Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Halloween Conversation with Noah

At the 8th Annual Salamander Halloween Party At The Coles’s’s’s’s, there was candy. There were cookies. There was jello shaped like a brain. And there were about a dozen children singing the praises of all sugar plantation workers everywhere, in the traditional fashion – that is to say, at the top of their lungs and at high speeds.

The parents of those children, my friends, claiming they were all too tired to deal with the hassle of Halloween, had arrived at the party in their normal clothes, changed into costumes for fifteen minutes of photos, and then changed back.

What else has changed, I wondered, since we received the apostrophe-peppered invitation to the First Annual Salamander Halloween Party At The Coles’s’s’s’s all those years ago? I sat alone on the couch nearest the candy bowl, watching the activity around me. There was Sarah, changing a diaper. There were the other girls, discussing toddler discipline. Here and there, the men chased or chastised the children.

Are we old now? I asked. Have we stopped being fun?

My thoughts were interrupted by a red-headed child in skeleton pajamas, climbing onto the couch beside me and pressing me into a hug. “Hi, Tori!” he said.

“Hi, Noah,” I said, patting his back. “Are you having fun?”

“Yes!” he said, gesturing about the room. “Everyone is wearing costumes!”

Everyone except the old fogeys who have already changed out of them, I thought, but I said, “Yes, I noticed that.”

“Are they superheroes?” Noah asked.

“What?” I said.

“All superheroes wear costumes,” Noah said, matter-of-factly.

“Hmm,” I said, mulling it over. “You know what? You’re right.”

Noah seemed satisfied with this response. We watched as child I didn’t recognize tormented another. I felt no need to intervene. Eventually, Noah said, “I have a Captain America costume.”

“Do you?” I looked over at his skeleton costume, wondered why he wasn’t wearing that instead.

“Yup. Mom says I’ll outgrow it someday.”

I thought of a pair of boys who usually attend library storytime wearing Batman and Spiderman costumes because they never want to wear anything else and wondered if Noah’s mother faced a similar situation.

“Where do superheroes get their costumes?” Noah asked, obviously planning ahead for the day when he outgrows Cap.

“That’s a good question,” I said. “Maybe there’s a store in the mall. If we found it, we could be superheroes.” See, I thought. I’m discussing superheroes with a five-year-old. I’m still young. I still know how to have fun.

“I want to be Batman when I grow up,” Noah said, struggling to unwrap a Snickers from the bowl on the table.

“Oh yeah?” I said, reaching over to lend him a hand.

Noah pulled back and squinted at me suspiciously. I pulled my hands away, palms out to show I meant no harm, but he wasn’t concerned about the candy. “Tori…” he said, dragging out my name.

“Yes, Noah?”

“You’re already grown up,” he said, accusingly.

Oh, snap! The jig is up! “So I am.”

He held the Snickers out so that I could help him with it and asked, “What super hero are you going to be?”

False alarm. The immature conversation commences. I opened the wrapper and returned the candy to him. “I hadn’t thought about it, really.”

“You can’t be Batman,” he said.

“Of course not.”

“I’m Batman,” he said, the normal effect of the words dulled by his mouth full of chocolate.

“I remember you said so.” Elsewhere in the room, Ari or Ally or Ellie or some other child with an alliterative name was crying.

Noah chewed his candy, swallowed, dug in the bowl for another. Finally, he said, “You could be Captain America.”

“I bet I’d be good at it,” I said, taking the piece of candy he offered me.

We sat in silence a moment, as I chewed candy and he concentrated on opening his. “I got it!” he said, showing me the chocolate he had unwrapped on his own. Then, almost as an afterthought, he said, “You’d have to learn to use a shield.”

“You’re right,” I said. “What will I do if I can’t find a shield?”

“You could be Catwoman.” He held up his candy wrapper. “What do I do with this?”

I wadded the wrapper into my hand to throw away later. Which I then realized was a very adult thing for me to do. I sighed. “I suppose.”

I started to reach past him for the candy bowl, but stopped when I realized he was squinting at me again. “Tori?”

“Yes, Noah?” I said, feeling to see if I had candy on my face.

“Why don’t you have any kids?”

Speaking of avoiding adult conversations… “Charley!” I called across the room, getting Noah’s father’s attention. “Your son just asked me why I don’t have any kids.”

Charley winced, crossed the room in long strides, and, taking Noah’s hand, pulled him gently to his feet.  “Aaaaand we’re done here,” Charley said, leading his son toward a corner where other children were playing. “Time to give Tori a break.”

Alone on the couch again, I pulled the candy bowl into my lap, feeling a little older than I did before.

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