As a child it was a magical frenzy of homemade costumes paired with possibly toxic face paint. It was roving darkened streets with my friends like a pack of wild dogs, ringing doorbells and collecting candy from outstretched Tupperware bowls. Trying to keep up, but usually trailing several houses behind us, came a small and tired cluster of moms shouting out which houses were OK to visit and repeatedly reminding us to use our pleases and thank yous.
And then there was the loot: the piles of brightly packaged candy my sister and I would count and sort and recount at our kitchen table at the end of the night.
As a parent, Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays. Every year I attempt to make costumes for Cody and Carter – some years are more successful than others. The rule of not taking candy or anything really, from a stranger, goes out the window. And at the end of the night the boys end up fighting over who got more candy.
What follows is a little peek into our lives on the night of Halloween last year and how a simple comment from my then 6-year-old son changed the way I look at Halloween. It still does not rank in my top 10 holidays, but I do a better job of viewing it from the perspective of a child.
The kitchen was a total mess, the dining room table even more so. Carter was sorting his trick-or-treating loot into two piles, one to keep and one for the Switch Witch*. He was also in the process of using his new little pencil sharpener to sharpen a dozen or so Halloween pencils he had received from his classroom party. Pencil shavings were everywhere.
Cody was scarfing by the handful microwave popcorn that had been left over from his classroom party as if I had not just fed them a healthy dinner of roasted red pepper tomato soup with homemade cornbread rolls.
I had loaded the dishwasher but still needed to hand wash the pots and pans. I hate washing pots and pans. To put off the loathsome task a bit longer, I decided to grind the coffee beans and set up the pot for the following morning’s much-needed cup or two of brew. As I set about measuring the beans and scooping them into the grinder, my mind wandered to the list of tasks that needed to be addressed come morning.
It was a squabble over the ownership of a piece of candy that brought me back to the present. In an effort to change the direction of conversation, I asked the boys a question I ask almost every evening: What was your favorite part of today?
For Carter, who was 4 at the time, it was easy: trick or treating and getting candy! Ah, Carter you are so sweet and so like me when I was your age.
Cody did not answer right away, and I was about to prompt him again in my exasperated are-you-listening-to-me mom voice when he spoke up: My favorite part of the day is right now.
Wow. In my eyes that moment was the end-of-the-day chaos, something to get through before bedtime. But for Cody, his hands shiny with the butter-like substance from that movie theater Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn, that moment was love and family (and popcorn.)
I stopped grinding coffee beans, walked over to him and bent down. I asked him for a hug and did not mind at all when his little hands smeared the back of my shirt with popcorn residue. Suddenly the “right now” was starting to look a whole lot better and if I didn’t watch out, it just might become the favorite part of my day, too.
*In case you are unfamiliar with her, the Switch Witch comes on Halloween night to take unwanted trick or treat candy, giving in return a surprise such as tubes of glow-stick bracelets or flashing LED rings. Our Switch Witch is lucky in that Cody does not like chocolate, and Carter does not like sweet and sour candies.
On a completely unrelated note, I love chocolate and my husband is partial to sweet and sour candies.
Nancy Magnusson is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. She lives with her husband and their two young sons just outside of Gig Harbor. They enjoy focusing on the simple things in life and taking the road less traveled. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.