A Neighborhood Story of Halloween Proportions
For last Halloween, Jennifer was Rosie the Riveter. She took on the idea of keeping with a theme for all Halloweens to come. She would have her costumes represent Important Women Throughout the Ages. This year, she got stuck, somehow, on wanting to be the Delphic Oracle. But only up until the time I told her she'd have to dress in an old sheet and carry a stool she could sit on while also holding a laurel sprig. And she would have to inhale ethylene and pretend to go into a trance.
Within an hour, the new passion was Godzilla. Godzilla went thru a gender change real fast as you might imagine.
Halloween was on a Thursday night. Jen had decided on Godzilla on Sunday. So there was lots and lots of time to build a costume out of slabs of cardboard and other things staple-gunned together before being spray painted radioactive lizard green.
She had decided to make maximum noise. She was going to strap pie tins to her feet and mash around the neighborhood. Our 'hood was a fair size, and spread out. It was a great tradition to trick-or-treat at the 7-Eleven and then leave an offering of your favorite candy at Pumpkin Rock, which sat high on the hillside adjacent to the episcopal church graveyard and was, each year, painted like a jack-o-lantern.
The Jonesons kept up this tradition. An ancient couple that lived just beyond the church property, who served as its landscapers and security force all at once. They had a mean german shepard named Barry that they would dress up like a fuzzy white bunny for the holiday each year. The costume did somehow take the edge off the snarling, drooling animal.
Mary and Rayanne, our neighbors from a mile out, were going as a drug dealer and a unicorn respectively.
I laughed when Jen told me. Then I got puzzled. A drug dealer? Kind of sounds like a less-than-wholesome persona for a 10-year-old to be portraying...
Jen came back with "Man, her dad couldn't afford to buy her a costume, so he let her borrow his clothes." I couldn’t seem to break her of the habit of calling me “Man” instead of “Mom.”
But I had one of those gleaming moments where I realized again that my daughter is socially aware and tactful and that I am often a bumbling nut full of questions.
Jen and Mary are the same age. Rayanne is seven. They made a good match in the end, the pair of them. Mary thuggee-out, holding the hand of her sister, dressed in fuzzy purple with a big stuffed gold horn. She had been a unicorn last year, too.
The night of, in the hours before we dressed to leave, we planned our route.
I issued a challenge, as I do every October 31. This year was one hundred pieces of candy. Averaging two to three pieces per house, I deemed that we were going to hit approximately fifty-five houses. At about a minute a house, it should take us one hour. Mary seemed very pleased.
Down Main Street, we ran into Benny Cho who was also in the fourth grade, dressed like a piece of popcorn. And Karen Motley, who had made herself into a creative rendition of the Empire State Building. They joined us for awhile, and I told them our last stop was Pumpkin Rock.
Rayanne had never been there before, she admitted. She couldn't hide her excitement.
Too, the littlest one was quick to compliment my costume. Even tho' she couldn't guess out just who I was. My answer:
"A character I watched in my Saturday morning cartoons growing up... Rainbow Brite!"
Obviously, I had dated myself. She had no frame of reference.
The kids had reached the challenge goal by about forty-two houses, so I cut it short and we went up to the Jonesons for cider.
Jen, the tattered fem-Godzilla, and Mary, the drug-dealing gangster, were hanging out and keeping it low key when they were together. I watched them hold hands and whisper. When I'd realized they'd gone up to the Pumpkin Rock by themselves, I waited a moment. Then followed. Rayanne was deep in conversation with Mrs. Joneson by this time, and managed to make friends with Barry by petting his chest and feeding him minuscule pieces of jerky.
Mary was sobbing. I let Godzilla tell me what was wrong.
"Her dad lost his job and she's afraid they're going to have to move out and be homeless. And that she might have to leave Rayanne."
"Why would they have to leave each other?"
"I don't know. She's really scared, tho'."
I moved over to Mary: "Everything will be alright baby. You'll see. Maybe while your dad finds a brand new job, you can stay with Jen and I for awhile."
Godzilla's green eyes lit up.
I continued, “At least tonight we could eat all our Halloween fare together and get fat!"
Mary laughed a little as her head hung down and I squeezed her close. Her tears resolved and she wiped at the rest. We all smiled then, and howled at the moon as it arrived out from its veil of grey clouds.
The youth in these girls made all the possibilities in me glow with heedfulness. A likely lesson for Halloween.