Friday, October 28, 2011

Suburban School "Safe" Trick or Treat from Hell

Last night the local high school hosted a "safe" trick or treat night for Katie's school, grades kindergarten through third. Will had to work tonight. I'm honestly glad because it was so freaking crowded at that place Katie and I kept getting our hands pulled apart through the waves of people, just the two of us. I can imagine if there were three of us the other two would spend most of the party trying to find the third person.

I've never been somewhere more crowded. New York City subways have nothing on the crowd at this Midwestern suburban high school. Parents hunched over from a long day, hauling their kids around in the most gaud awful tacky costumes, everyone's face red and hair plastered to their sweaty heads.

Everything went wrong that could. Katie stopped in the middle of the crowd several times and screamed, "I feeling too crowded!" We had to WAIT and WAIT and WAIT to participate in the games and activities. I swear we waited twenty minutes for Katie to spend two minutes smearing some orange frosting on a sugar cookie and then being swatted off so the next child could have her seat.

Someone stepped right in front of me as I was taking a picture of Katie impressively swinging a plastic bat at a ball into the "home run" section of the net. We were both pushed and shoved and got separated three times by the mass of bodies, and all I could hear was Katie screaming, "Mama! Mama! Where you go?!" I'd push my way toward her voice and we'd embrace. Then she'd look at me like I killed a kitten in front of her and yell, "Mama, you have to STAY CLOSE TO ME!"

After an hour, Katie was shooting mini hoops for candy and missed both shots. She lost it. She started crying, tripped and spilled all the candy out of her bucket. She sat sobbing on the floor, her gown growing grey film at the bottom of it from all the grime. Tears streaming down her face, Katie sat and watched while two other parents helped me picked up the candy. I thanked them profusely, and they both smiled at me genuinely like, "Been there before, Mom. Don't worry!"

I tugged her arm and said, "Katie, it's time to go home."

Katie, still crying, whined, "I don't wanna go home!"

I couldn't help but laugh. "Katie! You're obviously not having fun."

Tears still streaming down her face, she shouted, "I AM TOO HAVING FUN!!!"

We wove our way around people and finally found the exit. We stepped into a nearly empty hallway. I didn't realize until then how sweaty I was. The cool air from an open door out into the circle drive felt wonderful on my burning rosacea face. I dropped the stuff I'd been carrying onto a table to get out my keys. My arm throbbed as I tried to unbend it from the position it had been in for the last hour, holding my coat, Katie's coat, cookie, ghost balloon, and the T-shirt she won from the girl's volleyball team.

Which was very cool. Even though we were being jostled around, I couldn't stop smiling, watching all these older kids putting on this tremendous party for these little kids. The various games and activity tables were set up and staffed by high school kids in various groups like STUCO, cheerleaders, girls' basketball, boys' baseball and other student organizations. I was off drinking Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill at 7:00 on a Thursday night when I was in high school. I was definitely not at school when school was not in session. Often not even when it was. So it makes me happy that these kids today are not all "ugh, kids today" as adults often complain.

I found my keys. I told myself everything would be fine. Katie would pass out on the drive home and I'd carry her to bed. I'd take a valium.

I looked down at Katie, expecting to see the same scowl she had nearly the entire hour in the other room. Instead, I saw an adorable girl wearing the flower girl gown she wore at my niece's wedding earlier this year. Here was Glinda the Good Witch, digging through her plastic pumpkin, assessing the value of her loot. "Candy! Gum! Oooh and tattoos!"

She looked up at me. Her features had returned to normal, her eyes twinkling. "That was a blast!"

At first I laughed. Then I realized she meant it, in that completely unironic way only a five year old is capable of.

Emotions are so flexible at her age. Moody? Yes. But not always bad moods. Kids are quicker to spring back into a good mood it seems than adults are. Just when you start to think the only rational explanation for your child's behavior is that she has suddenly become possessed by the devil, snap! Your sweet child has returned to you, smiling and ready for some sugar.

It took me several hours and one valium to unwind after this so-called "safe" trick or treat party from hell. But Katie was instantly ready to forget the bad stuff and focus on the good stuff. Like how the moment your baby is placed into your arms you immediately forget all the pain you had felt moments ago. She held her pumpkin full of candy with the same kind of awe.

Katie skipped to the car as I hauled my exhausted body as fast as I could behind her. She'd periodically stop, turn around and shout, "Come on Mom! Let's go home and eat some CANDY!"

Oh how I wish candy still did the trick for me like it did when I was five.