Halloween came and went without any sightings of my ghost child. But there were so many other kids around me, and I was so busy, that I didn't really notice. I made the rounds, literally and figuratively, of all the kids in our life. I sent out special Halloween cards. I visited little niece Elena for a few hours and brought huge mylar balloons and a birthday gift to her brother, since we'll miss his birthday party this weekend. I helped with another nephew's 1st-grade Halloween party, which was fun from beginning to end -- I volunteered to be in charge of the Slime Station, so between helping the kids into and out of smocks and reminding them to wash their hands, I did a lot of laughing and poking at fake eyeballs and saying "Eww!" and "Gross!" It was awesome. And I wasn't the only childless aunt in a group of room mothers. There was another young woman there, in charge of the toilet-paper mummy station. A few times, I saw a brief pained expression on her face, and I wondered.
I hung about the school a few extra minutes to see my other nephew, who sauntered down from the fourth grade and greeted me laconically, embarrassed to have both his mom and aunt at school. I looked at all the kids rushing by in their Catholic uniforms, and I didn't see my child, either in the buttoned-up shirts of the kindergarten boys or in the sloppy, plaid skirt-over-sweatpants attire of the sixth-grade girls. But then we went outside, and I saw the long lines of minivans and SUVs waiting (because you know, kids cannot take the schoolbus these days), and I wasn't sorry to get in my little car and race back to the city.
At 5 pm, the doorbell rang for trick-or-treating, and a busy night began. We had about 85 kids -- a great turnout for our urban neighborhood. The kids were great this year -- they all actually said "Happy Halloween" and "thank you." One little guy asked what kind of candy I gave him, and on hearing my reply of "Snickers," he exclaimed, "Hey, you're the A-plus house!" And then he ran down the sidewalk, hollering "That lady's giving out the good stuff!", and his friends raced to our porch and crowded around me for chocolate bars.
A few of the toddlers were so sweet that I nearly cried after closing the door. "These kids are really cute," D. said wistfully. I smiled and nodded, blinked back some tears, and then I was ready to face the world again, feeling comfortable in my own infertile skin. I'm not invisible to kids. I'm an aunt, the woman who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, the lady who hands out the good candy. These roles just might be enough.