In the Ray Bradbury-titled short story “Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed,” a family settles uneasily into their new environment on Mars, where things look very similar to Earth but are not, each thing is a little different than what they know of their life on earth. Eventually, the family is convinced they should stay, and they become Martians, becoming darker and eyes turning gold, shining.
I felt a little like that tonight, as I got a whiff of the Martian life, and wanted to stay.
D got to experience outside trick or treat tonight for the very first time. It went much better than I expected. I had a feeling this neighborhood near where our apartment complex is would be good for it, even though I’ve never been up there before. It was raining, but not as hard as it could have, and it was not windy at all, which made the 43 degrees feel really not that bad, all things considered.
We parked at the edge of a dark and expensive-looking cul-de-sac and crossed the street into the non-development, normal looking houses across the way. The sidewalks had a fair number of kids, but it wasn’t anything I’d call busy, and lots of porches had their lights on. I literally have not done anything like this since the mid-80s, and never in my own neighborhood as we didn’t have TOT right where I lived. They did when I was super little, but something happened, I don’t know what, something dangerous, and so they didn’t have it anymore. I went to my friend’s house for TOT after that. She lived in this really nice neighborhood where the houses were really big and the lawns well-manicured and they gave out FULL SIZE candy bars at some of the houses. It was awesome.
I was deathly afraid people would realize we don’t live on the street and someone would say something nasty to us, but that didn’t happen. At first, D was “nervous” about saying TOT when they opened the doors, and held my hand and made me go with him and say it first. By about the fifth house, he was fine going up by himself, except for when he went to the one house where they had a bowl out to take one, and he was concentrating so hard on what to pick, he fell off the step and onto his bony butt on the sidewalk. He was soaking wet and already starting to get cold but he pulled it together and soldiered on.
I waved and smiled to the homeowners and called out “thank you!” and “Happy Halloween!” when what I was really saying was, “Thank you, thank you for being nice to my boy. Thank you for participating in this. Thank you for not calling us out for not belonging.” It was clear a few neighbors knew each other as they approached, but nobody asked us anything.
One house, three guys were hanging out in the garage, which was a seriously decked out garage, with a big flat screen installed on the wall, a wood burning fire stove in the driveway, and a full wet bar. It looked like party central and I joked a person could live in there. I had garage envy, I admit it. A few houses later, we went to a house that had a cool brick arch to walk under, and when D came back from the lady’s door, he said, “I wish we lived in a house like that.” Knife in the heart. Me too kid, me too.
It took us an hour to do a single street, and as we were almost done with the street, the boy himself said, “Mom, I think I’m done, because my hands are cold and my bag is too heavy, and I think I’m tired.” It was at that point I started to wonder if he really was a martian, because who is done after only an hour! A five-year old who isn’t used to it, that’s who.
Wet, tired and cold, he dumped his loot out onto the floor and I let him count out 10 items to keep. He negotiated for 11 by asking for 12 since he was a year older this year than last year, and I countered with 11 and he accepted. The rest went in the donation pile for the homeless youth shelter. I will pick up a couple of sale bags of more candy tomorrow morning, and we will go drop it off to them. He came with me for the first time last year. I wanted him to see where people live who really don’t have a home, so he would be thankful for the home that we do have, and understand why it’s important to give. Plus, we don’t need all that candy, though I might sneak just a single piece for myself tonight. More work to be done tonight yet, on this special new year’s night when the veil is thinnest.
I took his picture before we left, but when we got home tonight, he said I should take one of him with his full bag of candy. He stood against the wall of the carport and made a silly face, holding up his orange cloth bag in front of his red Power Ranger costume. His eyes reflected the flash. Shiny.