Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10 Weeks 'til Halloween

From Left: Michael Angela, Raphael. Not Pictured: Elsa
Not long ago, I checked in with my two-year-old son and told him I loved him. He quickly told me "No" and changed the subject to one of the more pressing issues of the day, the status of his stuffed ninja turtle, "Michael Angela."

"He seepin'."

You probably thought when you saw the words "pressing issues of the day" that we would discuss public breastfeeding, play dates, or sex in the delivery room. But no. Those were soooo last week. This week the focus in this household is solely on Halloween...and why not? It's only 10 weeks away, the kids already have their costumes (Michael Angela, Raphael, and Elsa, for the record.) And even though the radio stations aren't playing their favorite Halloween music yet, thankfully the card stores have their stuff out. So we're in good stead.

Halloween is a big deal in our house for reasons that aren't supported by biology. My wife has officially named it her "least favorite" holiday, and I was never one to dress up for fun myself, especially in 4th grade when I went to school as a pirate and had to wear my great-aunt's winter boots. Still, our kids rigorously scan the catalogs and select their timely, topical costumes three months in advance without regard for whether they'll remain timely and topical on the day they show up on other people's doorsteps for candy. But really, how could they not be timely? Everyone knows who the Ninja Turtles and Elsa are, and everyone will still know them on October 31, unless they suffer a horrific head injury between now and then.

For years I have tried to hold the Halloween costume as a behavior control mechanism, much the way the famed child psychiatrist Santa Claus uses a lump of coal or dog poop. "If you're on the naughty list this Halloween, you have to go as grapes" I instruct my mortified kids, threatening to take away their princess and superhero turtle costumes and letting them know that their behavior won't be tolerated, lest the whole family dress up go out as the Fruit of the Loom gang.

You think I'm kidding...the youngest would go as a banana, the other two kids go as grapes, one purple and one green. My wife will be the leaves and I'm the big red apple. This is happening some day. And for their sake, they'd be better off if it happens some year sooner rather than later.

Usually our Halloweens involve both parents scurrying home from work just in time to jam some frozen fish sticks and french fries down before heading out with each child for some candy. Unfortunately, our neighborhood also participates in the Halloween ritual...by dressing itself as Hell. No street lights, a darkening, foreboding sky, numerous houses with no lights on (don't worry, we weren't going to visit you anyway, don't flatter yourself), it looks like a setting more equipped for an ax murder than a benign holiday tradition.

This actually works to our advantage. Because neither I or my wife really enjoys Halloween, we can go to the 8 houses (of 75 in the development) that actually participate and rake in about 35 houses' worth of chocolate. Because we are apparently the only practicing Halloweeners in our demographic, we often are the only customers these eight houses see, and they just stuff entire candy bars and chip bags into our sacks. It makes for a short, efficient evening of groveling.

Sure, there are missteps. Last year, as my then year-old Mickey Mouse reached for a bag of Sour Cream and Onion potato chips and I reflexively blurted out "Yucccckkkk" to him like I did when he tried to eat lint out of the vacuum sweeper. I meant it as "you're never going to eat those, grab something you will eat" but it sounded totally ungrateful. Sometimes my mouth is better off duct-taped shut in all social situations.

But, um, yeah, we're all looking forward to Halloween already (half eye-roll). We've tried on our costumes, we've recited every line from the various pieces in which our characters have appeared ("it's heroes, not turtles in a half-shell) and, where applicable, we've practiced ninja moves on each other, mostly without incident. We'll store these costumes in a safe, dry place and pray to the Gods of All Hallows Eve that nobody grows much this fall, because if they do, then they may have to go as grapes.

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