So the little girl had a great Halloween out and about.
She doesn't have a concept of candy yet, although she's learned that chocolate is "Mommy's snack."
She might have a concept of dressing up; she does love wearing her bunny ears from the festival or the monkey suit I bought for her for the occasion.
She really does NOT understand what we are doing shambling through the dusk and dark, knocking on doors and dodging other pint-sized fairies and superheroes.
She does not understand the concept of presently yourself in a picture of cuteness and performing the ritual words to receive a piece of miniaturized candy in return, but she's getting there.
We've posed for the obligatory costume pictures, and the little girl is eager to move on and won't sit down. She pats the pumpkins, sniffs the mums. "Smell flower" she informs us.
As we start off through the neighborhood streets, we stop to admire a little boy's bee costume. "What does a bee say?" we ask her. She stares. "What does a bee say?" The little boy stares. "Oh, and you are a monkey," the boy's mother responds. "What does a monkey say?" my husband prompts. The little girl scrunches up her face in a grin and makes a little half-hearted grunting.
Candy and thank yous exchanged, we leave, the kiddos still awkwardly wondering if their super smart parents have suddenly lost their minds.
We follow clusters of children that detach themselves from their front doors to gather in little flocks of costumes, flying up the street.
We amble along in the near dusk, pointing out decorations and displays rather than approaching every lit door.
We pass friends we know from church just setting out with their passel of youngsters, and chat in passing. My friend wears cat whiskers and ears. "Our candy is on our front porch," she calls. "Go get yourself some KitKat bars!"
Further down the street, we hail our handyman contractor pulling his little boy in a wagon. We greet his wife and mother-in-law with smiles and handshakes, but all of our attention is on the kids anyway. His son sees the monkey costume and sings us a verse of monkeys jumping on the bed. We wave good bye - "I might be over next week after all," Paul calls, - and continue down the middle of the street following a small pack of young girls leggily dressed in either red or white dresses. I can't figure out who they are supposed to be. Dusk is falling fast into night.
A looming tower of pink and orange glowing inflated pumpkins sway in the slight breeze, and a moving spider the size of a Mini catches our eyes. It sparkles with dark glitter. Then the sounds of live old-time music beckons us across the boulevard and into the lawn party of a neighborhood church. We are surrounded on all sides by anticipatory teens, wee Elmos and princesses, and adults shepherding their charges among the garish lights. A tall Zorro with a cape ambles by. A mummy stands listening to the music, while his wife comes over with hot cider.
The cops lets another crowd across the street. It's a happening scene of every age and ethnicity swirling by. The little girl only has eyes for the band, who bathed in pink floodlights, singing in vigorous harmony, a spectacle among spectacles.
After a while, we retreated to quieter and darker streets, interspersed with lights casting strange shadows and flickering colors, beckoning us to new doorways.
On the "toddler-friendly" route, we find a friendly Italian greyhound, a little boy dressed to match his puppy, a family who recognizes us from the park, and a lavish display of spiders, real small-animal skulls, and taxidermied rodents against dramatic drapery. One woman fastens a glow stick around the little girl's wrist.
At another house, the little girl actually knocks on the door herself. The woman who answers crouches down to engage her in gentle conversation while Miss Monkey carefully looks over the bowl of candy. The little girl picks up one colorful package, inspects it, then puts it back. We laugh. I snag a sparkly zebra sticker. At another house, they press small Snickers bars on both of us parents. "To keep up your stamina," they say. We are surprised to find we need it. Some steps are steep, some sections of sidewalk are dark and confusing.
Wandering about, we see a long house with colorful lights and a yard full of halloween figures. "Oo, look!" we tell her. "Look at those pumpkins, those lights!" We stop again, and the little girl takes my husband's hand (yet again), and this time, confidently marches herself right up to the front porch where, it looks like, half the family and assorted friends and neighbors wait in a tableaux. Two teen girls, waiting for us, say "Awwww" in the sweet way that only teen girls can. "It's a monkey. What a cute monkey. She even has a banana. You want some candy, honey?" "Can you say Thank You?" we prompt, and the little girl mumbles something that makes the crowd oo again. On the way back to the sidewalk, she breaks away to investigate a smiling Dracula "I love to count my candy - a! a! a!" and we have to tackle her.
We think we've broken the shyness barrier. A porch full of strangers in strange light, and she didn't even blink, much less cower. Yes, let's walk up to another doorway, knock, and see what interesting "toys" they might have!
By this time, we've zigzagged into the far reaches of the neighborhood over cracked pavement and a street under construction, trying to find a friend's house. Headlights cut through the night, revealing other rug-rats of various ages. We finally stumble over a section of roots to cross back over the boulevard to a smoother piece of pavement. Crowds are gathering around a family's Harry Potter display. People are quiet but festive, ambling with purpose.
We are becoming foot-sore, asking ourselves why, for goodness sake, we insisted on trekking all the way over to David's house. We take a quiet, easy route home. "No hills," my husband insists.
We hear music floating down the street to meet us. When we finally draw abreast of the source of music and stare up to the high porch where a woman sways, playing mazurkas and gypsy fiddle tunes, my husband says "Okay. One more." We are drawn up and up the steep steps, the little girl determined to go to the music. A young daughter smiles and fans out the packages of Skittles as if they were a gypsy's cards. The little girl reaches for the generous bowl instead. I can see she's thinking "nice! red!" We murmur our thanks, and the woman breaks into a little Mussorgsky. The Night on Bald Mountain is floats out in fragments into the quiet as another family of children arrive.
The streets home are even darker, quieter. It's a school night, after all. Cars pass, and I'm very glad that I finally attached reflective markings to the stroller. The little girl asks for cracker, and raisins, and her water bottle. The handful of candy and glow sticks we've gathered lie tossed into the bottom of the stroller.
We visit one last house on our street, our neighbors. Their daughter is getting through the last post-excitement meltdown before bed, but she quiets and comes to the door to see us, already in her pajamas. "Yes, we had a good time going around, didn't we? But now, it's late," her mother says, turning surprised eyes on us. "We are heading home right now," I assure her. "Pumpkin!" The little girl declares. "Ahhnge pumpkin." It's not too late for most people, but late for parents on toddler time. We throw together some tomato-basil soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and roll our little monkey straight into her pajmas. We give candy to one last set of pre-teen latinos in sparkly faery finery (half a handful each since there is so much left), and turn out the lights.
After my husband leaves, I hide the rest of the mini Milky Way darks so they won't be staring him in the face when he wakes up in the morning. The candy was not the point. The little monkey went for a Halloween walk, and it was good.