“But mom, this might be my last year trick-or-treating.”
The words painfully pierced my heart, then settled into a dull ache in the pit of my stomach.
Suddenly my arguments about cost, about appropriateness, about his tendency to change his mind about his costume just days before Halloween paled.
He went on. “So, I’d like to really like my costume this year.”
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My daughter gawked at him, aghast.
“Why would you stop trick-or-treating?” she asked her older brother, head spinning at the thought of her sibling actually outgrowing a favorite childhood holiday activity.
My son left the room, and I clicked the “buy” button on the Halloween prop he’d navigated to on the computer. My better judgment, my disgust, my concerns were not enough to eclipse my desire to indulge my baby boy on what is, indeed, likely to be his last foray into the dark October evening, pillowcase in hand.
The “chestburster plush,” a stuffed animal-style baby alien from the movie “Alien,” soon arrived on our doorstep. He has not seen the movie “Alien,” which is far too intense for kids his age, and I’m not sure where he’d even heard about it. But somehow he knew that these aliens incubated, then were “born” by bursting violently from human stomachs. And this is the costume he wanted.
“I won’t wear the blood to school,” he promised, trying to stay within the school’s restrictions — not too scary, not too gross. “We can’t scare the kindergartners.”
Something told me that a stuffed animal with felt teeth dangling from a hole in his shirt would not alarm the small kids.
As I think back over all of his Halloweens, I realize that the one true repetitive horror has been his costume. His early days were easier, when we just purchased a favorite character and prepared that he would wear it for months on end. The bat costume made of fleece that he wore through Valentine’s Day with a buildup of white dog hair embedded permanently in its black fleece; the pirate costume that he wore on every shopping trip for months; the Spiderman costume that still makes appearances — those were easy enough.
But his aspirations grew, and his costume choices became more obscure, i.e., nothing that could be found in the aisles of Target.
He agonized over his options — the vampire rock star villains from a 1970s Scooby Doo episode hardly anyone has ever seen? Or a character from a book that has never been made into a movie? Or perhaps a Star Wars character, complete with working vehicle to drive around the neighborhood? His ideas were grand, detailed, and impractical.
Yet, my costume-loving husband would dive in, spending days to make our son’s visions come true. And then, last minute, our son would change his mind and go fashion something with things he found around the house. Often this final switch out took place between the school party and actual trick-or-treating.
As he matured, our son reined in his imagination and became more appreciative of our work. And in the process, it seems, he may have matured to his last evening as a trick-or-treater.
So if a not-so-little boy shows up at your doorstep with a food coloring-soaked plush alien hanging from his chest, please show your fear. This may, after all, be the last time you hear him say, “Trick-or-treat!”
Overland Park mom Emily Parnell writes alternate weeks. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @emilyjparnell