Sunday, October 25, 2015

I See You, Too-Old Trick or Treater

Image: Freaks and Geeks

I see you, finger hesitant on my doorbell and costume half-hearted.

I see you, never alone, the safety in numbers, fearing a monster much different than that which scares ghouls a full head or more smaller than you.

I see you, your apologetic eyes looking at the ground, your oversized sneakers kicking at my door mat.

I see you, jockeying for a position in the back of your group instead of elbowing your way to my door.

I see you. You're too old to trick or treat.

You're scared of being judged. You're scared that one time, one of these houses, one of these doors will open and you'll be greeted with a hearty "GET OFF MY LAWN!" You weren't going to go this year. You're too old. Your mom told you so. Your dad told you it's for kids. Then, one of your friends called. Came over. Texted you.

"Wanna go get candy?"

And you are relieved for that because you really want to go, and now you're less embarrassed that one of your friends wants to, too.

But what do you wear?

You dig out your football uniform. It's disgusting. It reeks. But who cares? You'll be outside.

Thirty minutes later, you're at my door, being too old to trick or treat.

Except at my house, you'll never hear that. Ever. You'll prowl our neighborhood on this night and you'll have the same sense of responsibility to look out for the younger kids as you do in the day. I depend on you to lead my kids by example, even when it means letting your guard down to have measured and imaginative fun.

The boys especially. We put such pressure on you to grow up, act mature, be end up hearing that dress up is for babies. Girls seem to look for any excuse to gather in herds in get-ups. They put so much effort into looking like someone they're not every day that what's one more night among 364 others? It's not fair that they get a pass in this deal.

Please let these years linger on as long as you can. The day will come when you'll be stuck in a Halloween waiting room, done making the rounds in a giggling crowd for chocolate, but not old enough to hit the over 21 Halloween parties, heaving with terrible wigs and thighs squishing between the strings of fishnet stockings and men in ever-escalating competitive offensiveness. The saddest of those will refuse to dress up for that party too, always fearing the "costume party" portion of the invite is a trick, a joke that they refuse to be the butt of.

Knocking on my door is not about the candy to you. You could shove enough down your gullet to put you in a sugar coma if you just stayed home and ate it out of your mom's bowl destined for tonight's tiny revelers. No, this is about a part of your heart that's not ready to let go of this one night that you can be what you want, roam the streets after dark, and despite your lack of Celtic/Pagan roots, your soul longs to ring in the official end to Summer and embrace the new day coming in November.

One of my kids asked from the way-back of the car how old was too old to trick or treat. My heart sank a little. They can't possibly be thinking of this yet. My plan is to make them take their little brother when they start feeling like they are (since I have to stay home to give you candy) and to suggest that while they're taking him, they might as well make it fun and dress up, too.

Saturday, I will send them out the door as a trio, two lumberjacks and a pine tree, along with their dad for the first leg, and I will listen dutifully for the ding-dong of the doorbell and the thump-thump-thump of little feet racing along the path to our step, eager for treats. I will be sure that the thump-thump-thump of the big shoes, bigger than your mom's now even, are met at my door with kind eyes and enthusiasm for your participation. It's in your eyes that I see my own shorties in a few painfully quick years, and I only hope that others will treat them gently as they awkwardly navigate their own teenage purgatory.

I will also do this so that you're not pissed at me and smash my pumpkins in retaliation. But mostly it's the first thing.