We rummaged through the costume box frantically. It was already late afternoon on Halloween and our 12-year-old had made the last minute decision that he was not too big to go trick or treating. He wanted to go with us but we were not finding anything he wanted to wear among those in the box.
His three younger siblings had been trying on their costumes daily for two weeks anticipating the fun ahead. Two-year-old Shelly would be a bear. She was wearing a fuzzy snowsuit and a mask. It sounded like a simple enough costume but there was a problem. She was afraid to wear a mask. All the dress rehearsals ahead of time had not helped. Our solution was to tie her mask around her waist. She became a bear cub with her face on her tummy.
Brad, 6, was dressed as a monster while his brother, Brian, 8, was a pirate with tin-foil sword and eye patch. Glenn finally chose his costume from the entry closet. He would be a seed corn salesman, wearing his dad's coat and cap with logos and carrying his order book and a packet of advertising pens.
The first stop was at the neighbor's farm. One of their daughters was our babysitter. Having children come to a rural house to trick or treat didn't happen often so they phoned to invite us to stop by with the kids in their costumes before we took them to town to their grandparents' homes.
The man of the house was a big tease and he made the children do a trick before he would give them a treat. Our pirate did a somersault, bending his sword in the process. The bear walked backwards a few steps. This was possibly the reaction of a shy child meeting an adult, but in this incident it qualified as a treat-winning trick.
Meantime I noticed their special-needs daughter, we'll call her Jane, was peeking around the kitchen door watching her dad kid around with our youngsters. It was unusual for Jane to shy away like that. She was usually happy to see our little ones and would join them in whatever was going on. Jane had problems that didn't allow her to attend the same school as her siblings. She was nearing adulthood and I thought she may have decided she was too old to have this kind of fun.
As we drove away the children were chattering about the treats they had been given and I asked, "Did you think Jane had been crying? She looked so sad."
"Maybe she wanted to go with us," one of the children suggested.
Good idea. Putting the car into reverse, I backed up the lane and rang the bell once more. When her dad registered surprise at seeing me back so soon, I simply asked, "Would Jane like to go along and help me with the children?"
"She is in her room crying. She can't understand why her younger sister can go to a dance party at school and she can't go along." He called to her and when she came back into the room and heard the invitation, she wiped away her tears and went right to the entry closet to get her coat.
Grandma and Grandpa S were properly surprised and spooked by our little troop standing on their doorstep. My mother had prepared special bags of treats for them. Jane and I stood near the station wagon watching the action. Mother saw us and tossed each of us a bag of treats, too. Jane beamed as she reached out and made a great catch.
The next stop was at the other grandparents' home in a town 5 miles away. After Grandma and Grandpa R had seen the children in their costumes and we had taken a couple of pictures with them, we went to our final stop, the local nursing home.
We had prepared small bags of home made cookies as treats for some friends who lived there. A number of parents and other children in costumes were moving among the residents in the living room, many of the little ones acting the parts of their characters. Our little girl caught on to that right away. Copying a little boy dressed as a Dalmatian she began barking at anyone who talked to her.
Jane said, "My Grandma lives here." I had not thought of that. Her grandma was not in the living room so I asked Jane if she would take us to her grandma's room. Jane grabbed the paw of our barking bear-with-her-face-on-her-tummy and led the way.
Her grandma's face lit up with a big smile. "Jane, I am so surprised to see you," she said.
"Yes, Grandma, I came with my friends," Jane said. The way she said it tore at my heart. She was so proud to be with us. My children, too, heard the pride and happiness in her voice.
We took Jane home and were getting out of costumes and talking about the fun we had just had. Glenn said he thought Jane had more fun than anyone. Brian agreed and in all innocence made the best suggestion of all, "We should take her along next year, too." And we did.