Black Cat Nostalgia

“Next Halloween, I’m gonna be Missy Elliot!”

“I know what I’m going to be for Halloween—a ghoul!”

“I want to be a mad scientist!”

So generally goes the conversation as we’re sitting around the table eating Turkey the fourth Thursday in November. We have an unspoken rule in our house – eat as much candy as you want on Halloween, and then you can have two pieces a day until it’s gone.

Saadia eats everything chocolate in her bag before it even hits the bottom. She then looks a little green around the edges for a day or two. You’d think she’s learn… but I’ve let her loose at parties just to see what would happen, and found out that she’ll park herself in front of the dessert table and two-hand it until I’m so embarrassed I turn her away. So much for letting kids learn their own lessons. At least she comes by it honestly. I just polished off the bag of Snickers bars I bought yesterday for trick-or-treaters.

Anyway, once the dregs of Halloween-past are gone… rock-hard Bazooka gum, Dum-Dums, Smarties, and those round red, yellow and green hard candies that come individually wrapped and cut your tongue when you suck on them… attention turns to next year. We talk about costume ideas about once a week from then until mid-summer, when it becomes an every other day affair. Once school starts in September I’m done for. I’ve got to tune out all kid costume conversations until it’s time to actually put together the damn thing.

Except not this year. Middle-schoolers apparently are not quite old enough to swear off trick-or-treating altogether, but they are old enough to put on a good show about not caring about the whole affair. Halloween is just not cool anymore.

And so this year we are in a quandary, because my child has made no plans for the big holiday. Maybe one of her last big holidays. Back on our first Halloween together it seemed like her childhood was going to go on (painfully) forever. And now here we are facing Halloween in its waning years.

Which led to this surprising small tug in my gut that I haven’t had before. The tug became more of a yank when my partner had Saadia and her friends convinced to go as each a different color crayon. Together they could make up a box. Crayons! The whole thing was sticky-sweet and childlike. I thought about Saadia in kindergarten, when she colored black cats and jack o’ lanterns and broomsticks during quiet time even if she never once got a sticker for staying in the lines. Here was an idea I could get behind. A 5-foot 7-inch Crayola crayon.

But then all of Saadia’s trick-or-treat plans fell through—this girl decided to go with her friends in another town, another one got invited to a party, another one remembered she was actually twenty-two and much too old for such adventures. Without strength in numbers, there was no way Saadia was going to be caught dead in a crayon costume.

Next Saadia decided to go as a business woman. Easy. I have suits in single-digit sizes that I got too fat for when age 30 came in sight, but I’ve kept them for ten years because I only wore them once and I’m going on a diet soon anyway. Never mind that I haven’t been required to wear anything more dressy than my fleece PJs topped by a bleach-stained Ogunquit sweatshirt in about four years. I can’t even dress up to go out, since Claudia’s idea of getting spiffed up involves a non-bleached t-shirt or sweatshirt, depending on the season. I can’t very well wear my black cocktail dress trimmed in gold lace and cut down to here to dinner if she is wearing her hiking boots and a hoodie.

But I couldn’t bring myself to pull one out of the closet. I didn’t want to age my baby girl twenty years. I wanted her to actually be my baby girl again. I think everyone handing out candy would agree with me. How many people have skimped on candy when a 5’10″ boy sporting some peach fuzz on his lip showed up at their door dressed in nothing more than a black cape, plastic fangs, and fake blood dripping down his chin? That four-year-old princess in pink definitely gets her pick of the bowl. That overgrown vampire gets the hard candy that makes your tongue bleed.

My little girl will be dressing in gray suits and pumps soon enough.

I decided to play dumb. “But Mom, I’m going to be a businesswoman!” she wailed as I pointed out three days before Halloween that she as yet had no costume.

“I don’t know if a businesswoman is a great idea, Saadia,” I said. “You can’t cover as much territory in heels as you can in sneakers after all.”

This got her thinking. She is all about the haul. I pushed my advantage. “How about going as Pippi Longstocking? Or a jack o’ lantern? Or a ghost? How about a princess; you never were a princess, were you?”

“Mom!!!! That’s for little kids!”

She had a point. But isn’t that what Halloween is about, finding kid-like joy in spooky houses and pounds of candy and complete strangers telling you how cute you are as you stand on their doorstep?

“How about a hippie?” I finally offered. Saadia looked doubtful. That smacked of old-fashioned. But it was my last-ditch effort. If she wasn’t going to look like a little girl, at least she could look like teenager and not a full-grown young woman. I’m not ready for that yet. “You can wear bell-bottoms and long necklaces and flowers in your hair.”

I think it was the bell-bottoms that got her. Maybe not so old-fashioned after all. We struck a deal.

Excuse me, I’ve got to go find some bell-bottoms before she changes her mind.