“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.”
~ Laurie Halse Anderson
Moreso than any other, this time of year supercharges my nostalgia meter into overdrive. It’s a combination of reasons: lots of holidays jam-packed into a few weeks, the kids’ birthdays, the anniversary of The Husband’s cancer diagnosis.
Even without the obligatory #Throwback Thursday Facebook photos, I still remember the kids’ first Halloween vividly – not for its Norman Rockwell qualities, but because it was something more befitting Norman Bates. Halloween 2002 was a nightmare of preparing and feeding 11-month old twins their dinner and cleaning up two food-encrusted high chairs (no small feat, that); a husband coming home from a demanding job; visits from doting grandparents with cameras in hand to document the occasion; neighborhood kids ringing the doorbell, and squeezing two squirmy kids into too-small costumes which, being a one-income family in those days, I had frugally borrowed from a friend.
All of this was a hoax, of course. It was just one big photo opportunity. There was no way we were going trick-or-treating.
We wouldn’t go trick-or-treating for years.
Like that first October 31, last night was strange because of what it wasn’t.
At 12, my boy suddenly had no interest in Halloween. No costume, no trick-or-treating, nothing.
The idea of candy, on the other hand, now that was a different issue. Despite getting a stellar checkup from the dentist last week, that he was quite interested in. Since The Girl went trick-or-treating with a friend, my little Mr. Wonderful brokered a Shark Tank worthy deal where he acquired a percentage of her candy.
“I think I’d just rather stay home,” he announced, very matter-of-fact.
He wasn’t upset. Nothing was wrong, he insisted. He just … was done with the whole thing.
That’s it? I wanted to say. After we worked so hard to get here?
A part of me felt cheated.
We hung out at home last night, seemingly no different than any other ordinary Friday evening, despite The Girl being out with a friend. We ordered our regular pizza, we watched Shark Tank, we puttered online.
And my seasonal wave of nostalgia threatened to overtake me as I scrolled through Facebooked photos of costumed kids, their doppelgangers appearing at my door almost instantaneously, smiling and chanting trick-or-treat, politely saying thank you as I handed them a bag of chips.
There were a few good years when that was us.
When all the best laid plans worked.
When my boy decided he no longer needed to ask every neighbor their birthday and then record it (along with their address) on a notepad, as if he was impersonating a census-taker. When he didn’t need the social stories to ease the transitions, to explain that we weren’t going to be staying at every house for an extended visit. When we didn’t need to only visit houses where people “would understand the situation.” When we didn’t need to have a stash of gluten-free casein-free treats when he got frustrated at not being able to have something everyone else could eat.
Halloween was a nightmare until one year it wasn’t, and it was added to the ever-growing list of Things Our Boy Could Do.
When one kid decides he doesn’t feel like going trick-or-treating anymore, and the other kid is out with her best friend.
And you’re left holding the damn bag of your life, wondering where the years in between disappeared to.
– my Facebook status, 10/31/2014
I’ve written before about my increasing awareness of the passage of time. Often, I’m caught off-guard, in the close encounters with reality I’m not prepared or ready to have.
Such was Halloween 2014.
Stay little for a little longer, I wanted to tell my boy. You’re not too old for trick-or-treating.
Enjoy that childhood you worked so hard to have.
Maybe I was the one who needed the talking-to, I thought. If autism – and life – has taught me anything, it’s that things happen when they’re supposed to, not always when we want them to.
And the sooner we give up those ghosts of what should have been, the sooner more doors tend to open.