The Halloween Question
I stood before my father, waiting. I had asked my question and now he was making up his mind. His eyes studied me as I tried my best to be patient. At eleven years it seemed such an important matter. My friends were counting on his response. If he said no, I imagined they would feel as though I had let them down.
I did not understand why all of their parents had been inclined to defer answering this simple question to my father. Perhaps, it was because he alone had already successfully raised children to adulthood, or because he was a judge, though I doubt presiding over traffic court gave him any greater authority than, say Chris’s father, the Mechanic, or Dave’s, the grocery store manager. As an obstetrician, Mike’s father‘s work went a little beyond our understanding, though we knew it had something to do with babies, we did not care to know anymore. Besides, what would a baby doctor know about the appropriateness of sending four fifth-graders out trick-or-treating alone.
I continued to wait for my father to make up his mind. He ran a hand through his gray hair. I tried not to let my mind wander. I shifted my weight from the right leg to the left. I wondered if this was what a speeder felt like, pleading his case in court. I decided I would in five years make it my mission to observe all traffic laws so I could avoid such scrutiny.
I did not see why it was such a difficult decision. The greatest danger in our neighborhood was possible future lung cancer from secondhand smoke produced by roving bands of teenagers.
He sighed. It was a sigh which told me my father had reached his decision. “I suppose,” he answered, “as long as you come right back home at eight o’clock and don’t eat any candy before I look it over.”
“Thanks dad!” I answered and turned toward the door, so I could run out and tell my friends.
“Oh, and Phillip,” he called after me, “don’t skip Dr. Hilder’s house, even if he is giving out toothbrushes again.”
With a quick, “yes, Dad,” I bolted out the door before he could give me any more admonitions.
It was the best Halloween. The four of us put on old ratty t-shirts which we embellished with a few extra rips and threw berries at one another hoping they would leave stains which looked like blood. They did not but it was still fun. We put on white face paint and ran down the middle of the street. It was cool and drizzly like every other October 31st in our small niche of the globe. We filled our pillowcases and lugged them home, exhausted, just after 8 o’clock.
At least, that is how I remember it. The first Halloween my friends and I went out without an adult.
We never knew how good we had it as children. We kept our eyes always on the future, wanting to be just a little bit older. We did grow up, my friends and I, all too quickly. They are gone, moved away, not to be seen outside of a rare class reunion.
This memory comes back to me as I listen to my own little boy, ten, ask me the same question I once put to my father. He is making a good case, speaking plainly, honestly.
But I already know my answer. He will not like it but I hope, someday, he will understand. Maybe, he will not until he too is old and gray and his son asks him the age old Halloween question.
I will tell him no. Not because of him, but because of me. I would give anything to go out trick-or-treating with my dad once more.