Halloween: A Holiday For Children
This is a...
My mother often said, "Halloween is for children" or "Christmas is for children." She never meant to imply that when I got older I would no longer be allowed to enjoy these two holidays. No...my mother spoke these four words in the tone of voice she reserved for the most sacred pearls of wisdom.
But what did I care at the time? By her own admission, Halloween is for children...and by sheer coincidence, I was a child. Every holiday was special growing up...not just Halloween and not just Christmas. There were chocolates in red foil heart-shaped boxes on Valentine's Day, decorated eggs and overflowing baskets of candy at Easter, picnics and fireworks on the Fourth of July...well, you get the idea. I won't even begin to go into how crazy my mother went over Christmas, her favorite holiday of the year. When my father would balk at the expense, she would simply say, "Dick...it's for the children" and he would nod his head as if that explained everything.
This is where I would normally get all irreverent and probably segue into a paragraph or two about how the holidays really aren't always about children...and that you too can get a piece of the action. But not this time...no, this time there's a purpose to my story.
Halloween is for the children. It really is...
Once upon a time, in a little town called Beverly, Massachusetts, there lived a doctor, his wife and their three young children. The wife, Sarah, was an emergency room nurse and the daughter of a self-made millionaire. Between the doctor and his wife they had a beautiful colonial home on a nice suburban street and two Mercedes Benz sedans in their three car garage. Needless to say, life was good and Sarah's Jewish mother was very proud that her daughter had married a doctor.
One Halloween, Sarah's family had company. From the heathen northlands, deep within the wilds of New Hampshire came her step-brother-in-law, Chris and his girlfriend, Laurie. From their upscale condominium in Chevy Chase, arrived her father, Buddy and step-mother, Anne. It was a sort of...neurotic group. The doctor disappeared to do doctorly things, so Anne and her son, Chris volunteered to escort the three young children around the neighborhood. The two of them tried to hijack poor Laurie into strolling with them, but she claimed a bad case of colitis and said that it would probably be best if she stayed behind...near the bathroom...with Sarah and Buddy to hand out the candy. Anne didn't mind one bit for Chris was a mama's boy and pretty much incapable of doing anything without her assistance. Err...in Laurie's opinion.
Sarah decided that Laurie needed training on how to hand out candy in Beverly, Massachusetts. As a foreigner, Sarah figured that the hick from up north was unaware of the local customs and therefore explained in great detail. There was one big bowl sitting in front of the door, filled to the top and ready for dispersal. Laurie couldn't help but notice that it was crap candy...things like candy corn, cheap lollipops like the ones they hand to you at the bank and black licorice, ugh. Noticing Laurie's expression, Sarah retrieved another bowl from behind the door. Examining the contents, Laurie approved wholeheartedly of bowl number two with its Reeses peanut butter cups, Milky Ways, Snickers and Twix. This was the good stuff! But why was it hidden behind the door?
Well that was easy to explain. Poor Sarah's neighborhood was being overrun by "other" children. Surely Laurie could commiserate with the problem, couldn't she? Parents who drove their children to the better neighborhoods hoping to score some quality candy rather than the cheap stuff they would probably get in their own neighborhoods. The nerve of them! It wasn't her responsibility to take care of them too...why they were lucky she was giving them anything!
From her strategic position as the first house on the block, Sarah stood guard over the neighborhood. Laurie watched disbelievingly as this woman who lacked for nothing, plastered a phony smile upon her face and judged the children with the candy she handed out. This was wrong, Laurie thought. Halloween is for children! Rich children...poor children...did it really matter? What was so wrong with a mother wanting the best experience she could give her child...even if doing so meant taking that child to a better, safer part of town? Laurie knew that Sarah would do the exact same thing for her own children if the situation was reversed.
Disgusted, Laurie could only watch and after a time even that got to be too much. She had to do something...say something...but what would make an impact on this incredible snob?
This is primo candy...
...this is NOT (well except for the eyeballs...they're kinda cool)
Just then a beaten and faded sedan pulled up to the side of the road, about a hundred feet before Sarah's house, blocked from Sarah's view by the enormous hedge gracing the side of the front door. Laurie watched as the mother got out of the car and opened the door for her daughter. Even from this distance, Laurie could tell the little girl was special...her facial features revealing the unique features of Down's syndrome. Sensing an opportunity, Laurie dashed for the back door.
As she approached them, Laurie couldn't help but smile. The mother was bent over the little girl, adjusting the small coat and zipping it up securely to the child's chin. "And what do you say after they give you the candy?" she asked the girl seriously. "I say thank you very much," the child dutifully response. Laurie's throat tightened in response to the scene, now even more sure of what she was about to do.
Catching her approach, the mother looked up at Laurie with a guarded expression. "May I?" Laurie asked, nodding toward the little girl waiting patiently beside her mother. If this seemed strange to her, the mother gave no indication.
Laurie kneeled before the little girl and looked up into her face. "My name is Laurie...I'm from that house right there. Would you like to help me play a small trick on the lady who gives out the candy?"
With bright spots of color in her cheeks, the little girl nodded vigorously.
"Good. Now here's all you have to do. When you go up there and say...what is it you say again?"
"Trick or Treat!" she yelled and giggled.
"That's right, Laurie replied, "silly me...of course! Well after you say Trick or Treat, the nice lady will hold a bowl of candy for you to pick from. When she does...you have to say this to her. Here's the important part okay? You have to say, "No thank you...may I have one from the bowl behind the door?"
While her daughter nodded, laughing at the rather lame joke as if it was the greatest gag in the world, Laurie glanced at the mother. Her face crumpled a bit...so obviously she had understood the implication of the request. The look was only there for a second, gone in a flash as she looked cheerfully down at her daughter. "We'll go to that house first, okay?"
"Okay!" agreed the daughter and they set off for the front door.
This kid obviously had on two costumes...
Not wanting to miss this, Laurie scrambled through the yard, slid in through the back door and arrived, panting at Buddy's side, just as the pair reached the front door. Buddy raised his eyebrows in a "where have you been?" way...to which Laurie merely made the familiar cigarette smoking gesture that was a secret code between the two of them. Buddy, true to his name, was the only real friend Laurie had in this pack of human hyenas.
"Well aren't you adorable!" declared Sarah as the little girl and her mother arrived at the door.
"Trick or Treat!" the youngster cried with great enthusiasm.
"Here you go...you can pick one, but only one...okay?" With that Sarah extended the candy bowl with all of the temptation that the Evil Queen put into offering the apple to Snow White. The child succumbed to the lure and her small hand shot out of the well worn coat sleeve to take the proffered goodie. Suddenly, her eyes met Laurie's and her hand froze, hovering an inch above the confections.
Sarah looked at the child in a puzzled fashion. "Oh...I suppose it's hard to decide isn't it? Why don't you just take two?"
And with that...the little girl looked up into Sarah's face...directly into her eyes and smiled the most beautiful smile that Laurie had ever seen. "No thank you," the child said politely pulling her hand back slowly, "May I have one from the bowl behind the door?"
Laurie coughed into her hand to avoid the sudden gurgle of laughter that threatened to erupt. The look on Sarah's face was absolutely priceless as she stood there with an absolutely stunned look, stammering a response before finally giving up. To Laurie's amusement, she could see that the mother stood there, her shoulders squared, her chin lifted up a notch or two higher as she bit her own lip to repress a reply of her own.
"Well uh...I guess...umm...of course you can...how did you...oh never mind...here you go!" Sarah reluctantly reached behind the door and extracted bowl number two. Without hesitation the young child grabbed a Twix bar and dropped it into her bag and turned to go.
"What do you say?" the mother reminded her daughter in a soft voice.
"Oh!" replied the child, quickly turning around to remedy the situation. She looked past Sarah at the door and met Laurie's eyes before smiling and saying, "Thank you very much!" Fortunately, Sarah was too preoccupied returning the sacred bowl to its hiding place and hadn't noticed the exchange...but Buddy hadn't missed it.
"I wonder how the child knew about the bowl," he whispered to Laurie, "rather odd...isn't it?"
"Very odd," agreed Laurie with a wink.
Unfortunately, the prank didn't cure Sarah of her incredible prejudice...but it did remove her from the front doorway for the remainder of the evening. Buddy decided to take over. He mixed the bowls together and let the children work it out...
Halloween is for children...and that's just my opinion.
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