Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The Boy and The Girl have been looking forward to Halloween since the summer. Starting sometime around July, any time one of us would ask The Girl what she wanted to be for Halloween, she'd meow. She was admirably consistent, so we went for it. The packaged kittycat costumes for little girls in stores and catalogs were generally much too vampy, so The Wife put together a great cat costume for her, with matching black velour top and bottom, white ruffle at the neck and wrists, a tail, and ears worn like deelyboppers. She also did some face painting, blackening her nose and adding whiskers.

The Boy decided pretty early on to be a race car driver. (I think seeing the movie Cars clinched it.) So, defeating any stereotype of the brie-eating, latte-drinking academic family, we got him a Tony Stewart-NASCAR ensemble, in the orange Home Depot colors.

I took the afternoon off so I could make it to TB's school for the Kindergarten Halloween parade. The kids and teachers dressed up and did a circular march outside the building while the parents beamed with pride and pointed cameras at everything. TB was clearly the tallest kid in the entire Kindergarten (over 100 kids), and, in my objective and unbiased opinion, also the best-looking. Judging by the parade, the big news this year in 5-year-old Halloween fashion was Mr. Incredible, Supergirl, Batman, and princesses. TB's evil sidekick dressed as a John Deere tractor, which was much cooler than it sounds; his Mom had assembled a tractor out of boxes, then spray-painted it and affixed bumper stickers. She also fashioned a carrier for it out of his younger sister's stroller.

We're lucky to have found a few other families locally with kids the same ages as TB and TG, so we've formed a little posse. The posse assembled at 5:30 for trick-or-treating. Six adults, six kids, two strollers, a NASCAR driver, a kittycat, a Tigger, a My Little Pony, a cowboy, and a Care Bear. (The John Deere tractor was vetoed at the last minute as being too likely to lead to a face-plant when encountering uneven pavement. Good call, I say.) The posse assembled at the home of TB's girlfriend (Tigger), and marched around her neighborhood. It's a classic suburban grid with sidewalks and competitive outdoor lighting display and annoying teenagers who ignore the “no trick-or-treating after puberty” rule that all well-bred people understand intuitively.

If you've never done it, there's something priceless about watching the scrum of two-to-five year olds approach a door for treats. TG was consistently the last one to get there, trundling determinedly and plaintively saying “me, too!” She stood her ground, though, and usually got something. TB and TG were both on their good behavior, as were the other kids, though there was a constant tension between minding manners (saying 'thank you' at each door) and blowing off kid-energy on Halloween (the spirited choruses of 'trick or treat, smell my feet' between houses). Cowboy/John Deere started inventing verses to add to the 'trick or treat, smell my feet' song, mostly involving underwear, which sent TB over the edge. I could tell it made an impression, because when I read him stories before bed, he asked when we could start reading the Captain Underpants series. (Very soon, btw.)

The posse is close enough, and the kids comfortable enough, that it was a tossup which kid's hand you were holding at any given moment. It may or may not take a village, but having a cluster of parents watch a cluster of kids is much easier than just having Mom and Dad watch their own. The kids played off each other, allowing the parents to drop the draining man-to-man defense and instead play the zone. The interpersonal dynamics of the kids are fun to watch in their own right. Cowboy has a crush on TG, which he acts on by being disarmingly sweet to her. TB and Tigger have pretty much coupled up. TG is sort of the mascot of the group, since she's younger than Care Bear and Little Pony. Tigger always keeps an eye on TG, and of course any time you mix three sibling relationships with a night out, holiday excitement, and sugar, there's bound to be some energy.

I don't envy TB's teacher on the day after Halloween. If TB is any indication, those kids will be completely wiped. But in a good way.

The night was tiring, and a little overlong. We were all pretty much exhausted when we got home, and I'll admit to being a little curt with the 17-year-old trick-or-treaters who came by at 8:30 in nothing resembling costumes. But this is the good stuff. I remember having a great time on Halloween as a kid, and I want my kids to have that, too. TB is quite the little gentleman, for his age, and TG is cuter than allowed by law. They had a blast, and so did we. I don't know how much longer trick-or-treating will survive as a tradition – there's something almost alarmingly archaic about allowing your children to ask strangers for candy – but I really hope we can get at least one more generation through. The world is your candy store when you're five, the street stretches out before you, and you're leading a parade of friends (and parents) on a mission of such innocent debauchery. Every kid should know what that feels like.