My daughter ripped open her first piece of Halloween candy
in the car. The man with the kind eyes
who owns the dry cleaners gave her the choice between a miniature Milky Way and a
little packet of candy corn. To my great horror and revulsion, she chose the
I could smell it as soon as she ripped the package
open. I almost gagged. I’ve got nothing against candy corn, but it
happens to be the last candy I ever binged on before I got into recovery for an
eating disorder in the early 1990s. I
spent the Halloween of 1991 eating pounds of candy and hiding wrappers all over
my dorm room. It was a dark time, and the
memories smell like candy corn.
It’s not my kids’ fault that their mother hit bottom with
bulimia during a holiday that most people enjoy for what it is: a time to dress
up and eat some candy. My kids, who are
both under 5 years old, don’t need to know the details of those final days
before my recovery, but those ghosts still haunt me, especially at this time of year. It’s still hard for me to see their little
fists full of candy without projecting my own troubles with candy onto them.
I don’t want my ghosts interfering with their enjoyment of a holiday that for them remains uncomplicated.
And my kids just want to enjoy Halloween with me and their
friends. They want to pick out a costume
(after changing their minds a hundred times before October 31), carve a pumpkin
and eat some of the trick-or-treating booty. That’s what I want for them, too. I don’t want my ghosts interfering with their enjoyment of a holiday
that for them remains uncomplicated.
So, I’ll do it. I go
to Costco and invest in jumbo-size bags of candy to give out to little kids,
ignoring that it’s the same kind of candy that brought me to my knees almost
two decades ago. I vow to leave the past
in the past where it belongs—in my
memory and not on their plates.
Every year the bad memories fade a little more as I watch my
children squeal with glee over Tootsie Rolls and Twizzlers. They hold them up
to me as if they are prized treasures. “Look, Mama! Look what I got!” They
offer me some, and I decline saying, “No, that’s OK, mama wants you to enjoy it
for yourself.” I smile at them and
remind myself that for my children, it’s just candy, not some dark symbol of an
eating disorder ravaging a life. After
all, sometimes candy corn is just candy corn.