Our kids all come home at Christmas – except that one time when our eldest son, Cole, had a job at a ski resort which set us all to crying at the perfectly fine early Christmas he attended, just thinking about the real Christmas without him. And we usually have most of them for Easter, and even Thanksgiving – but no one arranges for the kids to come home for Halloween. That would be crazy – nuts even. So October 31st approaches and I stock up on the bitty chocolate bars that I like to eat too many of, and sometime that week I string a few orange lights around the deck, and I always buy a pumpkin or two to set on the front stoop. I’m okay with all that. Then the ghoulish day arrives. Store clerks and service station attendants are decked out like Batman and sexy witches and of course, zombies. I deal with all that okay, and come home and fill a big bowl at the door with more candy then the neighbourhood kids could possibly come calling for. Mid-afternoon I start reminiscing over the Halloween’s of the past; the overwrought kids already hyped from school parties and anticipatory anxiety, the phone calls arranging whose trick or treating with whom, and in what direction, even the camaraderie on those flipping freezing cold ones with snow and lost mittens, and neighbors offering a bit of something to warm the parents who are following the masquerading pint-sized troops.
Up till then I believe that I can just have that big old pumpkin sitting there, because who wants to carve it alone, but around about dusk it just won’t do. That’s when I miss my kids – the whole lot of them. We were a pretty well oiled jack o’lantern team. The eldest, Zoey, was the artist who drew the creepy face, but patiently let Lily, the youngest, add some freaky details. Hudson, our youngest son, liked to carve the gourd along with me or his dad. Zoey, the tactile one, loved to dig into that soggy, seedy mess to scoop out the pulp. Cole, our eldest son, the one that left that Christmas, was part of the ritual, but more because he liked to see it all going on, but didn’t care if he took part. Last December I decorated the tree before his arrival in town, because of his assumed indifference, and had to apologize for my haste. I guess he is like one of those United Nations observers – he likes to see it all happen.
Darn it, I miss my kids at Halloween. I miss the October 31st chaos, the rushed dinner and costume meltdowns, the sugar highs and neighbourhood solidarity. But I really miss the pumpkin carving ritual. So once again I can’t leave that faceless pumpkin on the stoop – I haul it in, do a quick scoop out, and carve out a lame hardly-scary expression – cause it’s just begging me to do it for old-time sake. It’s quiet in here, with me and their dad offering up handfuls of goodies to the next generation of neighbourhood trick or treaters, because really – who travels home for Halloween?