I know. Halloween is still a month away, despite the plethora of pumpkin based products now chillingly displayed at our local Trader Joe’s. There are currently thirty-five pumpkin items on the shelf this minute – pumpkin soap, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, pumpkin croissants, pumpkin dog treats, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin butter) now chillingly displayed at our local Trader Joe’s
In retail world, of course, shelves have to be stocked, ads have to appear, inventory has to move, and all of that takes preparation and time, but still – Back-To-School in July? The graduation cards have hardly been mailed, brides are still on honeymoons, are still busting out all over. School begins, notebooks and lunch boxes go on deep discount, and Halloween costumes hit the racks.
My kids have moved on to family and career, but memory, my wife might say, trauma, persists. We weren’t among the most ambitious or obsessive costumers, but we did encourage extensive conversations about costume and assiduously began the gathering of the necessary glitter, fur, fangs, mermaid tails, capes, more fangs, blood, pitchforks, halos, plumbing gear (Mario), shells (Ninja Turtles), hair( Princess Leia) and , inevitably, swords, nunchucks, bazookas, and throwing stars.
No problem there.
The problem that emerged each October as surely as night follows day was in the ever-shifting “final” choice of costume, a rolling tide of crises that flowed but never ebbed, sparked by school parades, tricking and treating at the mall, tricking and treating on main street, and the final, authentic tricking and treating on All Hallow’s Eve.
What’s a kid to do? Wear the SAME costume on each outing?
For the first furious years, we panicked, stonewalled, improvised, and improvised. As the annual autumnal meltdowns became as familiar as the scent of milk left too long in the lunchbox, we learned to anticipate change, maintaining unflappable equanimity even as Aladdin morphed into Batman.
How hard is it to make a cowl and find black pajamas? Drag another cape from the cupboard.
Distance brings, well,distance, and now, without kids amping up in early September, the season now seems smaller, shrunken. We’re growing pumpkins,so there’s that, and I did buy the croissants and pumpkin chowder. Still, it’s almost October.
I’m not a slave to tradition, and I certainly understand the need to grow beyond the conventions of years gone by. Just because I have an inflatable vampire stored in the garage, just because the vampire is an Inflatable Tigger with fangs and a cape, just because it’s awesome, no need to drag it out this year. We’re well off the beaten path; anyone who shows up in a mask on Halloween will end up doing ten-to-life in Folsom. Passing cars can’t even see the house, much less the inflated Tiger.
Yeah. So. Tigger in a box. Just sitting there, month after month.
It’s not just that he’s Tigger; he’s got a goofy not-very-menacing grin and a roguishly insouciant tousled cape. And fangs. He’s inflated, but not heavy, so he wobbles in the best of circumstances and tips sideways when the wind blows, which actually makes him slightly disturbing, as he appears to be skulking, as much as anything large black and orange can skulk.
My wife is a breathtakingly levelheaded girl, to borrow a phrase from Salinger, possessing the quality I both admire and see as a necessary corrective to my own decidedly non-level decision-making. She’s not wrong, (my daughter reminds me that’s not the same as saying she’s right) in thinking a tiger on the porch is unseemly in this country setting. She’s also a breathtakingly compassionate girl, recognizing that I don’t handle the empty nest all that well around holidays, pretty much closing her eyes and ignoring the bobbing inflatable unless it bobs into her path, at which point she swats it aside without rancor.
Compromise is good, and I’m able to contain myself until the middle of October; that’s thoroughly reasonable. On October 15, however, sunrise will reveal a tiger, once bitten, holding down the porch until all contending spirits have been laid to rest.