A Look On The Lighter Side: Spooked by old Halloween memories

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So the CDC is issuing guidelines about how to safely observe Halloween — a holiday that is all about being scary. Of course, the scary part was always supposed to be fake (something I wish I’d known as a kid).

This new situation certainly sucks for kids. But I’m guessing it sucks even more for their parents, who now have to figure out how the kids can have fun on a holiday when you can’t go to anyone’s door; you can’t take candy from anyone, let alone strangers; and you can’t go to an alternative party at a friend’s house either, because that’s too many people in one place.

I’m very glad my children are grown up and I don’t have these problems.

But the truth is I have never been a big fan of Halloween.

Perhaps this is because I was everyone’s favorite person to jump out at from behind a tree. Seriously, the whole thing eludes me.

I had to at least give out candy when we moved to the suburbs and put up some minimal decorations. But when I became a parent, that’s when my real troubles began. Suddenly my children’s happiness was riding on my total lack of craft skills.

The peak — or perhaps I should say the trough — of my efforts came the year that our 4-year-old fell in love with birds. We had watched the David Attenborough special on PBS that year, visited all the live bird exhibits at Disneyworld and worked our way through every “bird” book in the library. And since he ran around the playground every day pretending to be a bird, the choice of a costume seemed obvious.

Sadly, bird costumes were not heavily featured at any of the party costume stores. Monsters? Sure. Ninja Turtles? Of course. But birds? I couldn’t even find a Big Bird costume for my little boy.

I was forced to the extremity of actually inventing a costume. With zero ability.

In desperation, I did what I always do: I turned to books. And looking back through all the books we had been reading, I stumbled across “Archaeopteryx,” the fossil creature that was the missing link between dinosaurs and birds.

Aha! This was the perfect thing for my child, who had come to his love of birds from an earlier passion for dinosaurs. And he seemed moderately interested in a point that fascinated me, namely that birds are actually considered by scientists to simply be little dinosaurs that survived after everything bigger died off.

But what would he wear?

My only idea was this: I found a rain poncho in his size, bought a ton of construction paper and started cutting out paper feathers that we could tape to the poncho. If it rained, of course all the feathers would fall off, but at least he would be dry!

Alas, with Halloween fast approaching, we were getting nowhere. The feathers became bigger and bigger, until at last we had more or less covered the poncho.

At every doorstep, while my child concentrated on saying “Trick or Treat” loudly enough for the adult to hear, bagging the candy and running off to the next house, I stayed behind long enough to discuss his costume. “So what do you think he was?” I asked them.

At the first and second house, I then corrected them: “He’s an Archaeopteryx, the missing link between dinosaurs and birds.” But after the 10th person in a row answered, “Um…a leaf pile?” I quit asking.

Luckily my child neither heard nor cared. (Although come to think of it, he’s never worn a rain poncho again, even throwing out the one I sent with him a few years later to camp. Hmm….)

I recently excavated far enough back in the closet to find a few abandoned pieces of that old costume.

“What are these construction paper leaves doing here?” I wondered.

Then I found the poncho.

I guess he really did look like a leaf pile, after all.

I’m not going to miss Halloween.

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