Tuesday, November 1st, 2016. The morning came too early and the sun was too bright.
I stumbled into the kitchen and poured myself a cup of coffee. Gracie was still asleep; I had about twenty minutes before she would start her “Momma! MOMma! MOMMA!” chant from her crib. I grabbed my bathrobe and walked to the front door, took a deep breath, and opened it.
It looked like a fraternity party had taken place the night before, if all the participants were under the age of eight. Candy wrappers were sprinkled all over the grass. A Doc McStuffins handbag was propped up against an oak tree. My front porch had glow sticks and leftover sweet tea next to the rocking chairs. If only we had an empty keg of Kool-Aid to complete the picture.
The scene was repeated in just about every yard on my street. The ones who kept their lights off and houses “empty” had relatively clean yards, but no one was immune to the leftovers of the biggest event of the year on our street: Trick or Treat.
Moving to a small town, and especially having renovated a house that had been vacant for so many years, it comes up in the conversation of what street we live on. While it’s a quiet neighborhood, the road in front of our house is used as a cut-through to get downtown, so most people have passed our house and observed the progress since we started in January.
“Y’all know about Halloween, right?” Most, if not 99% of the people would ask us, voices slightly lowered, with a concerned look on their faces. As if we would casually walk out our front door after 5 pm on October 31st, take one look around, and run screaming back into the house. Which is exactly what we would have done if we weren’t warned.
Which is why I, despite some well-founded fear and trepidation, began preparing for the trick-or-treaters in August. Each trip to Wal-Mart, I threw a bag of candy into the buggy. I thought this was brilliant, as it would spread the cost out over two months. I’d bring the bags home and immediately stick them on top shelf of the pantry- out of sight and out of mind, eleven feet above the ground.
… but I’m pregnant. So began my daily ritual of climbing on the shelves (like a ten year old) and grabbing a Three Musketeer… or two, or three. I discovered Gracie climbing on the shelves last month and realized that she really does copy everything I do.
After a month of that, I caught on, and started buying candy that I didn’t like. Perfect. I had four bags and I was planning to get another five or six, and we would be good to go. That’s like… 600 pieces. Surely that would last us.
Thankfully, my Bible study small group staged an intervention and helped me see that it would be foolhardy to turn our porch light on without at least 1,000 pieces of candy. One simply does not walk into a battlefield with a squirt gun. A fellow compatriot/neighbor suggested Dum Dums, as the price per unit is significantly lower, and the price of chocolate had shot up recently (Rosland Capital á la Fox News should take note; the people on our street keep an eye on chocolate prices, not gold or silver).
Three Prime days later, I received thirty pounds of Dum Dums in the mail.
Two days before Halloween, I was hit with the infamous Pregnancy Cold. I sent my husband to Walgreens to pick up the sugar-water strength medicine I’m allowed during this symbiotic existence. If my head had been clear, I never would have allowed him to go. You see, sending my husband to Walgreens is like going to an urgent care center with a head cold, on a Monday morning, during flu season. Sure, you’ll get what you need, but you’ll probably bring home something even worse, wishing you had just stayed home and suffered.
Case in point: Christmas 2012. I sent him to get creamer; he came home with my Christmas presents (FYI, this was our first Christmas as a married couple): a pair of Christmas-themed boxer shorts, and a box of Werther’s chocolate. Should of just drank my coffee black.
Halloween 2016: two strands of orange lights, and a light-up Mickey Mouse Jack o’ Lantern. He proceeded to wrap the lights around half of our porch (not the whole, just half) and plugged in the Jack o’ Lantern; our house looked like it had been possessed by a hungover Sigma Chi who decorated last minute for a Halloween mixer.
The weather wasn’t cooperating, either. I had gleefully planned our inaugural family costumes; Gracie was a T-Rex, and I had found adult-sized T Rex fleece onesies on Amazon. I even bought dinosaur feet slippers for us to wear, and face paint. Five o’clock on October 31st, it was 85 degrees outside. Was I going to walk up and down our street, still with a disgusting cold, in a fleece onesie, while pregnant? Shorts, t shirt, Gracie’s fairy wings, and some Urban Decay eyeshadow was my backup, and my husband wore scrubs. The slippers, ironically, are still en route from China, and although the onesies did make it in time, they are now relegated to Christmas morning pajamas. Sorry Hanna Andersson, maybe next year we’ll open gifts in matching fair isle PJ’s.
Our doorbell rang at 5:15. Superman and Wonderwoman needed candy. They each received one Dum-Dum. I felt like a Regions Bank teller, but I knew that if we didn’t ration the candy, we’d be turning kids away before the sun set.
We moved the bowl of candy outside, grabbed glasses of sweet tea, and sat on the porch. My husband had moved his laptop outside, too, and hooked it up to stereo speakers, so we had a Pandora Halloween station playing.
Gracie is still too young to realize what candy is, so she ended up being a great helper. Her dad would hand her a piece of candy, and then she’d very intently drop it in the bag of whoever was standing closest to her. If I ever had any question on whether she was an extrovert, my uncertainty was put to rest. Between my husband teasing the kids, and Gracie’s laughter and jabbering to whoever would make eye contact with her, they more than made up for my cold-induced lack of conversation skills that night. We did have to become more efficient as the night went on, as the line from our front porch stretched down the sidewalk and across the front yard.
Our street, which is approximately a mile long, was lined with parked cars on either side. Trucks with hay bails in trailers drove up and down the street, dropping as many as twenty people off at a time. The only thing louder than the laughter, greetings, and my husband’s choice of music that evening were the train whistles on the tracks one street behind us.
We’ve lived here for two months, so long enough to recognize some faces and get to know some names, but not enough to know everyone that came to our front porch. While most people were still unfamiliar, it did make us feel a part of the community, especially some of my husband’s patients dropped by, friends from church, our electrician, and some of the nurses from the hospital.
The reason I didn’t recognize most people is because most of the kids that trick or treat on our street drive in from the country and the surrounding rural counties. So while we had the equivalent of a third of our town’s population walk up our sidewalk, most of them don’t live near us. They didn’t know we had just moved to town; for all they knew, we had lived there for years (ok, slightly stretch of imagination, given we still have construction cones in our front yard). What I’m trying to say is that it gave us a chance to show some hospitality, even while we’re still experiencing it as transplants. We were able to take part in a tradition that has made our street known throughout the state as the busiest on Halloween… because it’s our street now, our home.
Two hours and 1248 pieces of candy later, a group of three kids walked up. I ended the night with giving the last two pieces of candy out, and the third child the glow bracelet off my wrist. We made a hasty retreat before we were asked to give the pumpkins and lights away from the others walking up the sidewalk.
An hour later, after putting a screaming Gracie (she discovered M&M’s! Crap!) to bed, and after blowing my nose for the umpteenth time that day, I turned to my husband and said,
“I bet they have smoke machines on sale at Walgreens tomorrow. Wanna get one for next year?”