Is this your last Halloween?

By Debra LoGuercio

©Copyright 1999, Debra Lo Guercio, all rights reserved

      It was only a Halloween or two ago when life changed while I wasn't looking, and it would never, ever be the same. My kids had done it again -- outgrown something long before I did.

      How I wish for just one more time to hide Easter eggs in the yard or order a Happy Meal or wrap a Barbi doll and place it under the Christmas tree. Just one more evening spent cuddled in a chair reading "Green Eggs and Ham." All just memories now. My kids have no interest in those things anymore.

      If only you could know when the "last time" is taking place and cherish every moment. If only a warning light would go off and tell you, "This is it! Enjoy it while it lasts!" But life doesn't work that way. It catches you by surprise. You set out to do what was once a favorite activity with your kids and they inform you "that's for babies." Like trick-or-treating.

      My daughter was in middle school when that fateful Halloween rolled around, and I started planning our trick-or-treating route. She looked at me as if I was speaking Japanese.

      "I'm not going trick-or-treating with you," she declared with sudden, unmistakable pre-teen disgust.

      She informed me that she was entirely too mature for such childish activities, and intended to stay home and pass out candy. And even if she did decide to walk around the neighborhood and pick up a few Snickers bars or Tootsie Rolls, it would be with her friends and not her ridiculous, embarrassing mother.

      "Could I just follow along, like ten feet behind?"

      "No," she snapped.

      "If I don't talk to you and I pretend I don't know you?"

      "No! Get over it! You're not going."

      Just like that, she kicked me to the curb like a rotting, fruitfly-infested Jack-'O-Lantern, just as her brother had done several years before. I'd always expected such behavior from The Boy, who only tolerated me as a courtesy once his hormones kicked in. But not my daughter. She was supposed to stay my baby forever.

      All of a sudden, I remembered the "last time" we went trick-or-treating. She was all dolled up as a beauty queen, in a black and white puffy prom dress from the thrift store. I even remembered my son's "last time" years earlier, when I trailed along after him as he limped from house to house as a disgusting bleeding ghoul.

      Oh, he was so cute with all that blood dripping from his blackened eyes. If only I'd known those would be the last times, I'd have insisted that we trick-or-treated once more around the block, just for the memories.

      And now it was all over. The end of trick-or-treating hit me hard. I thought back to all those other Halloweens, and the costumes I'd made despite my limited domestic skills -- the clowns, the witches, the ghosts and princesses. My masterpiece, however, was my son's first Halloween costume, when he was an infant. Dressed in plain blue pajamas, with fuzzy white socks and a fluffy white bonnet, no one was able to figure out what he was. I was quite pleased with my own cleverness when I'd inform people that he was a Q-Tip.

      Then there was that sweet little lamb outfit I sewed for my daughter, complete with a little bell on a yellow ribbon around her neck. I remember her disgust, however, when she stomped in after wearing the costume to preschool and informed me that everyone thought she was a bunny. Well, at least it wasn't a complete failure. At least they didn't think she was an oyster.

      And all of a sudden, no more trick-or-treating. Ever. It was the day Halloween died. No more Halloween eve frenzy of rushing home after work, attempting to get dinner into the kids' stomachs when they were desperate to hit the Halloween trail, no more last-minute touchups on costumes frayed and crumpled after being worn all day at school.

      No more sprinting along after my kids as they dashed from house to house, no more Halloween loot dumped out onto the living room floor after a hard night of working the streets, no more sneaking a Butterfinger or two from their stash when they weren't looking. All gone. All stashed away in memory, along with the Easter Bunny and Barbie and Ronald McDonald and Sam-I-Am.

      Last times. So bittersweet, so inevitable. It's a sad fact. You never know the "last time" has happened until it has. The best you can do is to enjoy your time with your little ones and treat every time with them like it's the last. You never know -- it just might be.

      Take that extra trip around the block with your little ones this year. Years from now, you'll never remember that your feet ached. You'll only remember their tiny, shining faces, smeared with clown smiles and cat's whiskers, and the squeals of "Trick or Treat," trailing away through the mist of your memories.