There has been a running countdown going since 9 am. “How many more hours til we can put on our costumes now?”
“4 and a half”
“How many more minutes til Ben and Molly and Penny come?”
“About one hundred and forty-three”
The candy I have by the front door- organic lollipops and kitkats- is a compromise between wanting to be socially responsible and wanting to not be THAT house. (Hershey’s has pledged to be 100% fair-trade by 2015, so I’m not entirely evil). I am a little dizzy from huffing spray-paint. I have single-handedly created a cardboard Lightening McQueen (from Cars 2, so he has won 4 Piston Cups, in case any of you aren’t tracking his career as closely as we are) that is way too heavy for my son to wear by himself but he is excited as only three-year-olds get excited- practicing his running back and forth in the living room-so he’ll be really fast. My daughter is rotating between the front door to look for her cousins and her bedroom to look at her butterfly wings with the regularity of a pendulum.
And then it’s time, face paint and ribbons and a little bit of makeup and some more cardboard right there, and bulky sweaters underneath costumes. The creativity pouring forth in unexpected ways. I love homemade costumes and while they sometimes result in failures that are barely held together by hope and zipties and ducktape, they also are a reminder that even our best work is temporary, we aren’t long for this world, this too shall pass. Before I have a chance to wax too poetic, up pull the cars. And out tumble friends and relatives. An Aunt who makes up little baggies filled with candy and with hand drawn art on the front-not only for her own niece and nephews- but also their cousins. Grandparents laden with food and more candy.
We descend on our neighborhood. Our next door neighbor remembering special lollipops for my one-year-old. The highschool boys across the street clearly delighting in handing out bags full of treats. Teaching our kids to say “thank-you” as loudly as they say “trick or treat.” We wander around- the adults nodding to each other- occasionally complimenting a really cool costume. The rain keeps drizzling down. The sky- a slate helmet- not a crack in the clouds. Occasionally the wind picks up but the gloomy day serves simply to highlight the warmth of community and celebration in the air.
Then back to our house to eat the oddest assortment of foods imaginable (chili and nerds and lasagna and Chinese food and raw veggies and peanut butter cups and pizza). To light the jack’o’lanterns and do our duty by handing out our own candy. Exclaiming over cute costumes and nodding and laughing to parents in the background.
And this to me seems the opposite of a celebration of death. We are so very alive. Alive to our neighborhood and the people all around us. Alive to our own creativity. To the scent of apple cider and spicy chili. To the taste of sour patch kids. What is love but to affirm someone in the disarray? To invite people into your disheveled house and feed them from food they brought themselves? To value being present over doing enough? To hand out gifts to strangers on your doorstep and receive gifts in return?