This year, for the first time ever, our kids had actual Halloween costumes. I have no pictures to prove this, but I can explain.
A few weeks ago, after having prepped the kids by reading them various Halloween picture books, I asked Nathan if he’d like to dress up for Halloween. He told me that he’d like to be a pirate. (He was introduced to the concept of pirates via a playgroup birthday party, and I’m not sure he has much of an understanding of piracy beyond eye patches. In particular we’ve glossed over the rather blood-thirsty aspects of their history. But so what?) Ryan immediately declared that he wanted to be a pirate too. I was delighted; a pirate costume was one that I thought could reasonably be put together at a thrift store.
And sure enough, black pants and white shirts were fairly easy to obtain, as well as some inexpensive plastic swords. But things like coats, hats, or boots? To be honest, everything I saw was either stupid or expensive or both.
So we went to Plan B — the plan where I would sew the remainder of their costumes. In my original imagination, there were black cloaks lined with a silky fabric of another color; the same silky fabric in a flowing sash; an additional head scarf that neither would probably wear; and, just for good measure, matching lined bags to take trick-or-treating.
What I ended up completing, with approximately an hour to spare, were two plain black three-quarter circle cloaks and a couple teal sashes. But that’s okay. The boys were still very cute, dressed up in their matching finery. Nathan interpreted his cloak as detective’s garb (he’s watched a lot of Madeline) and refused to carry a sword, opting instead for his magnifying glass. Whatever — we are pretty loose here.
We headed off that evening (the Saturday before Halloween) to a trunk-or-treat. It did not occur to me until too late to bring the camera.
In case you’ve never heard of trunk-or-treating, it’s exactly like trick-or-treating only it happens in a parking lot, with people handing out candy from the backs of their cars. In our case, we’d been invited by a friend in our playgroup to attend one put on by her church. There was a corresponding Halloween party going on inside, with costume competitions and cupcake walks. Our boys stayed firmly in our laps during these festivities. Even when Nathan’s friend Quinn won a cupcake, Nathan himself could not be persuaded to participate.
Then it was time for the trunk-or-treating. We headed out with the rest of the kids, holding back just a little to avoid the main rush. Dave took Ryan, who followed obediently along with Quinn and, while hesitant at first, quickly got the hang of this trick-or-treating thing. By the third car he was helpfully pointing into his bag to indicate where the candy should go. And when he got to pick what kind he wanted — oh, that was exciting indeed.
I know this only by hearsay. Nathan and I were back at the first car, which he refused to approach.
Now, I have this thing about trick-or-treating. I’m happy to take our kids out, happy even to walk up to the door with them if they need that. But I won’t do the trick-or-treating for them. I understand that Nathan is shy about crowds, and I knew, based on what I’d seen from him before, that the trick-or-treating would be a bit nerve-wracking for him. One of the reasons we’d done the trunk-or-treat was because it seemed like a gentler introduction to the sport, and Nathan could follow his friend Quinn along, and I just generally thought it more likely that he’d be willing to participate.
Nothing doing. Nathan wanted me to walk up to the car, get the candy, and bring it back to him. I insisted that he at least walk up with me. We sat and discussed this for quite a while, as a stream of kids ebbed and flowed past us.
Finally a lady from a car near us, taking pity on him, came up to Nathan and dropped a packet of M&M’s into his bag. Nathan fished it out. A big shy smile spread over his face, the simple delight of a child who’s just been handed a handful of chocolate candy.
He asked me to open it for him. I pointed out that I could do that — or, I suggested, we could get some more candy from some of the many waiting trunks. I watched as he pondered that idea.
We managed two more trunks on the momentum of the M&M’s, and then he was done again. At that point Dave and Ryan were coming around, having finished the loop. Dave took Nathan in hand and coaxed a few more trunks out of him while Ryan dug through his bag and handed things to me to open for him.
Soon after that the boys were pretty done with things, and we thanked out friends and headed back home, sharing out candy on the way. I figured that Nathan had a couple of days to mull over the idea of trick-or-treating. When he saw trick-or-treaters coming to our door on Halloween night and receiving candy, maybe he’d get the bug and be ready for another go. Dave pointed out that he does better in less crowded arenas. We’d just have to see.
But on Halloween we didn’t even get as far as dressing up. Both boys proved completely uninterested in their costumes, and showed no inclination to head out for trick-or-treating. Why should they? There was a big bowl of candy right in our own house. But even more than that, it turned out that what Nathan really, really liked about Halloween was handing the candy out.
Historically this is Dave’s job. (Another of my quirks about Halloween is that I dislike being the person answering the door.) But halfway through the evening Dave ended up over at the computer watching TV. Nathan hung around near the door, peering out of the window, sometimes taking the bowl of candy outside to sit on the front step and watch for approaching kids. It made me wish there were more trick-or-treaters. All his shyness had vanished — he was incredibly excited each time someone headed for our door, and often saved them the trouble of knocking by rushing out to meet them. “Hello!” he would say joyfully, as he held out the bowl for them to choose their treat. Honestly I’ve rarely seen him so happy. It made me want to volunteer with him somewhere where we could hand out lunches to the hungry.
So who knows? Our Halloween traditions might be a little different than what I grew up with. Or by next year trick-or-treating might be a breeze. We’ll just have to play it by ear.