Thursday, October 31, 2013

They care.

It started as I would expect Halloween eve to start: I encouraged bites of burritoes and broccoli while Jon rushed around setting up the candy station for the trick or trickers and looking for the various glow devices grandparents had gifted for the occasion. When we finally located the luminescent accessories in a random drawer with dish towels, placed there "so I wouldn't lose them," we cut our losses and hit the road.

Jules was dressed in the awesome werewolf costume my mom designed for him but refused face paint. "I look cuter this way—not scary—so I'll get more candy." Kai had already dissed his werewolf on his way out the door this morning.


"I want to be Wolverine," Kai had pouted, tossing the furry hat to the floor. 
"Werewolves have big claws too," I reasoned.
Knowing how important it is for three-year-olds to be dressed like all of the other superhero three-year-olds at school, I quickly located the Batman costume. In the laundry room. Soiled with something that I hope to be chocolate (good chance: it was on the chest). Batman's cape/mask was missing but I managed to find some Spiderman headwear.  Kai was thrilled. Success. 

It was windy and rainy. I missed our old hood: Ri stopping by to see the boys, the sidewalks, the streetlights, the Jastatts. But the boys' excitement was contagious. They wanted candy—loads and loads of it. I'd expected this. What I didn't expect was everything else. 

Jules would charge up to each new door and shout: "Trick or Treat for Unicef!" and push the tiny cardboard collection box out for quarters, often before taking a piece of candy.

And Kai... Kai was just taking in the night. I'm pretty sure that strolling the (dark, dark) streets with Kai, aged 3 1/2, will remain in my top ten cherished-moments memories of our "young family" days.

About halfway through our trick-or-tricking, we caught up with some friends. Jules would run with the pack up to a door and I'd hang back with Kai, who continued to mosey along at his own pace. As the other kids were already racing up to the next house, he'd climb the stairs of the one everyone else had just left, carefully keeping his balance as he clutched his plastic pumpkin in one hand and glow sword with the other. 

When the door swung open, he'd shout "trick or treat!" and leisurely select a piece of candy. Often he would drop his glow-sword and his bucket to grasp the new treat with both hands and make a very theatrical (but sincere) show of smelling it. "It's peach," he told one neighbor, of the lollipop he'd plucked from her bowl. At another house, he told a Skittles-proffering woman that he "LOVED SKITTLES" and he'd already gotten some... and started digging around to find it as evidence. "But I like to have two." At the next home, he insisted on showing the man giving him a Reese's Cup a box of candy he'd received it because "the superhero on the box turns into a rock." At every stop, he made sure to wish everyone a "Happy Halloween," sometimes following that up with a "and have a good night." He took plenty of time to admire the Halloween decorations. Each and every one. 

And as we rounded the corner for home, Kai slipped his tiny hand into mine and whispered, "those last candies - there's two in there - I saw the picture on the box. One for you and one for me." My heart exploded. 

Back at the ranch (converted into a contemporary home with no categorical style), 5-year-old Jules engaged in the expected candy counting. Moving at a productive pace, he'd managed to accumulate more than twice the loot of his younger brother but was acting relatively generous about it all. On a quick FaceTime with my parents he even promised save some candy to share with them when we visit at Thanksgiving. But Jules' tear-jerker moment came later, when I was hounding him to brush his teeth "after all that candy." (Cliche parent, I have become.)

The kid was sitting at the table shoving coins and dollars from his little wallet into the Unicef box. Jon joined us at the table and Jules asked him, and then me, for more dollars. Carefully folding a five-dollar bill into the slot, Julian explained: 

"We need to get lots of money so we can help people. Look at the things we can get for them with this money..." He pointed to the illustrations on back of the box. "You can get fruit bars." (Protein bars.) "Or soccer balls. And they die early. So you can survive them if you get them shots. But I want to get all the way to the water. They have to walk REALLY far to get water." His eyes were wide. His face was flushed. "They have to walk as far as it is to get to my school," he said. "And when they get there it is MUD. They drink mud. I want to get them clean water." 

I get teary—again—writing this. That kid is getting an extra piece of candy tomorrow. 

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