One of the sobering realities of growing older is the recognition that there are paths you’ll never wander again — that you swore you’d never want to.
I was one of those mommies who hated Halloween. It reminded me that while other women with children could craft artful costumes out of cardboard and felt and sequins, I was left quaking each time October rolled around.
No way could I pull off such miracles.
So I retreated behind my inadequacies, never, ever had the right costumes for our three little Halloweeners, and blushed at the schoolyard parade that Jill, Amy and Nancy appeared in hideous makeshift costumes, even though they didn’t seem to mind.
So it was with the greatest relief that I scratched Halloween off the family calendar. Once the girls were teenagers, they were on their own when it came to costumes. And I was off the hook.
All that was left for me was to stand at the kitchen door and dole out candy to other people’s children. And then along came the years of panic when candy was tainted or tampered with, and kids no longer came in throngs begging “Trick or Treat!” Frankly, while I hated the reason for the lack of visitors, I didn’t miss the mayhem.
Believe me, I never imagined that I’d even think about Halloween again. But then along came grandchildren.
Who knew that their mounting excitement, as summer shifted into fall, would carry me back to those days of, “What are you going to be for Halloween?” It was as if for that one moment in time, the little ones could not just don costumes; they honestly believed they could become their costume characters.
Now I was hearing it from all seven of the grandkids, even the sophisticated Hannah, who, then about 13, did the teen Halloween scene. Hannah tried to pull off a certain indifference, but I knew that lurking in her was the fun of going out later with her posse of pals.
Yes, Halloween was back in my life.
And sure enough, an annual autumn longing returned as I see young moms in neighborhoods with excited small boys in tow, and overheard conversations about which superhero the little guy was going to be. Ditto for little girls seeking the ever-popular Disney Princess costumes.
As the leaves turn, and the wind kicks up, I’m at loose ends. No crazy masks on the dining room table. No jumbled piles of last year’s fabric bits on beds.
No princesses or goblins or hippies dressing at our house.
Which is why it has come to pass that on a recent Halloween, two slightly nutty grandparents drive two hours up the New Jersey Turnpike and back again the same night to check in on four of the seven grandkids who still “do” Halloween.
We bring the requisite cameras and pose the little ones on the lawn of our daughter’s house as they squirm in their costumes and beg to be done with this annoyance.
Among them this year will be a princess, a flapper, a pirate and a superhero. And my old antipathy to Halloween will melt away as I walk with them on streets teeming with parents, kids and occasional grandparents like us.
Seeing their delight — remembering how decades ago, their mothers were just as excited and giddy, and just as bent on collecting their booty in pillowcases and decorated bags — takes the “Bah, humbug!” out of Halloween.
Finally, after several hours of unmitigated mayhem, we will kiss the little ones goodbye again this year, and drive back to our serene, quiet house.
Once again, I’ll be reminded that there’s no going back. Not even to places you mistakenly thought you’d never want to. ••