On his first Halloween outing, when he was almost two, our son Chris got a piece of candy and sat on the porch to eat it. When he finished, we went to the next house. He sat on that porch and ate the candy he got there too. At the third house, he sat on the porch with his candy and burst into tears. He must have thought Halloween was some primitive force-feeding ritual.
Chris’s brother Nick, when he was in high school, used to dress up like a dummy and sit on our front porch bench, holding a basket of candy and a sign that said “take one.” He had on jeans and an old sweatshirt and a mask and he sat so still kids big and small thought he was a mannequin. When they came up onto the porch, he would say “boo” and they would scream. His fame must have spread over the years, because by the last year he was home for Halloween middle-schoolers would stand on the sidewalk and toss bits of candy at him to see if he moved. “Do you think he’s real? I’m afraid he might jump at us. I don’t want to be scared.”
For some parents, it’s Christmas that brings on bouts of nostalgia. Others, Thanksgiving. For me, it’s Halloween. All those kids and masks. I can almost imagine my children are in the costumed group I see coming up the walkway. Maybe one of the little ones will sit on the steps and eat the Snickers bar I give him. Maybe an older one will rest on the bench and be so still no one can tell if he is real.
I’ve been through this before. I have older kids who are long gone. But Meg’s and mine, Chris and Nick, are still in the process of leaving. Just out of or just finishing college, on their own but not quite settled in places they are ready to call their new homes. They will both be here for Christmas. I made up their beds the other day and thought about their being back in them, although it’s not quite the same when I don’t tuck them in but the other way around.
We have a double bed that my grandfather made for my grandmother in 1920 as a wedding present. It will make a nice (and badly needed) guest bed in the room the boys always shared. There aren’t that many more times they will both be visiting at the same time, so we’re taking the first halting steps toward dismantling the shrine to their childhood. I put up my grandfather’s double bed yesterday, but I left one of the twin beds set up so that the son who loses the coin toss for the bigger bed will still have a place to sleep.
The new bed looks nice in the room. The smaller twin bed is up against the wall at the foot of the new bed, like something for a footman for traveling royalty. It has the red comforter the boys used for many years and both of the red shams, so it looks plush and cozy. I put away everything last night and turned out the light, but as I passed the room this morning I stopped to look in again at that twin bed with the red comforter. I flicked on the light with the giddy anticipation of those middle-schoolers tossing candy at my mannequin son, afraid he would pop up, afraid he would not.