I’ve never been a fan of Halloween. As a child, sure I enjoyed the pillow case filled with candy but I never enjoyed having to dress up and knock on stranger’s doors to get said candy. It felt like work and like I had to earn the loot. I much preferred Christmas and Easter where I was just given candy by mythical creatures and the only work I had to do was rip open the foil wrapped chocolates.
This attitude carried into my adulthood as a young parent. I dreaded Halloween. I hated finding costumes for the kids, hated trying to stuff them into them and I loathed having to wrangle them on a frosty dark evening and try and get them to earn their candy.
The entire process seemed less fun and more arduous than it was worth.
And then our son Shale was born and couldn’t eat anything orally. Not even candy.
For the first few years of his life we tried dressing him up and taking him out with his siblings but have you ever tried to stuff a sensory defensive child into an itchy costume and then haul him around to collect candy he couldn’t eat? It didn’t make sense. By the time he was four, we called quits on Halloween.
We celebrated at home, with more purchased candy than a human body could consume in a year and snuggled together under blankets, in the dark with only the flickering of the jack o’lanterns and the illumination from the television screen to cast away the darkness.
And then my son died ten days before Halloween. And it effectively killed any lingering Halloween spirit we collectively had.
Halloween was dead to us.
And then came Jumbster. Five years old and a life filled with no real familial moments and we took a family vote and decided to reinstitute the tradition of the stupid holiday. Like his brother, Jumby can’t eat orally, but with his siblings nearing the end of their short Halloween’ing careers as they crept closer to their teen years, we figured we’d dress Jumbster up and the teens could eat his loot.
It seemed like a win-win.
Except the first Halloween we had with Jumby he was too ill to take out.
And the next Halloween, last year’s, was a complete bust. It turns out; most strangers don’t want to hand out candy to a disabled kid in a wheel chair.
But this year, this year it was going to be different. Jumby and I had matching costumes, we were going to go with three of his cousins who are the same age as him and his siblings were jazzed to have one last kick at the Halloween can before packing in their trick or treating days permanently.
You know what they say about the best of intentions. We had them.
And like that perfectly carved pumpkin sitting on a stoop, just begging to be smashed on the pavement, so too were our Halloween hopes this year.
All thanks to the useless organ known as the appendix and my eldest son’s need to have it removed. The night before Halloween.
The closest I got to trick or treating was watching some of the more able-bodied pediatric patients walk around the hospital unit pushing their i.v. poles and collect candy from the nurses. All while my son was passed out on a morphine drip.
I drove home from the hospital in a funk. The stress of watching my son suffer was catching up with me and the disappointment of not being able to create a Halloween memory for my children had created another layer of mommy guilt for me to wallow in.
But then I walked through the door and saw my daughter cuddling Jumby on the couch, both in costumes and surrounded by discarded candy wrappers while the soft flicker from the jack o’lantern cast long shadows on the wall.
Turns out Halloween is alive and well, even if I thought I had killed it dead. It may not have been what we had hoped for this year, but it’s going to be one we will never forget.
I still hate Halloween.