Standing on the stony front step, my rubbery-soled slippers scraped the chilled cement beneath me. Holding the screen door ajar, the candy bowl leaned gently against my desperate-to-burgeon belly. The narrow blue and white cotton stripes across my torso hugged the promise of life inside. The unusually balmy late October Wisconsin day was confirmation from the Universe that our world would be enriched with our anticipated new arrival.
“Trick or Treat!” the plume of children lining our front walk induced in me a brimming smile as toothy as our jack-o-lantern, spying through the slots of the front window. One-by-one, a princess, a ghost, a barely walking chicken, a ninja, two clowns, a Luigi, followed up by an adult-sized horse, collected their treats.
“Love your costumes!” my genuine compliments are met with giggles, thanks-yous, and one “can I have a different candy?” inquiry. Ignoring the brash child, my gaze followed each miniature costumed being as they trailed down the driveway, snaking their way to our neighbor’s matching stoop.
“Next year this will be you!” calls Sharon from her step, awaiting the costumed train to pull up. Excitement in her voice lingered in the warm sunlight of the late afternoon.
Eight weeks later, that promise was gone. One year later, that was not us. Bucking at the thought of enduring a child-centered Halloween after losing Sophia, we dug deep to scrape for courage, braving a pumpkin patch: Two adults, unfruitful in life, clutching each other for strength, facing the stares, bracing for the question of “which child is yours?”, choosing a pumpkin just for us.
The more typical crisp Wisconsin air returning that next Halloween, the icing of our lungs stung as the hayride took us deep on the plot of land. Flanked by pumpkins, we ignored the screaming children in search of our own little round one to take home. The perfect gourd caught my eye–flawlessly round, tinted a zealous hue of orange, stem twisted and knotty like our stomachs.
He was our beacon that year. His one-toothed smile lead the way through the new wave of decked-out children, shrieking in scary costumes, dripping in fake blood. So gleeful. So blissfully unaware of the real horrors of life.
As we face yet another childless Halloween, our reactions are fresh, raw, surprising. Three losses in, I have forfeited some of my braveness. I shudder at the children’s elated cries outside. I turn away while walking the dog when flashing lights and music beckon party-goers to a nearby building.
This year we have no decorations. This year there is no hayride to get a pumpkin. This year there is no smug jack-o-lantern to carry us through. This year we bought no candy. We have not let our hopes rise too high, burning like the embers at the end of a long campfire.
Maybe next year will be different.