Halloween barreled through my house with the subtlety of Ethel Merman on a steamroller.
Perhaps it was because for the first time ever we celebrated the holiday in a neighborhood with children, meaning the houses were decorated and excitement was in the air. It could be because we discovered an incredibly bizarre man lives down the street. Maybe it was because during an election year, there are so many signs lining the road that it feels like you’re getting shouted at.
But most likely it’s because the whole thing was so rushed. From the minute we got home from school it felt like a race against the clock to cram the usual activities and the frickin’ magic of the holiday in before bedtime. I wasn’t about to let my kids stay up late or get out of chores or daily reading or piano practice. That’s not because I’m a good mother but because routine is the only thing that sustains a semblance of sanity in this house. If I vary timing or activities too much, disorientation, tears and tantrums ensue. And that’s just from me.
For once my kids were motivated to get everything done because — holy crap! — it was Halloween and they were going trick-or-treating. Even dinner went smoothly, which is saying something since my children approach food with the enthusiasm of the severely catatonic.
When my husband got home at 5:30, he scrambled upstairs to change clothes and make with the pumpkin carving. This is a duty he took on after our first Halloween with children, when we discovered his artistic genius. On that fateful day I had just finished cutting out the triangle eyes and jagged grin on my pumpkin when I glanced over and saw he had covered his with a series of pin pricks and gouges that, when lit from within, showed a witch flying her broomstick past a crescent moon.
“Wow,” was my response.
He claimed it was easy, because growing up in Scotland he’d carved turnips. I can’t even imagine trying to etch a design into something so tiny. The best part, he claims, is when you put a candle in the turnip and smelled it roasting. Yeah. That would make up for 14 hours of work.
But this year he wasn’t going to have much time to get the job done. He had barely made his first incision when my friend and her son arrived to go trick-or-treating.
“Go on without me!” he called out nobly. “I’ll catch up.”
I had high hopes for the evening. Trick-or-treating in our old neighborhood had always been a non-event, as our neighbors had been retirees and couples without children who seemed to forget the holiday existed. One year a woman down the street handed my kids protein bars because she hadn’t bought candy.
This year, everything got off to a great start: people were generous with the loot and kind to the children. We did have one elderly lady flee her lawn chair in alarm when she saw us coming and then refuse to answer the door, but that’s no big deal. The way I look at it, given what people pay in taxes these days they’re under no obligation to give my kids free s—t.
We’d barely reached the end of the block when the children knocked on a door and were greeted by a werewolf. The man who lived there had dressed in a shaggy grey costume and answered the front door on all fours. Bless his heart. (That’s a southern expression that has many meanings, in this case, “What the f—k??”)
It was cute until it got weird.
“Have some candy,” he growled.
The kids helped themselves.
“Do you see my spooky bats?” he growled.
The kids nodded.
“Come inside,” he growled.
“Ok,” my son said cheerfully. Stranger danger my a—.
“No!” my friend and I both shouted.
“Come back and check out my giant spider!” he said as the kids retreated down the driveway.
For the love of everything law-abiding, he’d better have been talking about a decoration.
A few doors down a woman admired the kids’ outfits and then asked if they were out alone.
“No, those are our moms,” my friend’s son said, pointing at us.
The woman’s face brightened.
“Well, that is just fine by me!” she nodded enthusiastically.
Judging from the political candidate signs occupying every square inch of her front lawn, this woman not only thought we were a couple but heartily approved.
As we headed to the next house, my friend said, “I’m wearing pants and you’re in a skirt, so I guess I’m the husband.”
“That’s kind of how I see us,” I said.*
The next 40 minutes were pretty uneventful. My husband did a rush job on the pumpkins and caught up with us to enjoy the magic. We took a candy break, which consisted of my children doubtfully licking at their fun-size Snickers. (The upside of them hating food is that candy holds no appeal.)
We called it a night shortly before 7 and started heading home. As we turned the corner to our street, I noticed a figure crouching on a utility box nearby. It was the werewolf man. Bless his heart. (Same meaning as before.)
When we passed by he climbed down and ran at the children, growling. My daughter shrieked. Trying to keep her from getting even more freaked out, I said:
“Ha-ha! That silly werewolf is trying to scare you guys but you’re not scared, right?”
“I’m not scared,” my daughter said, with the same lack of conviction employed by Kevin Costner in his movies.
Werewolf guy grabbed at her candy bag.
“I think he would like a treat,” I said, and began digging through her stash. “What’s your favorite kind of candy, Werewolf?”
“Kids,” he growled.
“Okay, time to go,” I said.
Wouldn’t you know it, that lunatic scampered after us for about half a block before turning back to his house, presumably to scare the daylights out of another group of children while disturbing the crap out of their parents.
Bless. His. Heart.
It’s possible he just really gets into Halloween. It’s also possible that he has a neurological condition or a mental illness. He was wearing mom jeans, after all. Whatever his issues are, he topped off a particularly manic Halloween for us.
Now that the costumes have been put away, the decorations stored and the candy completely ignored, a calm has settled back over our house.
Which gives me the time I need to check the sex offender registry for our zip code. Gotta run.
*I understand that’s not how same-sex relationships work. My friend and I were just being jacka–ses.