Halloween Hell

By on Oct 26, 2014 in Essays

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Raggedy Ann with Grim Reaper

“Oh sure, help yourself.” The man offered her the bowl. “Take as much as you want.”

Samantha grabbed a handful of sour apple lollipops and began rummaging through the bowl and picking out Starbursts.

“How about some Milky Ways and Hershey’s Kisses?” He dropped a few in her bag.

“I don’t like Milky Ways. Do you have more Starbursts? I love Starbursts and—”

“That’s plenty, Samantha. I don’t want your dentist to retire prematurely.” Howard smiled at the man. “Time to say thank you and go home.”

It was an awkward moment. “Sorry our Raggedy Ann ran inside. She loves babies. Anyway, thanks for understanding. Happy Halloween,” I added.

We walked silently down the last flight of stairs. At the bottom, Howard looked up at me. “I told you it was time to go home, but you didn’t listen.”

“Who could have predicted Samantha would run inside someone’s apartment?”

“I’m not blaming you. I’m just saying we should have quit before we were behind.”

“It’s nobody’s fault. Samantha is who she is.”

“Samantha wants candy,” Samantha interrupted.

“I know you want candy.” My whole body sagged from fatigue and sadness. “Don’t say ‘Samantha wants candy,’” I instructed on weary auto pilot. “Say ‘I want candy.’ You’re not supposed to talk about yourself as if Samantha is another person.”

“Why can’t I say ‘Samantha wants candy’?”

“Because you’re talking about yourself.” I tried to summon the patience I’d have if I were the perfect mother. “If you know another Samantha, we can give her your candy. But I don’t know any other Samanthas, do you?” Despite my exhaustion, I managed to marshal my sense of humor.

“No. I’m the only Samantha and it’s MY candy.”

“Good. Now you understand.” I opened the door to our apartment. “You can each pick out four small pieces of candy. No big bags of M&Ms or Skittles.”

“Can I have a package of Starbursts?” Samantha asked.

“I said small. That’s not small. You’re lucky I’m letting you have any candy after the way you acted in that last apartment.”

“I want my four candies. You SAID we could have them.”

Howard gave me a look that meant “give her the goddamn candy so we can have peace.”

“I know what I said,” I growled.

After the candy negotiations were concluded and both kids had gobbled down their choices, we emptied the rest of their loot onto the floor. “We’re throwing out anything that isn’t sealed or wrapped. Then we’re going to put some of the candy aside and give it to the children at Ronald McDonald House.”

“Why are we giving candy to other kids?” Matt asked.

“There are children who are too sick to go trick-or-treating. Besides, you have so much here it will go stale before you can eat it all.”

“Can Samantha have more tomorrow?” she demanded.

“Which Samantha are you talking about?” I wondered if she would ever be cured of pronoun reversal.

“This Samantha. Me.”

“So is that ‘I’ or ‘she’?” This was relentlessly discouraging and tedious for me, but I was determined.

“You know I’m Samantha.”

“Good. Try not to forget.” I wasn’t at all sure Samantha knew who she was. I could only cling to my vision of who she might become if I persevered. I refused to consider what would happen if all of our interventions failed. For a child who qualified for the milder autistic spectrum label of PDD-NOS, she was very warmly — if inappropriately — related to people. I desperately wanted to believe Samantha’s desire to be friendly to a baby on Halloween could actually be considered progress.

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Born and raised in New York City, Marguerite Elisofon is a die-hard city girl. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College with a double major in English and Psychology and returned to her beloved Big Apple to start a variety of careers: editorial assistant at Redbook, account exec in financial public relations and real estate broker. With the birth of her premature twins -- a son with ADHD and a daughter on the autistic spectrum -- Marguerite became a full-time mother who was determined to help her daughter, Samantha, beat the odds, go to college and achieve some measure of independence. Now that both twins have graduated college, Marguerite has written Family Pictures, a memoir that's part inspiration and part how-to, about raising and advocating for her two very different special needs kids. She also has a blog, The Never-Empty Nest, which explores the challenges of living part-time with young, under-employed millennials. Marguerite has attended a self-publishing workshop, a writer’s conference at Hunter College, a workshop series with Jacob Miller, as well as a Writer’s Digest conference. Her work has appeared in Existere- Journal of Literature and Arts and Hobo Pancakes.

One Comment

  1. Loved the piece. If you have not done so already, I urge you to read “Shine Shine Shine” by Lydia Netzer. Given the opportunity to go through it all again, I think you would decline because you have grown through those years and have developed the ability (which I am trying to develop now) to say, “That was an accomplishment, and now it’s time for all of us to move forward.” For me, easier said than done (so far).