for a couple of hours yesterday, i picked myself out of the crumbs and the bookpile on the couch, and pretended to be their mother.

there’s nothing i love so much as a Hallowe’en party. i mean, i like being there. i like pumpkins and candy and especially that toffee stuff that makes your teeth feel like they’re actually stuck together and you will never, ever open your mouth again and you get just a wee thrill of scared down your spine until you think of the weightloss advantages and then crr-aaack!! the stuff gives way and your mouth goes boomeranging open just as everyone turns your way. yeh. that’s fun.

fun sorta like this:

i call it, “my children, the happy savannah creatures.”

what i remember about the actual Hallowe’ens of my childhood is the little beads of cold sweat that collected inside those funny plastic facemasks they used to let us wear, the ones with the teeny noseholes and slashes for eyes. i remember trundling round the neighbourhood half-blind, narrowly avoiding being hit by cars, freezing and sweating at the same time, magically free to roam in the dark and beg for candy. i remember losing a loose front tooth to the sticky chilly caramel of my very first mini-sized Mars Bar, and trying to convince the lady down the street from my grandmother’s house that no, i hadn’t been there once already and actually, my twin sister had the same costume on this year. i remember the burnt smell of pumpkin in the air at the end of the night, when all the candles were blown out.

those are the things that i love about Hallowe’en. but every year, i forget.

i get seduced by the getting ready. because in spite of all that i love about the crisp, grim magic of Hallowe’en, getting ready for Hallowe’en is a whole other marvel entirely. its magic is not of the senses but of the imagination. in the hour or so before you go out trick or treating or take off for the soiree or whatever it may be…why, you could turn into anything. you are liminal, in transition. by the time you leave to actually GO out, you are wearing a costume. but while you are getting ready, you are BECOMING. the fairy godmother’s wand is at your shoulder.

the year i was nine, i went to the YMCA after-school Hallowe’en party dressed in a black garbage bag with some striped socks and a pointy hat on. i have seen the pictures. i was a scary witch, alright; i’d looked like a scary witch with a bad hangover had done my makeup. but that was the first costume i ever made for myself. in the time it took to prepare my ensemble, i lived a thousand cackling lives of wicked joy. i didn’t win a prize. i was baffled.

my kids, thus far, have had equally non-Martha-Stewart-esque Hallowe’ens. we have a tickle trunk of stuffed animal costumes. we put ’em on. we prance. we transform. we trumpet our elaborate sno-orrrrts! voila! to date, this has sufficed.

but Posey’s fingers are peeking out the bottom of the sturdy, puffy elephant costume that has served us every year for the past four. i looked at her yesterday, and realized this will be the last year the elephant rides in our trick or treat parade.

we got our money’s worth.

2007


2008

2009


yesterday, 2010.

it goes faster than i thought it could. i understand now, the difference between toddlers and preschoolers. suddenly Oscar, my open wee boy, has this life, this world unfolding for him beneath the surface of everything. he has eaten from the tree of knowledge; he knows now, that the world is a naked place.  “i don’t want to tell you,” he declares, when i ask about his day at preschool. it’s partly not knowing how to collapse seven hours into seven seconds. it’s partly the complexity of realizing that his answer could – perhaps not to me, but could, somewhere in the mystifying judgement of the prosaic world – be wrong. and then we laugh and he makes up something to tell me and he cocks his funny little head and i can see him, at fourteen, twenty-four, forty-four, the man inside the boy.

i look at Josephine, my inscrutable imp, so clearly no longer a baby.

i look back at wee elephant Oscar, with that open gaze, who could have been anything. and i see. the elephant costume has been our hour of getting ready. we are leaving the liminal spaces behind.

the fairy godmother world does not survive long once words and worldliness creep in. i see my children emerging from it, hand in hand, one a little ahead, both stubborn and human, fully separate from me. mine own, yet never again quite like this.

i sniff a little sno-orrrt! behind, and then grab my treat bag and rush to head out alongside them into the real magic of the cold, crisp night, for as long as they will let me.
***

advice wanted: i need mySELF a costume. i leave for Blissdom Canada tomorrow. i am entirely unpacked, mostly dishevelled, and covered in crumbs.  i will rock the cocktail parties. luckily, there’s a Hallowe’enie karaoke night on Friday. which means i can dress up without needing to look All Fancy. i was hoping sweetsalty Kate, Schmutzie, The Palinode, Earnest Girl, and i could go as the Village People. then i realized there seem to be six Village People. still, i hold out hope. any volunteers? i call dibs on the leather guy.

if that doesn’t pan out, i own a blond wig and some striped socks. should i haul out a garbage bag and reprise my witch costume of 1981? halp! best Hallowe’en costume ever, that can be cobbled together out of sticks, lint, and leftover grant application drafts?

cause i tried the elephant costume, people. and that ain’t happening.