The day started off with a ping-pong table incident and kind of went downhill from there. Bad words were passed and things never recovered, really. I thought resentfully that it was just so typical – that it was just so us. The one day, the one day, I wanted things to go well – the one day we’d been excited about for ages – was turning out to be a total disaster.
By the afternoon, I couldn’t care less about Halloween or trick-or-treating, and decided – in a moment of sulkiness – that from now on I would never even bother going to any effort to make things special at all. Ella could just grow up locked inside a boring old house while Joel hovered around next to her.
I was officially cancelling Halloween.
And then, at 4 pm, Joel walked into the lounge room holding his iPad. He looked at Ella and said – while sneaking a side-ways glance at me – ‘Right. I think it’s time for some Halloween music. We need to start getting ready.’
“Party? Party?” Ella said, and Joel – with more Halloween enthusiasm than I ever thought I’d see him with – ever in a million years – said, “Yes! Quick! Go and tell mummy that we’ve got a party to go to!” And that was it.
Music went on and we flung about the house, getting our costumes on while Monster Mash blared in the background. It was just like I imagined it would be.
And when the first lot of trick-or-treaters began trickling in, we stepped outside and joined our neighbourhood. The atmosphere in the air was electric and as I looked up and down our street, orange balloons strung from houses, I was floored by just how many families were out and about, participating in this tradition just for the fun of it.
Happy Halloween! we chorused and I loved it not because it was even Halloween, but because it felt like we were part of something. It felt like a neighbourhood we belonged to. One I’d always dreamed of having my kids grow up in. I could not wipe the smile from my face as I took it all in – the parents smiling, chatting, gushing over each other’s children and the kids running through our safe, festive, decorated streets, faces lit up like pure sunshine.
I was in total heaven.
It might have been Ella’s first time trick-or-treating, but she knew how to hold onto that bucket like her life depended on it. She strode up to each house as though she owned it, handfuls of sweets grabbed with conviction, and we looked on, amused, telling her, “Say ta, sweetie, and put some back,” learning that each of the sweet-givers would refuse to have any returned telling us she was the cutest trick-or-treater they’d seen so far. Of course, I died at hearing this and all I could do was look at Joel, beaming, knowing they probably said this to all the kids but loving to be told it all the same.
Joel was on his best behaviour, and as I looked at him I knew like I knew the sun would go down that despite his initial mockery of my Halloween persistence, he was actually enjoying himself. He was seeing, as I knew he would, just how fun these kinds of nights were, all because we have a little girl whose eyes we see them through.