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The mark of Zero

My daughter came up to me this week, excited about the costume she has planned for my grandson to wear this Hallowe'en. It's mid-October, people. I hope this kid appreciates a mother who can pull that off.

My daughter came up to me this week, excited about the costume she has planned for my grandson to wear this Hallowe'en. It's mid-October, people.

I hope this kid appreciates a mother who can pull that off. In my childhood, I can never remember a time when Hallowe'en night was not a full blown DefCon 5 Panic Situation for my Mom.

Looking back, it seems so out of character for her. Because in addition to being a saint who had given birth six times in nine years via Immaculate Conception (I refuse to consider any other possibility, thank you), my Mom was the most organized person I have ever met.

I guess with six kids under the age of nine, you had to have a certain degree of organization just to get through the first two hours of a day. But my Mom did her job so well that one year she was named Chatelaine Magazine's Housewife of the Year.

(Younger people shrug when I tell them that, but women of a certain age who remember those times invariably go, "Ohhhhh." It was a very, very big deal. She got her picture on the front page of the paper, a write-up in the magazine itself, and a plaque that hung in our kitchen.)

But every year we would get home from school and find Mom face first in the Costume Trunk, flinging articles of clothing out and barking at us to "Try this on!". Because I had four sisters, there were always way more princess and witch costumes than anything else.

So my brother and I would always be the last to get dressed, and every year we were the same thing. My brother would emerge triumphantly in a black satin cape with red lining, black shirt and pants and riding boots, and black hat. He would be brandishing a sword that looked suspiciously like a cut-off curtain rod. He would advance to me and with three slashes of his sword - horizontal, diagonal, and horizontal - he would be ... Zorro.

Me? Black pants, black turtleneck, a tea towel dyed black pinned to my shoulders for a cape, and the other half of the curtain rod.

Meet Zorro's little brother, Zero.

Lame, I know. But there was no time to argue the point. Time was wasting. We grabbed the old pillow cases in the bottom of the trunk to hold our loot, and took off into the night.

Looking back, I'm not sure quite how we survived. My parents would dress us entirely in black, then send us out to play in traffic. Maybe with six kids you start to look on it as "acceptable loss".

Because he was older, often my parents would let me take off under the supervision of my brother. There was good and bad in this. On the plus side, my brother was very fast. We covered a lot of ground on Hallowe'en. By the end of the night, we could barely carry our weighted down sacks of candy.

On the negative side, he was very fast. He would not tolerate being impeded in his mission. So by the end of the night, my legs would be covered in welts that looked suspiciously like I had been repeatedly whipped by a curtain rod.

But the stash we amassed was worth a few welts. Mounds of candy, enough to put us on a four day sugar bender that I'm sure made my parents' and teachers' lives a nightmare.

My grandson isn't to that point yet. He and his little brother will be brought to our house, displayed, photographed, and carted to other houses in the extended family. No traipsing around a neighbourhood unsupervised. This is the Safe Generation.

And I suppose that is for the best. But I still think they're not getting the full experience. At night's end, you shouldn't be able to carry your Hallowe'en loot in plastic pumpkin the size of a soccer ball. At the end of the night you should be able to roll in a pile of candy twice your own weight. Which, conveniently, is a good way to get to twice your own weight.

I just wish my grandsons could, someday, enjoy a Hallowe'en like I used to have. I would love to dress them up, the older brother as Zorro and the younger as Zero, and send them off in furious pursuit of candy.

Of course my daughter would never allow that. She's such a stickler for safety. I think it's a little over protective. Let them learn some car dodging skills. Let them have their candy. And let them get their welts.

Because sure, a giant "Z" is the mark of Zorro. But welts in the shape of a curtain rod?

Definitely the sign of Zero.

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