My 12-year-old daughter, dressed as Forrest Gump’s Jenny during her hippie state.   (I mention to my daughter that I am a little concerned that she wishes to look like someone whose life is completely trashed but she points out that in the end, Jenny straightens up.  When I mention to my sister the costume my daughter has chosen, she tells me she is concerned about my child emulating a drug addict.  I tell her at the end of the movie, Jenny straightens herself out.  My sister reminds me that at the end of the movie, Jenny was no longer a hippie).

My five-year-old foster son, Superman.  An apt outfit for him since, during all waking hours, he is moving faster than a speeding bullet.

My four-year-old foster son, Humpty Dumpty.  Also an apt outfit since this child’s muscular coordination is not up to usual standards.

A five-year-old girl I am babysitting while her mother is at work.  She tells us she is a fairy godmother.  She has the tiara and the wand to prove it.  She does not feel that the fact she is wearing a black witches outfit should in any way make people question her identity.

A three-year-old Cinderella.  Her mother, too, must work so she is coming with us.  Her little pink dress, white tights, fancy dress shoes, pearls, clip earrings and white hair tie make a perfect outfit.  She, too, carries a magic wand presumably borrowed from the fairy godmother.

Two-year-old Simba from Lion King, face painted to baby lion perfection.

Myself.  Dressed as myself

Scene:The local mall which is having trick-or-treating for the next one-and-one-half interminable hours. (The mall actually had a full two hours but the scene from which you are spared regarding the dressing of the above characters took much longer than the time allotted for it).

Act One (And Two and Three and All Other Acts)

I open the van door.  Superman jumps from the van and, faster than a speeding bullet, takes off across the parking lot closely followed by Humpty Dumpty and the Fairy Godmother.

Me: Stop right there and wait for me.  Cars will drive on you.

Superman stops abruptly.  Humpty Dumpty does not.  Humpty Dumpty falls.  The Fairy Godmother skids to a stop two inches from Humpty’s head, now on the parking lot pavement.  She stares down at him.

Humpty Dumpty, staring back at the fairy godmother:  I’m okay.

Me, clutching Cinderlla with one hand and Simba with the other:  Jenny, hold Superman’s and Humpty’s hands.  Fairy godmother, walk beside me.  Do not run in this parking lot!  I mean it!

We arrive at the mall sidewalk without further mishap.  Jenny, erroneously assuming it is safe to release Superman and Humpty, does so.  Superman, faster than a speeding bullet, is entering the mall several minutes before the rest of us will arrive.

Me, shouting to be heard at that distance:  Superman, don’t you go through that door!  You wait for the rest of us!  I mean it!

The mall has thoughtfully provided us with small, plastic trick-or-treat bags complete with handles for the children to hold.  I gratefully discard the plastic grocery sacks in favor of what appear to be much more manageable receptacles.  The distribution of goody bags to all children requires that no one, except Simba, can hold hands of older members of the party.  I am holding Simba’s bag with one hand and Simba with the other.  I am not fool enough to let go of a two-year-old in the mall even though I am fool enough to bring him and all his little cronies to the mall in the first place.  The bags distributed, I straighten to give instructions only to see Superman, Humpty, the Fairy Godmother and Jenny about to round the corner to the first store.

Me:  Get back here all of you!  Right now!  I mean it!

Reluctantly, the preschoolers stop.  Jenny, hoping to avoid association with the group, continues.  All members of the group now shout for her to stop.  She complies – not gracefully.

I remind them of earlier instructions to keep together.  When all heads have nodded acquiescence, I permit them to proceed.  Superman takes the lead, followed by Fairy Godmother, Humpty, Jenny and Cinderella.

Me:  Hold it right there!  I told you to stay together!

Superman to me:  We were together.  It’s you and Simba who are behind.

Obviously more complete instructions are needed.

Cinderella:  I have to go to the bathroom.

Me:   Jenny, take Superman, Humpty and the Fairy Godmother and start trick-or-treating.  I’ll take Cinderella and Simba to the bathroom.  The rest of you DO NOT LEAVE JENNY.  STAY WITH HER AT ALL TIMES!

I give them my best “I-am-the-mother-and-if-you-don’t-do-what-I-say-you-are-dead” glare.  It is wasted.  They have already left to start their round of the mall.

Cinderella uses the restroom in her usual leisurely fashion.  Fifteen “are-you-finished-yet’s” later, she emerges.  She comes directly to me, forgetting to wash her hands.  With visions of lost Superman’s and Humpty’s dancing through my head, I ignore this indiscretion and hurry out the door.

Jenny has successfully kept all three of her charges with her during my absence.  I explain new rules.  All characters must stay behind Jenny and in front of me.  Does everyone understand?  Of course.  Why would I even need to ask?  We proceed.  Superman is called back and requested to show his spatial understanding of the word “behind”.  We again proceed.

Superman to store clerk:  Trick-or-treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.

Jenny:  Mom, did you hear that!  Make him stop!  He is so embarrassing!

Store clerk to Fairy Godmother:  What are you today, sweetheart?

Fairy Godmother:  I’m the Fairy Godmother!Store Clerk:  Oh.

Humpty Dumpty:  I’m Humpty Dumpty.

Store clerk just smiles.  We proceed.  Cinderella sees an amazing character.  Her head slowly turns to follow him as he walks past.  Soon her body is following him as well.

Me, to Cinderella:  Stay in front of me.  Show me “in front of”.

Humpty Dumpty to store clerk #2:  I’m Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty to store clerk #3:  I’m Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty to store clerk #4:  I’m Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty continues in this fashion.  Jenny continues to walk ahead attempting to appear unassociated with deranged members of the group.  She is unable to lose Superman.

Me to Jenny and Shadow:  Slow down and wait for the rest of us.  (Brief pause.)  I mean it!

We catch up to them in the line at the next store.  A repeat performance of the previous stores.  Who are you today, little girl?  I’m the fairy godmother.  I’m Humpty Dumpty.  Jenny and Superman, slow down!  Wait for the rest of us!  I mean it!

Simba has been trotting along beside me so quietly that I hardly notice him.  I wouldn’t notice him now except he is turning red and making choking sounds.  I reach into his mouth and pull out a piece of candy, still in it’s wrapper.  He screams in protest.  I take another piece, unwrap it and give it to him.

Cinderella sees another astounding costumed character.  Again, her head turns to watch him as it walks past.  Slowly her whole body turns, eventually following the new character.

Me to Cinderella:  Stay in front of me.  What is “in front”?

Cinderella is unable to hear me, so great is her fascination. I grab her arm and place her in front of me.

Humpty to Store Clerk:  I’m Humpty Dumpty.  Is your nose real?

Store clerk to Humpty:  Yes, it is.

Humpty stands, staring in awe at a human with a real nose that large.  The clerk winks at him and pulls off his nose.

Humpty to me:  Why did he lie to me, Mom?  Why?

We arrive at a children’s store.  The store clerk is thrilled with Humpty.  She asks permission to have our Humpty come in and sit next to their stuffed Humpty for a picture.  I give permission, calling for Jenny and Superman to come back and wait.  I try to watch Humpty in the store and the others in the mall.  None of my mother’s visual genes have been passed down to me.  I cannot see from eyes in the back of my head nor can I make one eye watch one child while the other watches another child.  The picture taken, we return to the line in the mall.  I count heads.  Someone is missing.

Me, trying not to shout in panic:  Cinderella, where are you.  Cinderella!  Cinderlla come here!  Jenny, where is Cinderella?  The rest of you stop!  Cinderella, where are you?

Jenny to me:  Mom!  Stop shouting!  You’re embarrassing me.  She’s right behind you!

Me, to Cinderella whom I am now facing:  I told you to stay in front of me!

Cinderella, looking up at me:  I am in front of you, Cj.

I am getting more and more agitated with my sister who has reneged on her promise to give a Halloween party.  We proceed.

Me to Fairy Godmother:  Hold your sack by the handles.  You’re going to spill it that way.

The mall is remodeling.  They have yellow caution ribbons placed over all rough flooring.  Humpty considers these a personal affront to his sense of balance. He has been repeatedly told to walk around.  I am again forced to notice my handicap caused by the lack of my mother’s genetics for, as I am retrieving Cinderella who is following an adult Pinocchio (I think), Humpty Dumpty crawls under a yellow caution ribbon to walk on the rough flooring.  Humpty Dumpty falls.  Superman stares down at him sprawled on the floor, his tights in shreds.

Humpty to Superman:  I’m okay.

Superman to Humpty:  Mom is going to be really mad at you.

Humpty to Me:  Are you mad at me, Mom?

Superman to Humpty:  Not that mom, stupid.  Our Mom who made that outfit special just for me.

Humpty does not dispute his biological mother’s possible anger.  I help him to his feet.  He hands me a button torn loose in the fall.  We retrieve Cinderella once again and proceed.

Cinderella:  I need to go potty.

Me:  You just went potty.

Cinderella:  I need to go again.

Me:  We’re almost done with the downstairs.  You can go when we get upstairs where the bathrooms are.

We proceed much more slowly now.  The mall is becoming jammed with other trick-or-treaters.  Simba is now aware of the system.  Each store will hand him a new piece of candy.  He now screams in protest when I insist he put it in his sack.  It is simpler just to unwrap it and give it to him.  Jenny and Superman are unable to outdistance us.  We are now jammed together in line.

Jenny to Superman:  Stop walking on my feet!

Jenny to Me:  Mom, make him stop walking on my feet.  He keeps doing it.

Humpty Dumpty to Store Clerk:  I’m Humpty Dumpty.

Cinderella to Me:  I have to go potty.

Me to Fairy Godmother:  Hold your sack by the handle.  You’re going to spill your candy that way.

I might have felt joy at finishing our tour of the downstairs had I not realized that the upstairs of the mall has fully as many stores for trick-or-treaters.  Jenny and Superman, followed closely by Humpty and the Fairy Godmother, head for the up escalator.  I briefly questioned the wisdom of using the escalator but Cinderella is now desperately holding herself as she walks and Simba is loudly objecting to my refusal to give him more candy.  Without rational thought, I blindly follow a 12-year-old.  Gripping Cinderella with one hand and Simba with the other, I step onto the bottom stair.

Humpty Dumpty dances on the escalator.  Humpty Dumpty falls.  He lies on his back, staring up at me, his feet three stairs above him.

Humpty to Me:  I’m okay, Mom.

Me to Humpty:  Well, get up!

Humpty struggles to comply.  His costume has given him a very rotund middle.  He is obviously high-centered.

Humpty to Me:  I can’t.

I need a free hand.  I step behind Cinderella to protect her from falling.  I let go.  She promptly feels herself falling and grabs my leg screaming “Don’t let me fall.  Don’t let me fall!”  I am having difficulty keeping my balance.  I lose my presence of mind and lean against the side of the escalator.

Note to the reader:  For those of you who have assumed I had lost my presence of mind several hours earlier when I had agreed to take this group to the mall, you are probably correct.  Let’s just say I had not yet regained my presence of mind.

The stairs of an escalator move upward.  The railings of an escalator move upward.  The sides do not.  Therefore, it is not reasonable to assume that you can regain your balance by leaning against a stationary object while your feet are moving upward.  I am normally a reasonably intelligent person so understood this at once.  I jerked away from the side and leaned forward.  I might have fallen on top of Humpty had it not been for Cinderella still clinging desperately to my leg and screaming.  Superman, above me, was shouting with laughter.

Jenny to Superman:  Stop it!  It’s not funny!

Jenny to Me:  Mom, make him stop.  It’s not funny.

I ignore her in favor of trying to grab one of  Humpty’s arms which are flailing about looking for a handhold.  Jenny thumps Superman on the head causing him to laugh harder and placing him in danger of needing to use his nonexistent aerial skills to keep from falling himself.  Superman trips as he reaches the top.  Humpty makes it to his feet and off the escalator without a hitch.

I step off the escalator.  A woman smiles at me and says, “Did Humpty Dumpty have a great fall?”  Cinderella, still terrified even though we are off the escalator, is clutching my hand.  I am still not fool enough to let go of a two-year-old with my other hand.   The presence of the children has saved me from an assault and battery charge.  I briefly look skyward for patience and control.  There in front of me is a  sign which reads “restrooms.”

I have a friend who tries to tell me frequently that in the middle of chaos, God is good.  Rebellion causes me to want just a little more.

Again, we split up.  Cinderella, Simba and I to the restrooms.  The others to join the line of greedy little munchkins.  I do not waste breath reminding them to stick together since at this moment I don’t care if I ever find any of them again, anyway.
When we rejoin them, the line has moved slowly enough to keep them only a few stores ahead of us in spite of the fact that Cinderella’s restroom habits have not improved.  The completion of her business required the complete rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and her own personal composition (“I love my mommy, I want my mommy” which consists entirely of those words sung repeatedly for approximately 5 to 9 minutes in an almost perfect monotone).

Jenny is once again pretending that she is not associated with anyone behind her.  I permit her to live through her personal hell her way as long as she lets me live through mine my way.  Approximately halfway around the top floor, we are given a slight reprieve.  One of the proprietors of the food court kindly realizes that patrons will be thirsty and hands out lemonade to the line.  I drink my lemonade and know I need something more.  I rarely regret my decision not to drink alcoholic beverages and don’t waste time doing it now.  I force the children to sit while I order the largest caffeine drink available.  I down half without stopping, hoping that a shot of caffeine will help me finish.  Thus fortified, we proceed.

Store clerk to Fairy Godmother:  Who are you, little girl?

Fairy Godmother to Store Clerk:  I’m the Fairy Godmother.

Humpty to Store Clerk:  I’m Humpty Dumpty.

Me to Cinderella:  Stay in front of me.

Me to Jenny and Superman:  Stay with the rest of us.

Me to Fairy Godmother:  Hold your sack with your handle.

Me to Simba:  Here.  Eat this!

Jenny to Superman:  Stop walking on my feet.

Jenny to Me:  Can’t you make him stop?

Jenny to Superman:  I hope we lose you somewhere.

Me to Jenny:  Don’t say that!  If we lose him, we will be forced to spend time finding him again.  I want to go home!

Cinderella to me:  I have to go potty!

Me to Cinderella:  Just hold it!

For the children, all good things must come to an end.  For me, I can be grateful that all other things will come to an end.  Jenny headed for the down escalator.  With the prospect of home in sight, I regained my presence of mind.

Me to Jenny:  Take the elevator!

Jenny, recognizing the wisdom of this directive, merely turns and heads toward the elevator.  Like a pied piper, she leads the others.  I only have to grab Cinderella once.  We reach the main floor and, with a heart full of gratitude, I watch as Superman, faster than a speeding bullet, heads for the door.  I don’t try to slow him down.  The Fairy Godmother tries to follow as quickly.  She leaves a trail of candy for several feet before I can stop her.

Me to Fairy Godmother:  I told you to hold it by the handles!

The Fairy Godmother pretends she doesn’t hear me.  She puts her magic wand down to pick up candy.  Cinderella, for once standing close to me, steps on the wand.

Fairy Godmother to Me (in tears):  She broke it!

Me to Fairy Godmother:  I’ll fix it when we get home.

I let go of Simba’s hand to help her pick up her candy.  Simba takes advantage of the situation to grab a handful of goodies from the floor and pop them in his mouth, wrappers and all.  I quickly try to force his mouth open to keep him from choking.

Fairy Godmother to me:  He’s eating my candy!  Make him stop!

I remove the offending articles from Simba’s mouth and toss them in the trash.

Fairy Godmother to me (reproachfully):  That was my candy!

I take a handful of candy from Simba’s sack and toss it in hers.  I dare not let go of his hand again.  I grab Cinderella before she can follow a Dracula out the door.  Jenny is standing several feet away at the door pretending she doesn’t know us.  Superman has returned to see if he might possibly benefit from this mishap.  I look him straight in the eye.

Me to Superman:  No one gets any candy to eat until she has hers back in her sack and we are in the car!

Superman comprehends at once what he must do.  Shaping his hands like a shovel, he reaches to the floor and begins to run.  In three quick scoops, he has everything back where it belongs.

As much as I wish to get home quickly, I still do the good mother thing and insist on safety.

Me to everyone:  No running in the parking lot.  Everyone stay behind Jenny and in front of me.

The children, in a hurry to get to the van, form a line half-an-inch behind Jenny.  None of them pass her but the line stretches from the rear of the parked cars on the left to the rear of the parked cars on the right.  Good enough for me!  They are behind Jenny and in front of me.  If any cars want to park, they can go in some other lane.  If they don’t like it, TOO BAD!  They better not mess with me!  I want to go home!

In the van, all but Simba are happily munching.  Simba strapped in his car (seat is screaming “candy!  candy!”

Me to Jenny:  Give him some of his candy.

Jenny to Me:  How come I have to do everything!

I am driving and can’t look at her long but I give her a brief glance.  Words are not needed.  She correctly interprets my look as being slightly murderous.  She unwraps a handful of candy and gives it to him.  He pops it all in his mouth at once.  He will either choke to death or chew until we get home.  Either way, he’ll be quiet.

Superman to anyone who will listen:  That was the best trick-or-treating I ever did.

Jenny to Me:  That really was the best.  That’s the most candy I ever got.  I wish I wasn’t too old to go next year.  Are you going to take Superman and Humpty next year?  Can I come too?

Trick-or-treating, like childbirth, is something that simply can’t be considered after the fact.  Only time will cause you to forget.  Luckily, they were too busy eating to notice I wasn’t answering.

By C.J. Henderson

(This article cannot be reprinted without the express permission of the author)

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