As I write the streets are filling up with spangled monsters and enthusiastic lions on a sugar high. Normally holidays bring on nostalgia. Not this one. When I was a child, I loved Halloween, loved the spooky witchiness of being allowed to roam strange streets after dark, loved the thrill of becoming a princess (my annual costume of choice.)
Then I became a parent. Never mind the hit and run assaults on candy boxes by grown kids who knocked at the door, grabbed everything they could, and left my trees festooned with toilet paper and my car splotched with eggs. That's what mischief night is for, I suppose. No, what knocked out my taste for trick or treat was the night an awfully young Theo slipped the pack, wandered off in the dark--and it was so dark even I felt my moorings slip--and promptly got lost. I remember a heart-pounding race through the streets hollering his name, panicked tears rolling down my cheeks. How could I have lost him? How could I have let go his hand? Please let him be safe and I will offer candy to the Patron Saint of Lost Boys for the rest of my life.
He came home, of course. I literally don't remember how, or when. I just remember heaving a huge sigh as my heart settled back into place. Naturally he was nonplussed by my panic; after all, he wasn't lost, he knew where he was, he was with himself. Just thinking of this still makes my throat tighten; I remember other times I lost the boys, once at Virgin Records in Times Square, when they slipped away to play video games, once at Loehmann's, where they were simply exploring the undersides of clothes racks. Shopping and minding children do not seem to mix.
Tonight, watching all the small pirates and dazzling fairies drag their parents around, I think it is a miracle that we don't lose one another more often. A miracle, too, when little ones pull away, then manage to find their way home again. How else will our tiny dragons spread their wings and learn to fly?