Trick or Treat
I put my book on the floor next to my chair and made my way to the front door, smiling as I grabbed the plate of homemade cookies. I loved Halloween.
Well, I loved the kids, actually. Being what some folks called "a spinster", I relished seeing the neighborhood children dressed in costume. True, as a substitute teacher, I saw most of them every once in a while in class, but this was much more fun. Besides, my chocolate walnut cookies were very popular with the younger set. And, since this was a close-knit neighborhood, home baked goods as Halloween treats were okay with the parents.
I had just sent off a ballerina, a clown and G.I. Joe, when I saw seven -- no, no, make that eight -- youngsters making their way up the sidewalk.
Despite the costumes, I recognized the first seven. They were the foster children living with the Connors. Four little girls -- dressed as Barbie, a nurse, a go-go dancer and a cheerleader -- were in the lead, followed by four little boys -- another G.I. Joe, a pirate, a hippie -- and --
And -- what or who in the world was that little one supposed to be? He hung back from the rest -- the girls, smiling brightly and holding their trick-or-treat bags demurely in front of them; the boys, jostling for space behind, careful not to push the little girls, but shoving each other nevertheless.
Somewhat shorter and slighter than the other boys, he was dressed in a pale blue bathrobe -- obviously belonging to Phil Connors -- the sleeves rolled up several times, but still hanging down around his thin wrists, the waist hitched up and belted, er, rather, sashed -- around his slim waist but still dragging the ground. He also wore sandals and some heavy piece of costume jewelry around his T-shirted neck.
Shaggy brownish-blond hair covered his head and a long fringe of bangs reached to the top of a pair of incredibly blue eyes. Owlish eyes, blinking behind a pair of wire rimmed glasses. Pale skin, and a rosebud of a mouth. Very solemn. Very serious.
The crowd in front of my door reached for cookies; some dropping them in outstretched sacks, others taking a big bite right then. A chorus of "thank yous" and "Happy Halloween, Ms. James" echoed from the group, and they made their way back down the sidewalk to where Helen Connors was standing.
But still, he stood there, then shyly began to approach the door.
I knelt down in order to look him in the eye.
"Well," I said, clearing my throat, "And who are you supposed to be?"
"Imhotep," came the quiet reply.
I know a little smile crossed my face.
"Excuse me?" I asked. "Who?"
"Imhotep," he repeated. "I was the architect, physician and scribe for the pharaoh Zoser."
I almost -- almost -- started to laugh. But, bless his little heart, he was so serious. He was new to the neighborhood. I knew I hadn’t seen him with the Connor brood at the supermarket last week, nor had I seen him in any of my classes.
Just then Hank, the ‘pirate’, called out, "For gosh sakes, Danny, c’mon! You’re slowing us up!"
A chorus of "Yeah, Danny"’s echoed from the other children. I caught Helen Connors’ eye. She shot me a look -- apparently this wasn’t the first time this evening this little one had held up their trick-or-treat plans.
I looked in his bag. Whereas the other children’s bags had been at least one-thirds’ full, his only held about three or four pieces of candy.
Helen caught my glance.
"He’s a little shy, Lynne," she called back. "This is his first time to trick-or-treat. Hasn’t quite got the hang of it, I guess."
The other children were pulling on Helen, eager to be off. The night was still young; still plenty of houses to raid for candy. I made a quick decision.
I knelt back down beside him. "You’re Danny?" I questioned.
"Daniel," came the solemn reply.
"Daniel, then. Do you want to go with the other children or would you like to stay here with me and help me hand out cookies to the other trick-or-treaters?" I looked back at Helen. "Is that all right with you, Helen? If Daniel stays with me? I’ll get him home early."
She looked relieved. Apparently Daniel’s lack of enthusiasm for trick-or-treating was rapidly becoming a ‘bone of contention’ between him and the other children.
"You don’t mind, Lynne?" she said. "Danny, is that what you’d like?"
He just nodded solemnly. And watched as his foster brothers and sisters loudly made their way to the next house.
"Well, then, that’s settled," I said, opening the door and ushering him in. "I’m glad to meet you, Daniel. My name is Lynne James." I extended my hand.
He took it and gave me a handshake, his little hand warm and his grip surprisingly firm for a child.
"Pleased to meet you," he said, looking up at me. "My name’s Daniel Jackson, and I’m eight."
For the next half hour, Daniel and I were kept busy handing out cookies to the neighborhood youngsters who came by. No one knew him, so I guessed he’d only been at the Connors for a few days. I asked him about it when we finally had a break.
"How long have you been at the Connors, Daniel?"
"Just since Wednesday," he said. "That’s why Mrs. Connors didn’t have much time to help me make a costume for tonight."
"That’s right," I said, smiling, "And you’re -- who, again?"
"Imhotep. Architect, physician and scribe for the 3rd Dynasty pharaoh Zoser." Daniel almost sounded as if he was explaining this to a classroom full of children.
"Ah, yes," I said. "An unusual choice, don’t you think?"
"Not to me," he said.
"Oh?" I questioned. The crowd of trick-or-treaters had thinned considerably and we had time to talk. "Would you like a glass of milk to go with one of those cookies, Daniel?"
"Yes, please," he said.
We moved to the kitchen. I could see the front door from there, so I told Daniel to make himself comfortable while I poured us both some milk.
I could tell he was having trouble maneuvering in the bathrobe, so I said, "Why don’t you take off your costume and sit down at the bar?"
When I returned with the milk, Daniel was perched on a barstool, his sandaled feet barely able to reach the bottom rung of the stool. He wore a pair of worn blue jeans and a plain white T-shirt, the piece of costume jewelry still dangling around his neck.
Picking up the pendant that hung on the chain, I held it in my hand.
"This is an ankh, right?" I asked Daniel.
His eyes brightened. "Yeah. The Egyptian symbol for life."
"Imhotep. Ankhs. How do you know so much about Egypt, Daniel?" I asked. As his little face saddened, I immediately regretted my question. "That is, if it’s any of my business," I added quickly.
"My -- my parents were Egyptologists," he said. "I used to go with them on digs and stuff -- before...,"
"How fascinating!" I exclaimed. Then, seeing that same sad look on his face, I softly said, "You must have liked that very much."
He nodded, his eyes beginning to fill.
"And they must have loved you very much to take you with them to such faraway places."
He nodded again, his lower lip quivering.
"Daniel, does this bother you to talk about this?" I asked gently. "We don’t have to if you don’t want to..."
He shook his head ‘no’, his face all but obscured by that fringe of hair. But I could see one fat tear rolling down his cheek.
I couldn’t help myself. I wrapped my arms around him gently. "Oh, honey," I said. "I’m so sorry. You must miss them terribly."
He stiffened at first in my grasp, but then began to relax -- and began to cry.
Taking off his glasses and putting them down on the bar, I picked him up off the stool and carried him over to my chair in the living room. Sitting down, I pulled him into my lap. He wrapped his arms around my neck and hid his face in my shoulder as he cried.
I shifted his slight weight; grasping the back of his head against my shoulder, I gently rubbed his back as the sobs shook his small frame. "Shhh," I soothed in his ear, rocking gently back and forth, "that’s right. Let it all out, sweetheart. It’s okay."
My heart went out to this small, sad little boy.
Soon, the sobs subsided, and a pair of watery red-rimmed blue eyes peered up at me from beneath that dark blond fringe.
He sniffed loudly. I handed him a piece of Kleenex and he blew noisily.
"Ready for milk and cookies now?" I asked him gently.
He nodded, the storm clouds in his eyes beginning to dissipate.
I led him back over to the bar and he and I sat, facing one another, as he ate his way through five cookies and drank two glasses of milk.
He told me about Imhotep. And Zoser. And several important Egyptian gods and goddesses. And about his parents, who had died some ten months earlier. About the home he was sent to. And the grandfather -- his only living relative -- who couldn’t take him. And at least two sets of foster parents he had lived with before the Connors.
By this time, his tears had dried. Mine were trapped inside me.
Looking at this bright, attractive, sensitive little boy who nobody wanted, I found myself incredibly angry. Angry at a God who would take this child’s parents from him, at a grandfather who could not see how important he was to this boy, at a system which, at best, shuffled these little ones from home to home when what they needed desperately was stability, security and love.
It was close to 9 p.m. when I got him home. He sat close to me during the short drive to the Connors’ home, and I think he’d almost drifted off to sleep at one point, his shaggy head heavy against my shoulder.
We walked hand and hand up the front walk. After ringing the doorbell, I knelt down next to him and handed him two more chocolate walnut cookies. His bright blue eyes shone and two little arms found their way around my neck. "Thanks, Ms. James," he whispered. "For the cookies ‘n everything."
I hugged him back, fiercely. "Thank you, too, sweetheart," I whispered back, "for being such a big help." As the door opened and Helen stood there waiting to take him inside, I added, "Good night, Daniel. Come and visit me soon, okay?"
"’kay," he said softly, and went inside.
That was the last time I ever saw him.
Two weeks later I met Helen Connors at the beauty shop and asked about Daniel.
"Oh, he’s not with us any more," she said, somewhat sadly. "They’ve placed him in another foster home upstate. I was actually one child over what the state would allow me to house, so I had to make a choice. Danny had been here the shortest period of time, so I felt it would be easier for him to adjust to new surroundings, since he really hadn’t had a chance to get too used to us."
"Oh," was all I said.
It’s now time for another Halloween, and this year I have Molly and Christopher to help me hand out chocolate walnut cookies. You see, Daniel Jackson did have an effect on my life. I tried contacting the agency, to see if I could foster Daniel, but was unable to.
But my time with Daniel made me see how important stability, love and trust are to a child without parents, without family. So I became a foster parent myself, and these little ones have enriched my life. And we now call these chocolate walnut cookies "pharaoh" cookies -- in honor of a wise-beyond-his-years eight-year-old who taught me about Imhotep, Zoser, gods, goddesses -- and the importance of family.
God bless you, Daniel Jackson, where ever you are.
|Summary:||Daniel’s first Halloween as a foster child.|
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Thanks to those wonderful SG-1 fanfic writers who have given me inspiration to write and post. Feedback is welcome and requested