Hallowe’en: a day when we get it right. Strangers come to us, beautiful, ugly, odd or scary, and we accept them without question, compliment them, treat them kindly, and give them good things. Why don’t we live like that?(Steve Garnaas-Holmes)
I had the awesome opportunity of going trick or treating this year with my young friend, Will, and to experience great community in our neighbourhood. Will is the “Will” in Willowjak. And he was bound and determined to be Superman and to get to as many houses for loot, as possible, with his well-worn Wiggles pillowcase. And you may or may not know that Will is 18, and adult sized.
Admittedly I wondered how well he’d be received at the doors in the neighbourhood and what I would say if anyone questioned his mature participation. I was always big for my age, and I remember judgemental looks and words spoken as I, even as a child, still participated in trick-or-treating as I grew taller and taller. I couldn’t think what I’d say but I knew that I’d defend Will to the end.
We wandered the neighbourhood on a most beautiful autumn evening. Will, squished head to toe in royal blue and red Superman body suit and cape, and I as his sidekick, Wonder Woman.
Will perfected his “Trick or Treat” greeting at each door with few reminders from me, as he peered curiously into neighbourhood homes. Will has a real curiosity for what is behind closed doors. He managed that curiosity, that has gotten him in some awkward situations in the past, with remarkable control on Hallowe’en night. I could tell it wasn’t easy for him, but the lure of the next home drew him along. With a “Thank-You” and “You’re Welcome”, both from Will, we’d be on our way.
In some ways I felt Will’s “you’re welcome” was warranted from him. The thank you to the homeowner from Will, for the candy is obvious. Thank you for giving me good things and complimenting my costume, like in the above quote. The “you’re welcome” though that he tacked on before the homeowner could say it themselves, reminded me that Will had actually offered himself, an 18-year-old, nonverbal man, living with autism, singing Sesame Street songs repeatedly and loudly, into their lives for a brief moment. He offered the homeowner a chance to “get it right” as the Steve Garnaas-Holmes quote inspires.
And they did. Will got smiles, compliments and high fives. He brought joy to their door that at other times other than Hallowe’en might have been an “odd or scary” encounter. It was a tiny step in the “right” direction.
My learning wasn’t done for the night though.
As we headed back towards Will’s home, he wasn’t ready to finish trick-or-treating, so we passed his street and turned on the next avenue that eventually circled back to his home. As we rounded the corner, the street was empty of trick or treaters. I couldn’t see a house with the obvious jack- o -lantern and porch lights, which signalled participation in Hallowe’en this pandemic year. We walked along the quiet street except for Will’s voice filling the silence with a repetitive song mixed with the odd scream when I heard a group of skateboarders riding the wide road behind us. My age-old bias of teenage hooligans on Hallowe’en tickled my spine.
“No,” I thought. This great night can’t end this way. I eyed houses with lights on and kept walking while ironically feeling a little more vulnerable because of my Wonder Woman costume.
Two young lads caught up to us and jumped off their skateboard as I kept Will and I walking towards home. From behind his mask he quietly said to Will, “Open your bag.”
Will was mostly oblivious to our newfound company. I replied for him and said “No, no, he won’t be opening his candy bag for you”
“Why not?” they countered.
And I blindly defended Will’s loot with a response something like, “Because that isn’t how Halloween works. Will collected that candy and it is his to keep.” I was standing our ground although not really imagining that reason and logic would mean much to our new “foes”.
The one had taken his mask off at this point and said incredulously, “I just want to give him more candy.”
His friend in the mask appeared under the light where we stood and poured a bowl of candy they had been handing out into Will’s bag. “We were chasing you to give you the end of our candy. It’s late and this was leftover.”
My heart expanded one hundred-fold. My protective ego shrunk in shame.
I apologized to them profusely and told them to keep growing up so well. Ken and Conner were bemused that I thought they were trying to steal Will’s treats. Will never considered any ill intent. Just me and my bias did.
I wanted to protect Will because I thought these teens had picked him out as someone to easily bully but in fact it was I who needed to “get it right” that Halloween night.
Note from Stacey/WillowjakMama: Laura is mom to three of our incredible contributors (Amy, Liza & Olivia) and has gifted us again with this wonderful account of Hallowe’en from the lens of my Will’s chaperone for the evening. It moved me to tears.
I invite you to read her previous guest post from last year as we approached the Christmas season “Faith is the Longing in Our Very Core”.
If you would also like to be a guest writer to our Willowjak blog, please let me know HERE. We’d love to have you!
Banker turned stay-at-home mom turned full-time pastoral care worker and youth minister. Mom to three young adult daughters (Shy Liza, Amy and Liv); a wife to one amazing guy; and a caregiver to many. Laura is a firm believer that staying connected with your people, a good cup of coffee, a good book, and a good day by the lake is good for the soul.
Yup. I cried. ❤️
What a wonderful story! So many layers. Thank you Laura. WONDER WOMAN (I’m singing that in my head)
This post is about the best thing I’ve read ever. Thank you for sharing this Laura. I share that same bias as someone living alone opening up my door on Halloween when it’s dark out, also greeted with the same generous spirit in return. Maybe all the angst the parents of this generation have put into our kids, has been worth it and the stereotype of ill-willed teens will die out. Bless you for giving Will this opportunity…I only wish you could’ve shown up at my door in Orono too. xo
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