We went trick or treating in Westerville, Ohio, boyhood home of my husband. His parents still live on the dead end street that looks like a horseshoe. You drive in at the middle of the horseshoe and then each end just stops suddenly, one butting up against a yuppie looking apartment complex, the other butts up against a low income apartment complex. On the low-income end there is a big fence to keep the poor kids from wandering into the neighborhood. The other end is wide open, “come on rich kids, we welcome you”. This always seemed like an injustice to me.

It is a clear and crisp evening, pumpkins alight, spooky music wavering in the air. The moon is a bright sliver and there are stars I can actually see, even in the too-light sky around Columbus and suburbs. At 6:00 the voices start, kid laughter, “Trick or treat”, parents calling out, “What do you say? Thank you?”

We ate before the festivities, but Katie is too excited. I hear Grandpa in the kitchen, “What will you eat for dinner? Macaroni and Cheese? Pizza?” Katie is sulking, “I don’t want mac and roni cheese.” “Pizza is YUCKY.”

Suddenly the grandparents are on high alert, this child must EAT. I can see Jay’s mom, a furrow in her brow, abandoning her own food to scour the kitchen for good toddler eats. She looks at me and asks, “What do we do?”

(I don’t know this has never happened before she always eats at the exactly right time she must be hungry cause the clock says so oh god what do we do no one can eat until we figure this out, oh gnash and moan)

Suddenly Grandpa has little boxes of sugar cereal lined up on the counter and Katie is jumping around, singing for Froot Loops. They get her a bowl with a dribble of milk and a baby spoon then feed her one loop at a time, reminding her the whole time not to slip off the stool. “You could crack your head open”, Grandma tells her. I can tell Katie is a little frustrated. She wants more milk, she wants a real spoon and she doesn’t want to think about her head all bloody while she eats her “dinner”. I try not to say much, Jay’s parents are in their mid seventies and if you challenge anything they take it personally. Jay’s mom will push her shoulders up to her earlobes and frown and wrinkle, reminding you that her parents were “from Europe”, whatever that means.

There is a dish of candy on the counter, ready for the beggars. It is right in Katie’s line of vision and she really wants a peanut butter cup. Grandma says. “Finish your Froot Loops and you can have some candy.” I shudder, but it’s not a bad deal from a kid’s perspective.

Soon enough it is time to go out, so on with the little bee suit for Katie and the cow suit for Miles. Suddenly Katie won’t wear her wings, which are so cute and my favorite part, but we manage to get out the door. Miles sits in his stroller, Katie walks with her Papa, holding out the little pumpkin basket.

“The people put candy in here!” She tells me, grinning like a jack-o-lantern. She is so cute, my little Katie-bee. She looks at her brother and tells me, “He is a cow boy!” Miles has his cheeks all pooched out and he is sucking on a ribbon from his suit, cooing into the night as we approach our first house.

There are two people in the driveway, sitting with a big bowl of candy in the half-light. Katie is a bit wary now and won’t hold the basket out; she scrambles into Papas arms and scrutinizes the old lady. They are very sweet and give us four candy bars, all Snickers, my favorite. We tell them we’ll be back next year. On the next house. Katie will only walk in between the houses. As we approach people she holds back. Some people pass us on the street with blinking devil horns and dark make-up. I can see her wondering what the hell is going on. Soon, she wants to be held even between the houses.

We get to the third house. A man is sitting on the porch. He says hello to my husband and I recognize him as the infamous “Slobber Jaws”, resident testosterone freak of Mariemont, the kind of kid who would make other kids eat dog poop or blow up their toys. He voice is deep and scary and he reaches out to give Katie some candy. She begins to scream, echoing in the night. She doesn’t want to take candy from Slobber Jaws. We say goodbye and back away slowly, chuckling.

Good for you, Katie. Your freakometer is calibrated just right.

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