With Halloween Tuesday and the circus Friday, last week was a good week to be a kid who knows me.
I felt like Oprah when she used to leave stuff under the seats for her studio audience. Sort of.
See, I wound up taking the trio that makes up Best Fest Buddy Tom’s grandkids trick-or-treating.
The bizarre weather on Halloween made this a daunting task. Cold. Snowy. Whiteout. Windy. Sunny. Frequently all at the same time. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Given the above, I headed to Walgreens at lunchtime to buy Halloween candy, during a mini, short-lived blizzard. I bought each of the kids a bag of gummy ghouls and a bag to add to the mix for trick-or-treaters who might brave the elements and walk down my block.
That was my backup plan – to give each of the trio a bag of candy and then find some indoor thing to do.
Of course, when I picked the kids up from school, the sun came out. Naturally, each of them dawdled. First snow. First snowballs of the season.
With trick-or-treating not officially starting in my town until 3 p.m, we had time to kill. I decided to take the trio to see the classic Halloween movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was playing up the hill at the local cinema.
The kids didn’t exactly behave during the 75-minute flick. Luckily, we were the only people in the theater.
They left a trail of popcorn that would make Hansel and Gretel proud. They climbed on seats. Went to the bathroom multiple times. Stuff like that. Then again, for kids at their ages (8, 6 and 5) waiting to trick-or-treat leaves one as antsy as waiting for Santa on the night before Christmas.
Either way, their behavior left me a little frosty – but not in a jovial snowman sort of way.
See, it was snowing a bit when we headed out of the show and over to my car. But they were insistent on going trick-or-treating – and obstinate about it in that charming way kids have.
Fortunately for them and for me, the weather let up a bit.
I picked a neighborhood where my friends the Clarkes live. I figured if the trio misbehaved there, no one but the Clarkes would recognize them.
Those blocks turned out to be a good choice, as a good many people were home. And a good many of those who were out left containers of candy, on the honors system for kids to take a piece. Or two. Or three.
Note: If you decorate for Halloween and aren’t home, you should at least leave a bowl of candy by the front door. That’s what I did.
Anyway, Lily, the eldest, was dressed in a warm onesie as Disney’s lovably annoying Stitch. Middle kid Izzy had taken off his superhero costume and just wore his coat, unbuttoned to reveal a dinosaur t-shirt. It worked for him. Juice, the youngest, was Batman, albeit one with a Mardi Gras-like paper mask, gloves and a winter coat.
Mind you, each had other Halloween costume options at home. Cop stuff. A Paw Patrol character. Sonic the Hedgehog. Grogu, aka Baby Yoda. Poppa Tom. Okay. I lied about the last one. Still, lots of choices for little kids.
Juice turned out to be the bravest of the trio. He typically was first to the door to peek through windows to see if anybody was home. He was very polite and almost always said thank you.
He tired, though, and for the last few houses dragged behind the other two. He even asked me to carry his pretty-much-full pail for him toward the end.
Izzy was so excited he fell at least once. For some reason, he wore kiddie crocs instead of winter-type shoes.
By mid-walk, Lily employed a strategy. She would hang back on the sidewalk to see if her brothers were getting any candy. If they did, as the person in the house was about to close the door, she would go up to the door.
Cold and a bit tired, each was impressed by the haul they brought home. The cold weather probably helped, as some homes gave out multiple treats. One place even had a little comic book about Jesus in a baggie with granola bars.
Adding to the spirit, local police and fire departments were out and about giving out candy, too!
The trio so enjoyed themselves, once we got back to Tom’s house, the three went out again with a neighborhood buddy and his dad.
Yes, they double dipped. Alas, their second round was snowy and soggy. So when they came home this time, they sorted to rid their respective stashes of wet stuff.
If that weren’t enough excitement for the week, Friday we headed to the latest edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
That involved a stop at Maria’s Mexican Restaurant for dinner. We sat in a booth by some big windows. That only added to the excitement.
See, the kids had not been this close to an airport before. Seeing planes land nearby at O’Hare was way cool!
Playing hide and seek outside while Poppa Tom finished his dinner. Cooler. But there was a fireplace working where they stood to warm up.
Finally, it was time to head to the circus.
We arrived early, which meant time to get a bank loan to buy souvenirs. Two light-up swords. A light-up wand with a star on top of it. Three plastic cups filled with flavored ice. And a postcard noting each item came with a 2-year guarantee.
During the circus, Lily and Izzy remained amazed.
For just about every act, Lily kept saying, Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!
Izzy kept asking questions. I could barely hear him through the commotion. Mostly, he wondered how the circus performers did all the stuff they did.
What left them most impressed:
- The Triangular Highwire with three 25-foot-tall wires connected in a triangular formation and performers jumping over their partner’s shoulders, then riding bikes on the thin wire with performers on top in a handstand.
- The Double Wheel of Destiny where four acrobats did back-and-forth leaps and somersaults atop two simultaneously spinning apparatuses suspended 30 feet above the ground and moving at high speeds. Or as Lily called them, the guys in hamster wheels.
- Wesley Williams, the One Wheel Wonder, a Guinness World Record-setting performer, who rode ten different unicycles throughout the show, including one with six stacked wheels, an accordion-style unicycle that grew taller with each pedal rotation, and the tallest reaching a height of more than 34 feet.
- The elegant Black Diamond Ethiopian acrobats and the Yab Brothers, dressed like bees who do an act where one spins the other around by using his feet.
- Skyler Miser, the human rocket, who ends the show with her being shot across the arena floor.
That’s not to mention the pyrotechnics, the trapeze act, the aerialists, the clowns without makeup, the songs and the dancing.
Of course, Juice, being just 5, at times seemed more interested in having sword fights with the kids sitting in front of him. And he did wind up getting himself trapped for a bit in his chair. Too small for me, too big for him.
Having witnessed three rings of stimuli, the three fell asleep shortly into the drive home.
When I caught up with them the next day, they had moved on from the circus to the next project – building a leaf pile. (One of the neighbor kids didn’t even know what a circus was!)
What was great about all the above was seeing kids showing excitement for things. Kids being curious. Knocking on doors. Watching airplanes land. Enjoying three rings of circus fun. Jumping on leaves.
In a world that all too often can be nasty, brutish and short, it was nice to help kids have fun. Plus, in less than five years, Lily will be a teenager, where that sense of wonder often becomes a great big, eh.
And that’s why I am bringing a back of leaves I raked Sunday over to their grandpa’s house. Well, that and it might make grandpa grumpy, per what the kids and their friends do with the leaves.