Halloween is a family matter

My son Chris was born on October 24th–one of the happiest of my life.

I’m not saying how many years ago, but back then there was no internet, no cell phones, no Facebook—and no Twitter except for an occasional parakeet.

The Tesla was not on yet on the road. Neither was Justin Bieber. Times were not so bad.

By my rough count at the time, I figured my wife had been pregnant for about 17 months. By that reasoning, I expected she would give birth to a child nearly a year old. That meant there was an outside chance they’d be ready for me to take trick-or-treating the following week.

I decided I would dress the child up either as a Hobbit—or Danny DeVito. Even if it was a girl.

Halloween was, after all, my favorite day of the year when I was a kid—and my four brothers felt the same way. For one magical night, we could score a king’s ransom in Butterfingers and Sweet Tarts—all for simply walking door-to-door dressed like dorks. In fact, some dorks in our neighborhood didn’t bother dressing up at all.

In our neighborhood, it was important to avoid the lousy houses—those that gave out smallish candies, single sticks of gum, fresh fruit—or tubes of toothpaste. Sharing “intel” from other trick-or-treaters, we learned where the primo places were: the ones serving up candy bars the size of Presto-logs.

Four blocks from our house lived Mr. Sweeney. He handed out cigarettes. Real ones. But no matches. He wasn’t irresponsible. And, it should be noted, all the cigarettes he gave us were filtered.

But sadly, there comes a year when a kid is too old to trick-or-treat any longer. I can’t remember the final time for me—but perhaps it was the year I went door-to-door dressed as Abraham Lincoln—and had a real beard.

By time I received my AARP card in the mail, I knew I had to give it up.
But that was the beautiful anticipation of having my own child some day. Somehow I decided I could continue the high of Halloweening through my youngster. Like Dracula, it was a way to experience eternal life—and perhaps eternal Snickers.

Fast forward many years, I was married and awaiting my first child.
It turned out that Chris was born at right around the nine-month mark—not 17 months as my math had calculated—so I realized he would not be old enough for Halloweening any time soon.
I had already been plenty nervous the days before Chris’s birth.

For one thing, my wife and I had elected not to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. OK, the truth is this option wasn’t even offered to us back then. A coin flip was all we had to go on—and we didn’t know if we were going to give birth to a head or a tail.

So when the doctor announced that we had just given birth to a boy, I was thrilled. Hedging our bet, we had picked the name Chris—a name that work for either gender. Turns out Pat would have worked just as well, but it never occurred to me.

For years after, I delighted in taking Chris trick-or-treating—hiding in the shadows as he approached the neighbors’ doors dressed as everything from wizards to cowboys. He would come home straining under the weight of all the candy he had acquired. Then he would go off to bed.
The next morning, he would be mystified. “Where did all my candy go from last night?” He would wonder. I would shrug and change the subject. If he had looked closer, he would have noticed that my face was broken out.

In some years presidential candidate costumes are popular. But this Halloween—and no clear such candidate evident as yet—look for a lot of kids to show up as Jim McDermott. Or Craig Keller.
And a few as Eileen Cody.
As for my son Chris, he told me he’s going to an adult party this year as Big Bertha, the tunnel- digging machine.
He said he plans to arrive at the party, plop down on the couch—and remain motionless the rest of the night.