It was Halloween, and my friends had invited me to join them for some “surprise fun.” I didn’t know what they had planned but hoped to go. But I needed to make my usual treating rounds first. That is what my parents called it. They didn’t believe in their children begging for candy, so my mother made homemade divinity candy and sent us to visit the elderly.
I was a high school senior and had been doing it since I was young. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t visit too many homes because they all wanted to visit for a while, but I always left better, both with homemade treats and with uplifted spirits.
The rounds took me most of the evening, but I saved a particular house for last. Mrs. Levi was a widow, and I often visited her to help with things she needed to have done. As I approached the door, I looked at my watch. If I didn’t stay too long, I could probably catch the last of the evening with my friends.
It took her a little while to get to the door after I knocked, but when she opened it and saw me, she smiled. “Oh, Mr. Daris, I wondered if you were coming.”
I laughed. “I couldn’t miss my favorite Halloween stop.”
I held out the plate of candy, and she licked her lips. “I do love your mother’s divinity.”
She took the plate as she waved me in. “I am hoping you can help me with a few things,” she said.
“Of course,” I replied.
“My children usually help me harvest my garden and my apples, but they have been too busy and live so far away. I’m afraid the apples and potatoes won’t be any good if I don’t get them in soon.”
She told me there were some boxes and a shovel in her shed. While I got them, she put on a coat and fired up her old coal oil lamp. We went out to her garden, and I started digging the potatoes. We visited while I worked. I was used to battery-operated lights, not shadowy coal oil ones, but there was a bright moon, and I felt I found most of the potatoes.
After filling a few boxes, it was time to pick apples. I picked what I could reach, then climbed the tree and shook the branches. I cleaned up the fallen apples, filling a half-dozen boxes. It was then time to carry them to the root cellar under the house.
I could tell Mrs. Levi was shivering, and I suggested she go inside. “I think I have enough moonlight to carry everything,” I said.
She thanked me and went in to get warm. I opened the old doors that led under the house. It took another twenty minutes to carry the boxes carefully down the old stairs into the damp cellar. I finished and shut the doors, locking the food away for winter.
When I stepped into the house, she held out the cookie jar full of cookies. “Did you have many trick-or-treaters come?” I asked as I grabbed a couple.
“Not a one,” she replied. “I think they prefer store-bought candy, but I can’t afford it.”
“Not me,” I said. “I’d take your cookies over store candy any day.”
She smiled and held the jar out again. “Make sure you have a bunch,” she said. “I can’t eat all of these.”
“I love your old cookie jar,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve seen one like it anywhere else.”
“William gave it to me on our wedding day,” she said. “He knew I liked to bake cookies.”
When she mentioned her wedding day, her eyes softened. “Have I ever told you how William and I met?” I shook my head, so she continued. “It’s a long story.”
I looked at my watch. My friends were probably finishing their party, and they wouldn’t miss me, anyway. Little did I know, they were in jail. But that’s a different story.
“Let me call my parents,” I said, “then I’d love to hear it.”
She heated water for hot chocolate while I made the call, then I settled onto the couch across from her chair, with the cookie jar and a cup of chocolate beside me. Then I listened to an interesting story.
(To be continued)