(a post about “the village,” the power of words, and shared celebrations…)
Last Sunday we went trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Alex was a Jedi Knight, the perfect costume for a handsome boy obsessed with lights– what other character can flash a charming smile underneath a mysterious hooded robe AND carry a nifty bright blue light saber at the same time? Hannah was Cinderella. I earned big points when I figured out how to roll her very fine mass of long blonde hair into the perfect princess bun on top of her head and pin it so it stayed put. Then when I sprinkled some “magic princess dust” (read: cheapo body glitter from the mall) on her hair and dress, she actually gasped! Score one for the mommy!
The kids rushed through dinner, I put on my favorite pair of cat ears, and away we went. Our neighborhood has one street that is trick-or-treat central. It is always crowded with families and each house is uniquely lit up and decorated. It feels to me almost like a Norman Rockwell-esque Halloween painting: expertly carved pumpkins, smiling grandmas with baskets of candy, entire families in costume, tree-lined sidewalks with crunchy leaves. Owls even hoot in unison and someone is inevitably playing some kind of spooky, yet not-too-scary Halloween music. I’m serious, no exaggeration.
The kids pretty much know the drill, so we don’t have to do a huge amount of coaching anymore. Only tricky parts are keeping Alex’s enthusiasm and energy in check (remember he’s a runner and he’s fast!), reminding him about Halloween etiquette (like no going all the way into someone’s house) and trying to quell his new anxiety about dogs. This last one has become quite a challenge. At the sight of a dog, Alex will take a running leap and attach himself to me, heart beating like a rabbit, eyes darting every which way, occasionally squirming higher to make sure his feet aren’t in danger of being nipped. (Although Alex is genuinely scared, I gotta admit the whole scene is kind of comical to onlookers since I’m not much taller and bigger than Alex is now!) So the long and short of this is that if Alex suspects that a home *may* contain a dog- any dog, big or small- he will actually hold the door to the house shut. Kind of a problem when there’s a line of kids waiting for candy with the poor homeowner barricaded inside! Ugh.
We made our usual rounds. Things were going well. Halfway down the street, after stops on several porches, I noticed people at their doors saying things as we approached like:
“Don’t worry, Alex, there’s no dog” and
“Come here, Alex, I have some candy for you” and
“This way, Alex, that’s right, good job!”
At first I thought, “How sweet that so many of our neighbors know and remember my son. What a nice place to live!” Then it occurred to me that most of these folks actually didn’t know Alex. But they had heard me say the same things over and over at each previous home—sometimes a bit louder than was intended, apparently—and they were simply taking cues from me as to how to make Halloween work for Alex. That in itself does make my neighborhood a nice place to live, but in a slightly different way.
As I realized what was going on, I smiled to myself, turned to the mother next to me and said, “Apparently everyone knows Alex!” with a chuckle. She smiled. Then I said, “We live in Holland, but we still visit Italy on occasion.” She laughed and nodded yes. She understood. I noted the small-world-miracle in that, nodded back and ran to catch up with the kids again, calling:
“Alex, honey, let go of the door, there’s no dog in that one….”