One of the memories that I’ll always, always have is taking Jack trick or treating.
I was at the nadir of my existence. I was living in a too-expensive rent-to-own house in Columbus, coming off my battle with adult failure spiral. Heather was at school, and I think pregnant. Jack, my boy, was a precious, precocious little 2.5 year old.
I was doing mortgages still, but my overhead was tough, I was unable to keep swimming. (Strangely, I was the best in the office, and the whole office had to be drowning). The IRS had crashed into me. I was broke, and stuck. My overhead was so high, and my landlord was a nasty jerk, so everything had to run.
Trick or treating. Heather was at school, pregnant with Ruby, so it was just me and Jack.
We went around our neighborhood, and Jack didn’t know what to expect. He went to one house, and did what I asked, “say trick or treat.” He was given candy. He was astonished. He was struck dumb by his good fortune (at the time we weren’t eating much candy). He said “Thank you,” so sweetly, that the neighbor was prompted to give him more candy. And he said “thank you, again, and looked for what to do next.”
I was surfing the payables, riding a line between disaster and Jacks’s here just thrilled to get a ten cent Snickers bar.
Other kids were trick or treating, too. He saw the costumes, the Thomas the Tank Engines and other characters he knew. Lightning Mcqueen was big then. Jack and I were pirates.. His expectation was that he was going to dress up and go for a walk. That was enough for him to look forward to it all week.
He went to the next house -and was just amazed that that house had someone with candy, too.
On and on it went, and Jack’s “Trick Or Treat” descended into a “Thank you.” as soon as the door was opened. He was smiling back at me, wondering what houses had candy. He wanted to stop at the park to eat his candy , and we kept going and he kept getting more.
For that night- and for a long time- I forgot my troubles.
My debt. The hopelessness. I was about 31 then, and I didn’t see any escape. I was smothered in misery, humiliation. On top of it I had to schlep mortgages. My little boy was just happy to be getting candy for no reason he could fathom. Holding my hand. He looked up at me like I was the best thing ever. That’s I’d found some way to trick the whole world all at once. I was magic, he was happy, sweetly thanking everyone.
Things started looking up after that. I stayed in mortgage long enough to keep the health plan for Ruby’s birth. Seeing Jack’s wonder sustained me for a while, and kept me away from despair. I’m a (piece of) work in progress, but that’s one of the sweetest memories I own.