Halloween brings back such mixed emotions for me. I love getting the house all decorated and helping my son with his costume. I love trick or treating with him out in the brisk autumn air with leaves crackling beneath our feet.
When I was little, trick or treating down my road on the way to my grandfather’s house was my very favorite thing about Halloween. I loved how the air always smelled of chimney smoke and how there were children running house to house in a fit of giggles. He always had the best candy and would save me extra of my favorite molasses kisses. I’m pretty sure I’m probably the only person I have ever met who likes to eat those impossible to chewy treats.
The best thing about Halloween itself, of course, was the pillowcase full of chips, rockets, lifesavers, aero bars, double bubble, tootsie pops, chocofudge, fun-dip and, if you were really lucky, maybe a can of soda pop. I would kick off my boots and lay claim to a big spot on my living room carpet and dump out my treats to survey the goods, dividing them into groups and making piles of the bad ones to pass off to my little brother. Halloween was also the gift that kept on giving because you knew you would have a candy treat every day for recess for at least the next month or so.
Then in third grade I got diagnosed with my illness. I was pale as a ghost and all skin and bones. I had just had my very first surgery. I was so uncomfortable sitting in school that my mother made me a pillow to take for the chair at my desk. It was white and blue with Paddington bear on it. Every time I think of myself as that sick and lonely little girl, I want to give her a hug and tell her it is going to be okay and we’re going to have a rough life but we’ll get through it, I promise. It was horrible the way my most of my old class mates stayed clear of me as if I could infect them with all the terrible things that were happening to me.
When October rolled around, the buzz started about the class Halloween party, costumes, candy and about who was brave enough to watch their older brothers horror movies. I was being tube feed all my nutrition at the time, so the last thing I wanted to do was be around all the festivities and not be allowed to so much as taste anything. I thought my mother would understand but she had a whole different idea.
My mother decided that even though I wasn't living the ideal “normal” childhood that it was still important for me to participate in children’s pastimes when I was well enough so I didn't look back and regret it when I was older. Well, I’m older. And I still regret the Halloween of third grade.
Since I would not be allowed to eat all the candy, potato chips and class party pizza, mom took me to Walter’s Party Rentals convinced that I should have the best costume ever so I would excited to wear it for the party and around trick or treating. She rented an amazing Miss Piggy costume. It wasn't a plastic mask or rubber head piece, it was as if it were the real Miss Piggy only I was inside. I was so excited to have the perfect costume that I pushed all my frustrations aside and started to get swept up in Halloween.
Halloween day came around. Besides the pangs of envy over everyone eating at the party, I was admitting to myself on the way home from trick or treating that I was glad mom convinced me to go out today. My little brother and I were just finishing up the last houses in our neighborhood. The autumn night was mild and the tape that held my feeding tube in place was getting annoying and itchy under my heavy mask. I decided to take if for the walk home. We were cutting through the hole in our playground fence when my brother called to me.
“Hey, Jane! The MacDonald’s lights are on! One more house! Come on!”
“We have two pillowcases each!” I laughed but followed him back through the fence. When we got to their yard I dropped my things on the sidewalk and carried my lightest pillowcase up their front steps as my brother knocked.
“Oh hello! Happy Halloween!,” Mrs. MacDonald said, putting Cheesies in our bags. She looked at me and said, “My aren't Halloween things getting realistic – that on your face looks so gross!”
It took me no time to realize she was talking about my feeding tube. I turned and ran down the stairs willing the tears not to come. As I raced through the playground I could hear my brother yelling to me that I forgot my bags of treats but I didn't care. I did not stop until I hit my bed, pushing past my questioning mother, letting the screen door slam behind me.
I cried. I cried all night. I cried the next day. There wasn't anything anyone could say to make me feel better. Over the years I never went out trick or treating on Halloween again. My mother just accepted how I felt and left well enough alone. Even all these years later, when I’m costume shopping and out trick or treating with my son, I’m still haunted by the ghost of that poor little girl who cried every time another missed Halloween came around.