Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls

Right, well, I am still several steps behind where I need to be, work-wise, and in fact could make a legitimate case that I am several pre-requisites behind where I would need to be to actually be merely several steps behind. BUT I can honestly say that I’ve made a concerted effort to do everything I can to ameliorate the situation and it’s all in other people’s hands now. So we shall see what happens next, and when. (Not much, and not very quickly, if history is any guide.)

Halloween, then? When we look back on the little guy’s childhood, this will be the one we remember as his first, I imagine. Sure, he was born about eight weeks before Halloween ’08, which more or less came and went unnoticed, and he was just past his first birthday for Halloween ’09, for which we have photographic evidence of the lobster costume he wore, but the first one is self-evidently a non-event and the second was much more the first Halloween for my wife and I as parents than anything really centered on the little guy himself. This year, though, the little guy got to go trick-or-treating, and to my mind that’s the decisive factor in making the holiday his own.

He’s still not up to picking out his own Halloween costumes, though. Because my wife has her vet clinic’s Halloween-themed open house every late-October, we have found ourselves the past couple years looking for group costumes wherein the group contains one very small child and (at least) one dog, all of whom will attend the open house. In theory I could also be part of these groups (as opposed to my wife, who is expected to maintain her professional decorum as a representative staff doctor gladhanding prospective and existing clients) but I have managed to go a rather slack 0-for-2 so far. Last year the theme was lobsters since we found crustacean costumes for both the little guy and our dog, and I had every intention of gussying myself up as a lobsterman to make the tow of them my catch of the day, but that never came together. This year the theme was, more broadly, food: main-dog got to be a banana split, backup-dog was a hot dog with the works, and the little guy was a slice of pizza. Once again, I intended to be in charge of the whole crew as an outsize chef, but once again I couldn’t get my act together, alas.

So the little guy didn’t pick out the theme or his individual part within it, but he was pretty happy on balance nonetheless. He certainly loves pizza, and while the costume was just two triangles of foam with a neckhole in the crust, it was recognizable to him, silly enough to make him realize that wearing it was an out-of-the-ordinary bit of fun, and yet not terribly cumbersome or restrictive. (Also very easy to throw on top of any number of weather-appropriate layers.) And other people thought it was cute and much cooing and fussing over the little guy ensued, which make no mistake, he eats right up.

Maybe next year...?
We ended up on the 31st itself going over to my buddy’s house, because he lives in a neighborhood with lots of houses really close together (including multiple pipestem driveway configurations) and as a result he’s been hosting trick-or-treating galas for several years. His kids are all between 7 and 13 or so, and he also has nieces and nephews, plus his kids have neighborhood friends, so it makes for a good-sized mob heading out when the sun finally goes down, after everyone has been hanging out and having some dinner for a couple of hours beforehand. We let the little guy have a couple practice runs at holding out his goodie bag and saying “Trick or treat” there at my buddy’s house before taking him around, but he still seemed skeptical of the whole enterprise in the early going. We also quickly lost the mob of older children as they moved a lot faster than two-year-old legs can, but I think that actually worked out for the best. I’m not sure the little dude would ever have gotten the hang of saying “Trick or treat”, “Thank you” and “Happy Halloween” at all if he had been part of the roving, rampaging Greek Chorus of kiddies storming the neighborhood. But as a solo act navigating driveways and front steps between his parents, he managed to figure it out. And showing up at doors alone allowed him to be the center of attention of whomever answered said door (see above re: eating up the cooing and fussing). The clincher had to be when a matronly neighbor dropped a candy in the little guy’s bag and he recognized it on its descent and happily exclaimed “A lollipop!” To which the woman said “Oh, do you like lollipops? Here, have another one!” Bonus candy is, in fact, what it is all about.

Also, not being tied to the main mass of children meant we could peel off and head back to my buddy’s house (to say our goodbyes to everyone who wasn’t out chaperoning the roving horde) on our own timetable, which of course involves a significantly earlier bedtime than everyone else. The little guy had to get to bed at his usual time, too. (Rimshot.) But we probably hit a dozen or so houses, all of which provided treats, so it was altogether a satisfying experience by any measure, all the more convenient for being so streamlined.

We got home from my buddy’s sometime around 7:30 or 7:45 and as we drove up our street I noticed something to which I had somehow been utterly oblivious all month. We hadn’t decorated our house much for Halloween, but I can blame that on any number of factors: we’ve been in the new house for less than a year and we’re still settling in; we knew we’d be out for part of the evening on Halloween anyway; we did manage to do at least a little decorating, in the form of a bale of straw on the front stoop (we had used very little of it bedding down grass seeds on the lawn’s bare patches) supporting a couple of uncarved pumpkins, and would have done more but never have the time blah blah blah. Slowly crusing up our street, however, I noticed that NO ONE on our block had decorated for Halloween. Coming from a neighborhood where pretty much every house went NUTS with fake spider webs and Styrofoam headstones and inflatable illuminated jack-o-lanterns and reflective skeleton door wraps and all-orange Christmas lights and every other manner of spooky festooning, it was striking how our own neighbors’ houses looked exactly as they had in August and September, with nary a cardboard bat nor ghost flag to be seen. It just hadn’t occurred to me all through October that our neighborhood wasn’t looking particularly like a trick-or-treating-friendly place, right up until the night in question was half over. In retrospect I was really glad we hadn’t tried to teach he little guy about trick-or-treating on our own street because it would have been somewhat discouraging.

I honestly don’t know if many kids came through our neighborhood at all, since (if the kids at the get-together we attended were any indication) most kids are dying to get started as soon as quasi-dusk turns the sky from 51% light to 51% dark. After my wife and the little guy and I got home we had exactly five trick-or-treaters. Four of them, all looking around fifth-grade aged, came as a group and when the rang the doorbell the dogs went insane as always, and I tried to get out to the front step without letting the dogs out but I failed and there was much romping and barking and sniffing, and I felt bad and gave the kids extra candy. Then my wife and I tracked down the old spring-loaded baby gate and shut the dogs off in the den so they couldn’t molest any more trick-or-treaters, and from that point on the doorbell was rung one more time, by a boy out by himself in what basically looked like his old junior varsity wrestling gear. So there was a lot of leftover candy, which my wife and I have been trying every since to dispose of without putting ourselves into diabetic comas.

Anyway, part of me sees this as a challenge, that as we get more and more settled into the house and have fewer pressing needs in terms of rehabbing our exterior and repainting our interior and so on, maybe I can create my own version of the driveway-and-garage phantasmagoria with some crazy black lights and a fog machine, and drag our neighborhood kicking and screaming into Halloween fun. Something to think about, at any rate.

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