1. Pumpkin Seeds. It’s Dane’s first year carving pumpkins, and when Andrew cuts the top off, he looks inside skeptically. “Yuck, Mom,” he says. “There’s bugs in there.”
“No baby,” I say. “Seeds.”
There’s something, though, about hollowing out a pumpkin. About digging through that orange slime and filling a strainer with good, white seeds. About the rinsing, the sprinkling of spices, the baking. When the seeds come out of the oven, you eat them straight from the baking sheet, warm and crisp.
2. Costumes. He’s at the age where he wants to choose, and he chose dinosaur a month ago and stuck with it all this time. We tried to paint his face, but this sensory boy of mine – something about the sting of green on his toddler cheeks was too much and we had to take it off (TAKE IT OFF!)
I still get to decide for Liam, and this year, he’s a cowboy, mostly because he has that bow-legged sheriff-walk down pat. A friend loans me the costume her little boy wore seven Octobers ago when I first met her. (I go on a little nostalgic jag when I get Liam strapped into the homemade chaps. I remember so clearly how we all followed Henry around our office complex as he trick-or-treated the cubicles.)
And it’s imagination and play at its very best as Dane runs around the house practicing his roar. Even Andrew gets a little bummed that he didn’t plan a costume this year. In the end, he digs through the Rubbermaids for the old 2008 favorite: Buddy the Elf. (My homemade costume masterpiece, crated entirely from felt.)
3. Friends. The kids are running back and forth the entire length of our house…from the front door to the sliding glass patio door, and you have to talk loud over the roaring, the yelling, the wild flurry of it all.
In these toddler years, we’ve gotten bad at having people over. With the dinner-time crankies and an early bedtime routine for the kids, it all seems so complicated and I tend to avoid it.
But we’re packed in the kitchen and the place is getting over-warm from all the energy.
And what’s better, at three, than getting to run around the neighborhood costumed with your best friend? What’s better than pumpkin-shaped pizzas and too many chairs around one, big table and Trick or treat! shouted at the top of your lungs all together?
4. Receiving. You’ve done nothing to earn it except show up. You hold out your plastic pumpkin bucket, and it is filled with wonderful things.
5. Neighbors. I’ve gotten so used to them, their houses sturdy around us. Their comings and goings marked by closing car doors and car engines starting. Fall is here, and we’re all outside less, and it’s easy to forget in the search for “community,” that it’s already here…all around us.
I make a coffee date with the woman next door and get a quick hug before chasing the cowboy down the pathway. We make tentative plans for dinner with the family around the block. The families comes, decked out in their finest, and we do our best to welcome them.
6. Lit Houses. I know there are reasons to hate Halloween. There is so much SCARY and so much YUCK and our little two-year-old princess guest hides under the table for a full five minutes after the kids with the Scream masks come to the door.
But there’s something about all these houses, lit up, glowing from within. They stand with doors wide open, light spilling out onto dark streets. You walk through the darkness, and there is a place to stop, and there is candy waiting and people who will say, You look awesome!
And the world is so dark sometimes, but tonight, the kids move through it bravely. They go from light to light to light to light collecting good things.
7. Giving. Whenever the trick-or-treaters come to the door, Dane and his best friend jump up from the table and run to greet them. “Our friends are here!!” Dane screams, though we don’t really know that many of them. And my heart is a little bit stopped by the truth in these three-year-old hearts: all who come here are friends, and we are excited to see them.
The boys clamor onto the porch, pull big handfuls of candy from our bowl and they are learning what joy it is to give, give, give to strangers. I have to tell them every time, “That’s enough now. Tell them goodbye.”
8. Sugar Highs. I spend all day every day, it seems, saying No. No. No. It’s You cannot do that and Not right now and Maybe later, and there’s something to a night where you just let it all go, say Yes.
Yes to the Skittles and the M&Ms and the miniature Twix bars. The kids are wild, propelled by all that candy, running circles on the front lawn, and it’s sugar-coated happiness all the way.
9. Stars. The stars are out and high above our heads and the boys stand on the driveway and break into a spontaneous rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle. And if you’re looking for it, there is light everywhere.
10. Sugar Crashes. Liam is spread-eagle on the floor. Dane is a weeping mess on his bottom bunk at 8:20, and the crash is so sudden and so dramatic that I can’t help laughing a little into my shirt sleeve.
We are all so fragile, and sometimes it feels like the end of the living world and really, we just need sleep. Good food. A regular, normal day.
Andrew and I hold the boys tight, touch their faces. We thank God for the day, and wipe sugar-tears from cheeks, and in the end, we all fall asleep tired and happy.