Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween and I did not get off to a good start together.

I think we were supposed to wear a costume to kindergarten for Halloween, so my mom and I stood in the grocery store aisle to survey the options. I don’t remember what the other choices were, but I was excited to get to dress up for the first time. We settled upon – no wisecracks, please – an angel outfit. In retrospect, it was a flimsy white nightgown, but what made it special was a sprinkling of silver glitter and a silver halo that in my memory’s eye I see were fancy pipe cleaners. I admired it each day as it hung in the closet as Halloween drew closer.

But the next thing I remember was sitting with my mom for a long afternoon in my doctor’s office. When I asked her why we couldn’t go home, she said we had to wait for my dad to come from his office. Now I was worried. Was I in trouble? How come Dad had to leave work?

The doctor showed Dad something on a screen that he told me were pictures of my lungs. He said he knew it was hard for me to breathe, that they were going to make it easier for me to breathe, and that Dad was going to take me to the hospital. I wasn’t sure what all that meant, but I got the picture that both Mom and Dad were worried and nothing about this hospital business was sounding like any fun.

When I was older I learned that I was hospitalized for a week with pneumonia and was out of school for several more weeks after that. When my mom broke the news to me that I couldn’t go home in time for Halloween, I was crushed. I wasn’t so disappointed about not trick-or-treating, but I cried that I wasn’t going to get to wear my pretty angel costume.

In those days, parents had limited visiting hours in the early evening. One night Mom said she could bring my costume and the nurses would let me wear it on Halloween night. I should have been more excited, but some nurse and not my mom put it on me, the halo got nixed, and they didn’t let me out of bed. I could hear and catch glimpses of other kids trick-or-treating up and down the hospital halls, but I was quarantined – I’m not sure whether I was supposed to stay away from them or whether they were supposed to stay away from me. Dad came and carried me to the window so I could see more, but it was all underwhelming and I realized that I really didn’t feel up to it, besides.

So when Akemi came along, I tried to Halloween another chance. Each year, she and I figured out what she was going to be, and I had fun making a number of her costumes. One of our favorites was her Dalmatian costume when she was three. Here she is with the dog bowl borrowed from Greg and Antoinette.

Although Dentist Bing detested the idea of passing out candy (we gave out toothpaste samples one year), we had a nice tradition for years with some favorite families of having a Halloween dinner, usually on the Saturday or Sunday night closest to Halloween. It gave the kids a chance to wear their costumes on a non-school night and us a chance to get together. We potlucked some hearty soup, usually made in pumpkin shell, baked homemade bread in the shape of a spider with poppy seeds covering its arachnid legs, got carrots and olives into the non-salad-eating kids, and for dessert, constructed “ghosts in the graveyard”: “dirt” of chocolate cookie crumbs covering a base of chocolate pudding, “ghosts” of Cool Whip with mini-chocolate chip eyes, “tombstones” of Milano Mint cookies decorated with “RIP,” and candy pumpkins completing the cemetery d├ęcor.

With the kids now mostly in college, Halloween has reverted to my childhood assessment of being just another night. But maybe the time will come again when another batch of kids will want to design costumes and eat “ghosts in the graveyard,” and I’ll give Halloween a third chance.

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