.

    As an adult, the allergy has gone away — and I married someone who is lactose intolerant. Oh well. Dark chocolate and thai all around. On the bright side, I never could really eat anything prepackaged, so I never got the taste for it.

  13. Frances

    Ahahhaha funny you ask.

    It all works out when you have a great older sister like me :P My little brother is allergic to dairy, poultry, eggs, fish, and nuts and then there was me who loved chocolates. So when we used to go trick or treating, we’d pile our candy together at the end of the night and we’d sort through all the chocolates from the hard candy for me and for him. :)