For those like my partner who did not grow up in the United States, Halloween seems like a strange holiday because, absent of cultural context, it's hard to understand why children dress up in costumes and go door to door asking strangers for candy.

But for those of us who grew up here, Halloween is the quintessential experience of childhood. I can easily recall my favorite costume — a black cat made by my aunt — even though it was 40 years ago and I don't have a single picture of it. The material was soft and warm, the hood with the ears was snug but comfortable, and the tail was so long I had to carry it in my hand. Halloween is the one day a year when children can really and truly be anything they want and that kind of magic makes memories that last a long time.

As a mother, I have been able to experience Halloween from a different perspective, as the person who helps to create those memories.

My partner and I have carved a lot of pumpkins in the past 14 years. In the beginning, we helped small hands draw faces that we then brought to life. But this year, our kids did the carving on their own and we simply watched.

We've helped them into pumpkin costumes and attached ladybug wings and fastened Gryffindor robes. We have helped with eye patches and swashbuckling swords and laughed at little pirates yelling, "Argh matey!" We have painted chubby cheeks white for skeletons and vampires and we have made last-minute runs for buy new costumes when plans have changed or failed.

Through all of this, we have taken hundreds of pictures of the kids posing with their pumpkins and showing off their costumes. These are the pictures that remind me how quickly time passes and that our days of dressing up and carving pumpkins are numbered.

My son is 14 now. Though he loves candy, the whole experience doesn't hold the wonder it once did. He hadn't planned to Trick-or-Treat this year but his friends are going and taking their younger siblings so he changed his mind and plans to go.

My daughter is 10 and still loves every aspect of the day. She planned her costume months ago and her excitement is infectious. Tonight I'll help her add the final touches to her costume and dig out the Trick-or-Treat bags. And, when Halloween arrives, we'll make them stand in the foyer for a picture just like we do every year and they'll complain, as has become the pattern more recently. We'll add the picture to our collection, knowing that each one might be the last, and hope that, years from now, they'll look back at all this with as much fondness as we will.