The Best Idea Ever

Halloween was definitely a Mack-holiday. Costumes and candy are a winning combination for every kid, but Mack set the quintessential example of how best to celebrate and to seize the day with the most kid gusto. She believed that the collection of a giant bucket of candy and the permission to gorge yourself into a sugar coma was simply the best idea ever in the history of the world. She saw selecting the perfect costume and then putting your whole kid heart and soul into it as a moral imperative of childhood. And trick-or-treating through heavy fall leaves in our historic Washington Park neighborhood—where most of the houses were spooked out with deadly decorations, creepy lights, and haunted music—was her favorite night of the year.

I miss Halloween with kids, and last week I purchased a giant $15 bag of candy even though I will not host a single trick-or-treater. Those Halloween sweets sitting in a big bowl in the kitchen all week have reminded me of the Halloween memories I have of Mack. While Kevin, Savannah, and I enjoyed Halloween before Mack joined our family, Mack’s enthusiasm for the holiday inspired us all to make it family favorite. Over the years, the four of us celebrated Halloween with themed baked goods, truckloads of candy for trick-or-treaters, decorations (including an expensive porcelain haunted mansion), and regular costume parties. So on this Halloween day, 2015, I want to celebrate Mack’s love of Halloween, to pay homage to her exuberance for costumes and for candy, and to illustrate her wholehearted embrace of America’s best kid holiday. As per usual, photos speak more loudly than words where Mack is concerned, and the following images exemplify Mack’s enthusiasm for Halloween, illustrate her sense of humor, and reveal something of the evolution (or, perhaps, de-evolution?) of her chosen costumes.


Mack would never have chosen a mermaid costume herself, but baby Macko had no choice. Mack was always horrified that I had dressed her in such a way, but I have no regrets; because I absolutely adore this Halloween photo of me and my girls!

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Little kid Mack from clown to witch to kitty to devil…

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Our old neighborhood was full of young families, and Halloween was a serious event…porches were transformed, lawns became graveyards, and there was one house where Count Dracula invited kids up to a scary porch through mist, spooky sounds, and haunting music. Trick-or-treating in our neighborhood was magical for my girls, and Mack always insisted we do some porch decorations. We were not the best house in the neighborhood by a long shot, but at the very least, we always had jack-o-lanterns and a mechanical bat that flew around the porch.


Halloween costumes were almost always an easy way to tell my girls apart and to perfectly illustrate the differences in their personalities, as well.

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One year, Mack did not let a badly broken arm stand in the way of her and Halloween; and even dressed as a vampire, she was still the cool kid on the block (Word!).

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One year, Mack was a leprechaun, and it is my all-time favorite Mack-holiday costume. She was a leprechaun every day of her life, so playing one on Halloween was likely her most comfortable Halloween role. (A previous blog explains this perfect costume:


I’m not sure how Mack came up with this one, but with her Dad’s movie makeup skills, she certainly looked just as awful as she had hoped.

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Mack trick-or-treated in our neighborhood her freshman year of high school against my protestations that she was too old. She argued quite emphatically that it was cruel to deny her one final participation in her favorite childhood pleasure. When she returned home that night, I watched her dump out the fully loaded pillowcase with the wild eyes of a ten-year-old, and I was glad she had convinced me to allow my high school girl to hang on a little longer to her childhood.

Here’s a costume from Mack’s junior year of high school, where I believe she was channeling her inner self…


And here Mack is in college, where she brings us back full circle, dressing like a baby…


My Kid in a Candy Store

To say that my sweet Mack adored candy would seriously disrespect the intensity and commitment of her devotion to refined sugar. Candy was a way of life for that kid. Mack was a sugar fiend and a candy monster. If something was sweet and sticky or dusted with glistening sugar, she was all about it. Better yet, if it was sweet and painfully sour, she gobbled it up with glee. She was a shameless consumer of sugar and never apologized for her lack of self-restraint when candy was within her reach. She always said, “I’m that kid in the candy store that people are talking about when they say ‘like a kid in a candy store!’”

Mack loved candy, but her sweet tooth was not sophisticated by any means. She eschewed fine confections like Belgian chocolates and French pate de fruit in favor of sugary candies packaged and marketed for American children. Warheads, Sour Punch Straws, sour gummy bears, Airheads, Skittles, Nerds, Twizzlers, Runtz, and Laffy Taffy were some of her favorites at the age of ten. And they were still her favorites at the age of twenty. Her preferences did not improve with age and, in fact, I think she may well have consumed far more of her childhood favorites after she went away to college. Whenever Mack was home from Truman State, she almost daily visited the little bodega across the street from our loft in order to purchase candy. The week before she left the United States for her study-abroad program, she ate two huge bags of Warheads, because she feared they would be unavailable in Spain. For that indulgence she paid the price, destroying the roof of her mouth. She had to admit then that perhaps she had finally eaten way too much candy. But that was a very rare confession, and she was not really all that sorry about it anyway.

While doing my household shopping over the past few weekends, the bright Easter candy displays have triggered my tears. The yellow marshmallow chicks, the purple jelly beans (her favorite), and the gummy bunnies swathed in sparkling sugar hurt my heart. They are salty reminders of the sweets I can no longer bestow on my candy-crazed kid. Mack enjoyed candy-centric holidays like Easter; and I delighted in showering my sweet girl with her favorites. It was a pleasure for me to collect interesting and colorful versions of all the candy she loved and then present it to her in an overflowing basket. Mack’s reaction to the Easter candy abundance I presented her every year never disappointed: she always bugged out her eyes, sucked in her breath with excitement, and dove into the candy cornucopia with zeal.candy

Seeing all the beautiful and delicious Easter candy this year has been bittersweet for me. It is sad to know that I will never again fill an Easter basket to maximum capacity for my little candy monster; and it is unbearable to accept the fact that Mack will never again enjoy her favorite candies. But all of that pastel-colored candy and all of those sugary bunnies remind me of my happy girl and her voracious appetite for sugar. She was such a sweet kid, and I suppose it was quite fitting that she loved sugary sweets so well and consumed such large quantities of them. Maybe all of that sugar is what made her so sweet in the first place. Or maybe it is true that the sweetest souls among us are the ones who love candy with the passion and pure delight that Mack did.

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A tweet from her summer at home from college and proof of her frequent trips to the bodega across the street.