Food for ThoughtOct/Nov 2008 Issue

Halloween Sweets

I love Halloween. It was always my favorite holiday as a kid, even better in many ways than Christmas.

Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, my town had lots of kids. I remember one Halloween night when I was six. I looked down our street and saw what seemed like thousands of children all costumed to dazzle, humor or scare. With the exception of the year when my sisters dressed me up as a ballerina (yes, they even called me Thomasina), each Halloween was better than the last.

It’s funny how fond memories from childhood can influence us as adults. Two years ago, my wife and I were looking at homes to purchase in the town where we now live. While my wife focused on things like kitchens and bathrooms, I focused on the street. Would the kids be able to walk door-to-door on Halloween or would I have to drive them? To me, these were the important real estate questions.

Over the years, Halloween has become more bittersweet for me. First as a son, when I lost my father on Halloween day. And now as the father of a 9-year-old boy, Mikey, who was first diagnosed with diabetes type 1 at age 2, and who later, at age 7, was diagnosed with celiac disease.  

While a million concerns and strong feelings swirled around in my mind with each new diagnosis, one thought that occurred to me was the fact that sugar and wheat are primary components of most Halloween candy. Would these two lousy diseases stop Mikey from enjoying the holiday the way I did as a kid?  

As it was, Mikey’s first Halloween experience wasn’t the best. He was a toddler, just a few months away from being diagnosed with diabetes. We dressed him and his sister up as M&Ms. Mikey was miserable—crying, screaming and being much too clingy. We chalked it up to the terrible two’s. Little did we know his blood glucose level was approaching 800 at the time. We have a picture of the kids from that Halloween in our living room. My heart breaks whenever I look at it and see his red, puffy eyes.

We’ve now gone through the first Halloween since Mikey was diagnosed with celiac. A few weeks before, Mikey said to me, very matter of factly, “Halloween stinks.” All I could say was, “It does stink. I’m sorry.”

But it turned out to be a pretty good holiday for us, after all. We live on a street where parents from other parts of town drop their kids off to trick-or-treat on our block. (Can I pick a street or what?) Our kids followed normal rules: have fun, stay close to your friends, keep an eye on each other and don’t eat any candy until you get home.

When the children returned from trick-or-treating, we spread the booty out on the kitchen table. Mikey divided his into three piles: candy he could eat, candy he couldn’t eat and candy we’d have to check for gluten with the manufacturer.

The kids then did some old fashioned horse-trading. Mikey tried to swap the pile he couldn’t eat with his sister, while she tried to defend her stash of SweetTarts from me.  

When I tucked Mikey into bed that night, he hugged me and told me how much fun he had. I think he’ll grow up to have great Halloween memories. And I’ll get the candy he can’t eat. Halloween is pretty sweet after all.  LW

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