Real Life Monsters


Once a year, we open our door, flip on the light and wait for monsters to visit.  We welcome them, in spite of their threats of tricks and unreasonable demands to smell their feet, with candy.

It’s my husband’s favorite holiday, far surpassing that of Thanksgiving or my birthday.  He prepares in advance by selecting special treats, canceling any plans that don’t involve passing out fun sized candy bars and waiting in excited anticipation. 

This year, he positioned himself by the door with a bowl of candy.  He cracked his knuckles, stretched his arms, and bent over to touch his toes and stood back up like he was preparing for a half marathon.

“We’re in for a big night, we have to be ready.  I can feel it,” he explained with unexplainable certainty as the clock ticked towards six o’clock.

Sure enough, a steady stream of visitors arrived shortly after the designated start time, one after another.  The first friends of the night were a cluster of superheroes with shiny, plastic masks and capes. 

They stood on the steps outside of the door, while holding orange pumpkin baskets and called out in unison, “Trick or Treat.” 

A group of golden wig wearing princesses followed closely behind the boys.  They gave a respectful thirty seconds to allow the superheroes time to walk down the steps and onto the sidewalk before bounding up to the steps to the door.  Their parents waited at the edge of the sidewalk, close enough to give a pseudo impression of independence or to rush in at a moment’s notice.

Meanwhile, the giver of candy generously continued to pass out handfuls of candy as the night went on, and the visitors began to arrive by vehicle instead of on foot.  They came from nearby neighborhoods where it’s not safe to knock on a stranger’s door and visitors are not welcomed with smiles and snacks. 

We watched as an old van with a missing tail light and a wide array of dents puttered past our lookout point/house and pulled off to the side of the road to unload what seemed like 10 or 20 kids.  They organized and dispersed as quickly as a group of sugar-crazed and costumed children are able to do under the direction of an over worked and exhausted set of adults.

They came to our house twice, assuming we wouldn’t notice perhaps because they were in disguise.   With each visit, they held out their little bags and baskets, and some said thanks and others simply ran off once they had a few pieces of candy. 

A straggler arrived after the group’s second visit, close to the end of the approved trick or treating hours, a tiny child with an eerie green glow to her face.  She wore a mop on her head, dyed the same color, covered with cotton cobwebs.  It was an elaborate but low-cost costume that was hard to forget.  She was accompanied by her mother, a woman in a black hoodie with a huge purse on her shoulder.

“You can pick what you want,” the Candygiver leaned down and offered the dish of treats to the little girl.

Her brown eyes shone in the night, catching the porch light and reflecting it back like two cosmic stars.  She reached into the dish with a pudgy green hand and grabbed a packet of Runts and Gobstoppers.

“Good choice, those are my favorite.”

The man nodded in encouragement, the green creature smiled up at him for a brief second of human connection.  She glowed a brighter green, invigorated by the praise and strengthened with his kindness.

Then the little girl’s mother swooped in and smacked her hand, “Those are choking hazards.”  

The woman glared at the man with butterfly wings for eyelashes that made their own wind with each flutter.  The little girl dropped the hard candies and stepped back; she stared at the Candyman in anger at his betrayal.  She wasn’t sure what a choking hazard was but her mama’s tone told her all she needed to know.  Candyman was a bad man.      

“Shame on you,” the woman said as she reached into the candy dish extracting no fewer than five bite sized Milky Way candy bars with orange and black striped artificial nails.

She shook her head in disappointment as she dropped the candy into her daughter’s bucket and went back for another handful of candy.  This time, she included the dangerous Runts and feared Gobstoppers in her claw and dropped this loot into her purse.  Grabbing her daughter’s hand, she marched down the steps and sashayed into the darkness of the night. 

Until next year.  Farewell and good luck, little green monster. 

The Hostage Situation


As we drove, I hit my head against the window, over and over. My brother had a white rat that used to do the same thing, trying to escape from its cage. Sometimes it worked and the lid fell off, leaving the rat to its own devices. It hid out in the laundry basket or my underwear drawer; neither are great places to be surprised by a rat.

Much like the rat, I wished to escape.

I fought the overwhelming feeling that I made a big mistake. It was the kind of realization that turned my stomach and brought a little bile into my throat. Somehow, I voluntarily entered into a hostage situation, expected to last through the weekend. I wasn’t sure I had the strength or endurance to withstand the challenge.

A whiny voice droned from the backseat, stopping only long enough to breath. It was Stinkbug, our hostage taker, extolling her great knowledge of the animal and reptile world that included facts and fiction. “Um…’scuse me. Do you know how to tell if a snake is poisonous? I do…”

She made demands, unreasonable and cruel demands such as, “Look at what I did.” When I turned around, I discovered that she had shredded up a box of tissues and scattered them over the backseat.

“Isn’t it pretty?” she asked.

She demanded other things like, “Hold this.”

I put my hand out, only to receive a handful of dirty Floam that she had picked from the soles of her sneakers.

When I threw it out the window, she screamed. “That’s littering!”

She also provided helpful observations of the passing world like, “It’s dark” and “it smells” and “we’re not in the city, yet.”

After passing two grueling hours in this way, one might think that the child would be tired or sleeping. Instead, she drew energy from the air like an aerophyte. She only needed chocolate milk, constant attention and cartoons to thrive. Recently, she had two of the three requirements and was going strong.

Did she go to sleep when we arrived home, several hours past her bedtime? No, she had compiled a mental list of things that she needed to accomplish before she would even consider sleep.

For a five year old, this was quite impressive.

She needed to turn on all of the lights, find each of the cats for a conversation, get a glass of water, watch a show, check for chocolate milk in the fridge, line up the nine dolls that she snuck into her overnight bag, read a book and tuck us into bed so she could creep through the house unsupervised.

It was a losing battle of the wills, especially since sleep was not necessary for Stinkbug.

Eventually, she fell asleep with her eyes wide open, reflecting the light and truth about her real nature.

The next day, she appeared in front of my face at 5:30AM, arriving as noiselessly as a lion creeping up on its prey.

She poked my face and whispered, “Hey, want to watch cartoons?”

Surprising no one, my answer was, “No, but maybe your uncle wants to watch cartoons.”

Hours later, when normal people are awake, we took her out for donuts and chocolate milk, and then to the zoo, like any other clueless childless couple watching their niece might do.

Penguins, boring. Giraffes, boring. Cheetas, boring. Seals, boring.

Ants crawling through the sand at the bottom of a cage, amazing enough to sit down to watch and refuse to leave.

For lunch, we went to a nearby restaurant where we can never return in the future.

Poor Stinkbug rehydrated on chocolate milk, as expected for a fairy child, and then projectile vomited it with the few bites of mac-n-cheese across the restaurant floor.  Great puddles of chocolate milk and noodle fragments came together to create a brown river, leading directly from our table to the bathroom.  It was lined with angry servers and experienced parents, asking, “Where is her mother?”

And that was it, it was time for Stinkbug to go home.

Let us build up more of a tolerance to a lack of sleep, constant chattering and questions, impulsive behavior, and bodily fluids before we do this again.

That should be in about five more years when our sights are set on the Children’s Museum.

Reaching through the pine needles/Easter Egg Hunting


For the past few years, I have been part of a highly specialized Easter egg hiding task force. We are a lean crew of three, capable of covering a large area with limited time. It must be admitted that we each experience some degree of joy in possibly hiding the eggs too well. Watching the Littles waddle past a cleverly obscured egg is delight above delights on Easter Sunday and I’m not above admitting it.

I like to hide my share of the eggs with the use of camouflage, a white egg in the end of a drain pipe, a green egg in the grass, a dark purple egg on top of a car tire. It’s all too much fun when they throw their little hands up with a sigh of exasperation. The task force laughs in unison at this point in the hunt and the parents of the Littles start to get upset. We mollify the situation by yelling supportive statements like, “Keep at it,” and “Think like an egg” just so they know we are on the same team.

We don’t give in and help them find the eggs because we are helping in a much bigger way. By making them really search, we boost their endurance and work ethic. Their problem solving and creative thinking skills are tested. We like to think we are cultivating the egg hunters into better people.

This Easter, a key member of our trio took things to the next level. He set a Hunger Games type of challenge for only the bravest of the Littles to try. I didn’t realize the trap was set until I heard the oldest girl cry out in pain. She was on her hands and knees in her Easter dress, slowly making her way under an old pine tree with low branches. I could see her goal, three neon eggs, holding treasures of unimaginable deliciousness.

Each egg rested in its own nest of dried pine needles and was protected by low growing branches. The girl crawled as far as she could go until the branches stopped her.

The taskforce members whispered behind me, “She needs to make a tool.”

This quickly brought to mind a tv special on PBS about chimps using sticks to fish out ants from an anthill for dinner, another good use of a tool.

It didn’t take long before the girl took off her sunglasses and used them as an extension of her arm to catch an egg and roll it towards her. Success! She had it in her hand and dropped it into the bucket that she dragged with her under the tree.
She crawled out from under the tree, backwards over the dried pine needles. The rest of the small-person-gang ran carrying their quickly filling buckets, shrieking like wild animals just released from captivity. They pounced on eggs and each other while the oldest plotted out her approach on the remaining two eggs.

Shuffling around the tree, she moved in for another attempt. She cried out as she crawled over the dry, dead pine needles and reached forward through the sharp, living green needles.

The task force yelled out, “Work through the pain!” excited by her determination and tenacity.

The girl stretched as far as her arm would go and then with her glasses like before – she was learning. Suddenly, she had the two eggs and was standing victorious beside the trees, upright like a human again.

She sat down on the porch steps without looking for anymore eggs which was good as they were mostly found by her siblings.

When they all sat down and started opening the eggs, the oldest girl popped one of the three open to find a piece of chocolate, the next one revealed a quarter, and the last one caused a horrific murder-movie type of scream.

She screamed in the agony of injustice and deflated expectations, “It’s empty!”

The taskforce giggled with delight, “Another life lesson well taught. Two out of three ain’t bad.”

Links on animals using tools:

Links on Easter egg hunting:

Rocking Out


Sitting side by side in rocking chairs, the pair of old women slowly creaked back and forth.

A breeze blew across the porch and rustled the green tendrils that crept over the edge of the hanging basket.

“So why did you say she never had kids?” one woman asked the other, as she stared out over the empty parking lot.

Without breaking the rhythm of her rocking, the other woman explained, “Said there were already too many unwanted ones in this world to justify it.”

The first woman nodded her head, “Sounds about right.”

Her eyelids dropped over her bleary grey eyes and her chair slowly stopped and her head fell forwards onto her chest.

She dozed off and out of the conversation.

Meanwhile, her companion was left to rock alone and imagine the grandchildren who would never visit.