Not for the faint of heart, I give to you this cautionary tale of one little boy’s brush with fevered regret, that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one tiny voice of reason can indeed save the day.
But first, we have to go back, way back…to the story before the story of that fateful day…
I love Halloween.
And back in the day, when I was a little girl, Halloween was always a big deal at our house. Trick-or-treating was something that was looked forward to with great anticipation.
Every year, my sister and I would go to great lengths to come up with inventive and elaborately bewitching costumes. We would painstakingly plot out our route through the neighborhood to get maximum candy canvassing, and stake out the good stuff for a second hit.
One year, I even attempted to lock my sister in the bathroom, and carried an extra pillow case with me and told a sad story of her suddenly falling ill, and being the nice sister that I was I was, I was collecting candy for her as well.
Of course, it was a total fabrication, and after she escaped, I was questioned by a neighbor who had inquired as to why then, had my poor sick sister already knocked on her door? My poorly executed farce had been exposed. I did briefly entertain the idea of abandoning my life of criminal mischeif, but then I decided that the next year I would just go to a different neighborhood, where nobody knew me.
Muahahah! Diabolical, I know, but I take my candy very seriously.
Growing up in Arizona, it always seemed like right around Halloween was when it would finally start to get chilly and I would always worry that my mother would force me wear a coat over my costume.
This was not acceptable.
I mean, who wants to see Wonder Woman wearing a zip up windbreaker?
You can not effectively fight crime in seasonably appropriate outerwear.
How ridiculous would it be if I had to peel off a hat and a scarf before I could jump into my invisible jet and race off to save the world?
Nobody in their right mind would take Wonder Woman seriously if she was wearing a winter coat over her kick ass wonder woman outfit, or if her lasso of truth was all tangled up in her poncho.
But sadly, most of the time my pleas of protest would fall upon deaf ears, and I would end up angrily stomping down the street, stewing in my own juices, while toting my empty grocery bag, and grimacing with distaste as my winter wardrobe eclipsed my Wonder Woman awesomeness.
It was then, that I swore, that when I became a mother, I would never humiliate my children in such a way as to force my overly protective motherly whims upon them. And if my son wanted to be Superman, then he would be Superman in a cape… and not Superman in a parka.
I was going to be the one to finally break the cycle of crimes against Halloween.
Then, many years later, we had taken a trip to Disneyland with my then three-year-old son. His favorite ride was the Pirates of the Caribbean, and for Halloween he wanted to be a pirate. I think we must have ridden that ride over a half a dozen times before I had finally had enough. And after much coaxing (which included dragging him kicking and screaming from the ride) we brought him to “It’s a Small World” where I told him that he needed to behave if he wanted to go see the Pirates one more time before we left.
Incidentally, his tantrum continued while waiting for our turn to get on the boat, and after he tried several times to escape me, I regrettably informed him, that when naughty little children wander off and misbehave, they end up trapped inside the ride, with their feet glued to the floor, and are forced to sing “It’s a Small World”…forever.
But that, however, did not go over well.
Because of course, he was appropriately horrified as we floated through the well loved family friendly ride, and he commenced to hysterically scream bloody murder at the site of all of the poor robotic children unjustly held captive by their maniacal Disney jailers.
Admittedly, it was not my best parenting moment, and I could almost hear my own mother laughing at me somewhere far far away.
I can still remember standing in the middle of Disneyland with a screaming child and bending down to him while shouting at the top of my lungs, “THIS is the HAPPIEST place on EARTH !!! SO GET…HAPPY!!!!!!”
Yo, ho ho and (mommy needs) a bottle of rum.
So needless to say, when Halloween finally rolled around, and he still decided that he wanted to be a pirate (and I realized that I hadn’t ruined ALL of his enchanting memories from the Magic Kingdom) I jumped at the chance to go all out and make him the most awesome pirate he could be. I probably even went a little overboard because I felt so bad about scarring him for life in the “It’s a Small World” ride.
And as a result, he ended up having the best pirate costume provided by a guilt ridden mother that a three-year-old could possibly have. Right down to the pirates booty. He wanted treasure, so I went and bought gold chocolate Doubloon’s, and a whole crap load of Almond Roca’s wrapped in gold foil. It looked just like a real pirates treasure, and he was extremely pleased.
But the Almond Roca’s were my Achilles heel. They were my candy of choice, and during the holidays I could never get enough of them. So I selfishly told him that they were very special treasures and he was not to eat them. And then when we came back from trick-or-treating, I did what every good mother does, and I “inspected” his haul. I picked a few items that I thought would be safe for him to eat and then the rest of it went to the mommy stash. I squirreled it away for safekeeping knowing full well that I would be eating the majority of it.
I told myself that I was doing it for him, but sadly that was just an excuse to have it all to myself. And in one of my very lowest moments to date, I stole those Almond Roca “treasures” from my own child while he slept, and woofed them down in a candy binge that later came to be known to me as “the incident”.
Sitting there on the floor of my living room with all of his Halloween candy spread out around me and all of his Almond Roca treasures now reduced to empty crumpled wrappers, I felt like the worst mother on the planet.
I was hiding food like a hoarder, and making excuses to justify it.
What was wrong with me?
It would be nearly two decades before I would come to realize that I was a stress eater, and a closet binger.
It would take nearly 20 years for me to get a grip on the root of the problem and find my way out of that vicious cycle.
But they say hindsight is 20/20, and just a month later, it would be that very same little boy that had unknowingly surrendered his pirate treasure all those years ago, that would also be the wise voice that would echo in my mind in the years to come.
For now we are back where this story began, to that fateful day that I first spoke of.
Because in November of that same year, we had attended a Thanksgiving family gathering.
My grandmother always had fantastical treats and petite fours laid out along with truffles and assorted candies galore. It was a difficult task trying to keep my young son away from all of the eye level temptations in his path.
At one point, my Aunt Wendy had picked up a perfectly wrapped Almond Roca and was admiring it’s shiny golden wrapper. And as she began to delicately unwrap it to reveal the delicious treat that lied within, my son, who had been watching her very carefully, began to seem uneasy.
He pulled away from my grip, and in what seemed like slow-motion started sprinting across the room towards her. He shouted “Noooooooo!” as he approached her, which in my mind’s eye sounded like a long drawn out exclamation of impending horror.
It all unfolded in such swiftness that I think my mind slowed it down in order to comprehend what was happening.
She blinked and turned towards him as he raced in her direction. She had finally unwrapped the delicious delight and was raising it to her lips when he arrived.
He reached up and smacked it right out of her hand post haste, in an effort to stop her from placing it into her mouth. And again he shouted, “Noooooo! Bad candy! Bad candy!!!!”
He was visibly upset, and quite insistent that she NOT partake in the aforementioned “bad candy”.
Of course I was also horrified, because I immediately assumed that he did not want her to eat it because it was “treasure”, and I had told him that we cannot eat the treasure. But then I thought maybe he knew what I had done, that I had eaten his hoard, and maybe he was trying to tell her that his gluttonous mother was the only one who was allowed to have it.
I was terrified that he was about to embarrass me beyond belief. I was afraid that “the incident” was about to come back to haunt me.
My stunned Aunt looked so perplexed after having the candy literally slapped out of her mouth, and I jumped up to scoop him as quickly as I could into another room.
The poor kid was hysterical and I kept trying to ask him what was wrong but he just kept sobbing and saying “bad candy, bad candy”.
After about 30 minutes he had cried himself to sleep, and I had tiptoed out of the room to back out to the party to apologize. Of course, everyone had inquired as to what could have possibly come over him, but I just said that I had no knowledge as to the origins of his sudden outburst.
Later that night as we were walking into the house, and I was following behind my husband as he was carrying our sleeping son. And as we paused just inside the door to drop all of our belongings, our little guy slightly awoke for just a moment, and pointed his tiny finger down towards the floor.
Then he raised his head, and in his exhausted little baby voice he once again softly uttered the words “bad…candy…”
I followed the direction of his finger as he pointed towards the cat’s litter box, filled with a plethora of cat poops covered in cat litter.
And then, as I made notice of the resemblance between the Almond Roca’s and the cat box offerings, I finally understood.
As soon as I put two and two together, I realized, that this brave little boy had at some point “sampled” the treasures in the kitty cat treasure chest, and had not only found them to be most disagreeable, but also quite offensive.
Clearly, he had all but confirmed for himself why I had asked him to not eat the treasures, and had lived a life of fevered regret ever since.
And upon witnessing another hapless victim nearly falling prey to the lure of the bad candy, he had felt compelled to act. Because even though he had made a terrible decision and paid for it dearly, he had still tried to save a clueless Aunt Wendy from making the same horribly regrettable mistake.
He had valiantly taken one for the team.
He was a hero.
And now, every time I see an Almond Roca, I think about the bad candy, and how much it looks like something very unappetizing. And pretty much ever since, it has been unable to render any more of its magic powers over me, all thanks to the selfless sacrifice of one brave little boy.
So the next year, when our little superhero wanted to be Batman for Halloween, I made sure he had a right and proper cape, so that he could go out there and save the world…
One piece of bad candy at a time.