Nov 012007
 

Last year, I bought Riley’s first Halloween costume during the peak of a summer scorch fest. People thought I was crazy, but I wanted to be prepared. He was an ice cream cone, and it rained. Luckily, he was only six months old then and had no clue he was missing anything anyway.

This year, though, I started sending myself mental memos in July. “Don’t forget to start thinking about Riley’s Halloween costume” they’d say, with the ‘Don’t’ underlined three times in an urgent red. Unfortunately, those memos got buried under the “Write that damn essay!” and “Pay the fucking gas bill, asshole!” memos.

Before I knew it, is was October. My friend Amelia gave me the ingenious idea of dressing him as Charlie Brown. It was perfect what with his hair-challenged pate and chubby cheeks, and it would be a snap to pull off. All I had to do was buy a yellow t-shirt and toss some black felt and a needle in Henry’s lap and tell him to get crackin’.

It’s just a yellow t-shirt, it won’t be hard to find. I can wait until the last minute.

Oh hindsight, you sick son of a bitch.

So, instead we used Merry’s idea: bearded him up, slapped a fedora on his head and shifted nervously when people asked what he was supposed to be. I think we were going for old fashioned pimp, but by the end of night we accepted everyone else’s interpretation that he was the “most cutest hobo.”

I spent a lot of energy these past few days trying to teach Riley how to say trick-or-treat, employing a melange of accents hoping that one would tickle his linguistic fancy and make him think, “Wow, now I really need to pump up my ambition and learn this totally awesome phrase.” Never mind the fact that the consequence of that demand is a pillowsack full of cavities, say it because it sounds cool with a Barbarian/Portugese accent hybrid.

On the way to my grandma’s (for photo-op purposes), Henry stopped at RiteAid to get batteries for the camera, but when he got back in the car, he extracted a king sized Nestle’s Crunch.

“Um…you do realize that Chooch is trick-or-treating tonight, right? So in an hour, this orange pumpkin here is going to turn into a receptacle overflowing with delightful candybars that will kick the ass of your plain old Nestle’s Crunch.” Henry is so frivolous sometimes.

After visiting my grandma, we drove over to the street my aunt Susie lives on, hoping to park in her driveway and ransack her neighbors since we were already in the area. (And trick-or-treating in the suburbs is more appealing that the city.) Now, I haven’t spoken with Susie in about three years. No real reason, other than we’ve never been very close and she’s embroiled in a perpetual feud with her older sister, Sharon. I’m sure most everyone has fucked up families bogged down with in-fighting and different members boycotting holidays each year, but mine is pretty bizarre. I’d say they’re a few degrees worse than “Grey Gardens” but not quite “The Devil’s Rejects.” I mean, my mother lives two houses down from my grandmother, but for the second year in a row skipped out on coming over to see her grandson in all his costumed glory. A little disheartening to say the least.

Sharon told us to go right ahead and park in Susie’s driveway. “She’s never home anyway!” she laughed, but it was a strained laugh, the laugh someone emits when they’re thinking about the person they want to kill.

Sharon and Susie have been fighting for as long as I can remember. Holidays were always filled with the merry cheer of one of them running off to their bedroom and slamming the door behind them. I don’t know why they hate each other so much. Jealousy? But I know that Sharon recently said she would murder her if she ever saw her on the street. So when she said she would call Susie and let her know we were parking in her driveway, I sort of doubted it.

When we pulled into Susie’s driveway, she was outside with one of her dogs. She stood in the backyard and squinted as we emerged from the car. She looked nervous and afraid. I said hello and she murmured an unsure salutory retaliation. It wasn’t until she got closer that she realized it was me, the niece she hadn’t seen in three years.

“Oh!” she laughed, placing her hand on her chest. “I was afraid you were a trick-or-treater. I’m not ready yet!” I explained to her that we were, in fact, trick-or-treating and would it be OK if we parked there. She said it was no problem, but then she gave me a judgemental once-over.

“Aren’t you a little…not dressed up…to be trick-or-treating?”

“I’m not going! We’re taking him!” I laughed, nodding at Chooch, who was being undetained from the backseat. Susie laughed, realizing her idiocy. Then came the awkward moment of her meeting her great-nephew for the first time. Her voice took on a shrill lilt as she said all the things she thought a baby would want to hear. Chooch was more interested in her dog.

As we walked down her driveway to embark on a night of candy-collecting, Henry whipsered, “She’s not a kid person, is she? I could tell because she talked to Chooch the same way you talk to other kids.”

I always thought that Susie was my real mother. It makes sense when you think about it: we both come packing the same wicked temper, we’re both egotistical assholes, we’re both man-eaters with a penchant for art and tennis. She was a freshman at Kent when I was born. My theory was that she got knocked up, my grandma had a nuclear-level meltdown (“What will the neighbors say?!”), and I was pawned off on the woman I’ve called Mom for the past twenty-eight years.

(OK, that’s a lie: I call her Val.)

I recently divulged this to my grandma and she laughed (nervously, I might add) and said, “Oh honestly, Erin.”

If Susie really is my mom, I’m pissed that I didn’t inherit her sickeningly quick metabolism (she’s a size 0!).

Chooch really seemed to enjoy trick-or-treating. Mainly because he finally got his wish of walking through the yards of strangers (he never wants to stay on the sidewalk when we go on jaunts around our ‘hood) and lots of older women fawned over him. He stole the show, which really seemed to irritate two older boys who scowled at him every time we wound up on the same stoop as them. Sorry you look so average in your non-descript K-Mart masks, you little assholes. Go cry to mommy.

I really hate kids.

I escorted Chooch to two or three houses, and then switched with Henry because it was too much work and people wanted to talk to me which makes me feel sick. We skipped all the houses that required us to walk up steps or hills.

We canvassed two streets before calling it a night. Chooch seemed to enjoy himself and I was pleased to see a generous allottment of Reese’s peanut butter cups in his little pumpkin carrier. No orange drink, though.

Choose Your Words Carefully