For the third year in a row my children worked the University of Portland dorms for Halloween.First, let me say that I'm not sure why, as much as I get more surly and less festive every December as my kiddos rocket about in an advertising-fueled orgy of greedy anticipation, I get more happiness over watching them get equally greedy for sweets and all things spooky every October. But by Thanksgiving I'm already snarling at the latest repetition of "I hope Santa brings me that Mega-thruster Barbie with the Bolt-on Wings!" whilst I practically melted when my daughter cuddled up to me Sunday mornings and sighed "I can't WAIT for Halloween!"I'm not consistent, okay? But there's something about the Night Before The Day of The Dead that works for me. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.One part of it, I think, is that the kids are active participants in the holiday at the end of October. Christmas is all about passive greed; Halloween is all about doing things; making the house "scary", choosing and re-choosing the right costume.This year in keeping with his obsession with All Things Warlike the little man was a soldier. I didn't have the heart to tell him he looked like a post-Mission-Accomplished Iraqi child-conscript in his little five-color desert cammies and coverless Kevlar. He felt himself very martial, and raced about with his toy M-4 (minus the muzzle-end of the barrel, which somehow our friend's son had managed to snap off before he lent it to us...) blazing away at the Enemy Hordes.Little Miss went with the traditional; a fairy princess. The delightful thing about these small people is that unlike us putative grown-ups they are unwilling to endure the ridiculous to keep up appearances. So when the little silver slippers hurt her feet I suggested that sometimes fairies went for comfort over style and she changed over to her little tennie-runners without demur.
Sadly, however, the cruel predation of childhood has not changed, either. She left her garish fairy wings at home after "some big kids laughed at me". It's probably fortunate for our conceit of childhood that as adults we tend to forget the deliberate hurts that we inflict on each other as children.So it was with sparkly crowns and small arms we went over to the University to hunt for loot; Daddy (limping on his bad hip, which was playing up abominably), Sergeant Stryker and his companion, the Ammunition Fairy.The dorm halls brought back assorted memories of my own college residence halls, although many of the young men and women of the Catholic college on the Bluff had gone to far greater lengths than I and my contemporaries would have to entertain the minor children of townie neighbors. Many of the girls were in costume as well, although here Missy is thoroughly unimpressed at getting a photo-op with Ariel the Little Mermaid herself; I was impressed that the co-ed Ariel's attention to detail that extended to matching-mermaid-tail-aquamarine toenail polish. Either a future attorney general or the first female archbishop of Portland.We passed through the crowded halls following the Boy's nose for sugar. He was like a human sugar-hound, and we seldom missed a rich vein of loot. The students were very patient with all this hoo-raw, and, of course, the young women all cooed over the little girls.
I wondered as I listened to the happy glurge; is this feminine sentiment (the young men seemed as immune to sentiment in general as young men usually pretend to be) a fond memory of girlhood passing, or an eager anticipation of motherhood yet to come?Whatever the reason, Missy's amour-propre was restored by the number of compliments she received for her little costume. She WAS adorable, and even the callow youth of North Portland could see that.Eventually she tired of her pilgrimage - her brother, tireless Diogenes of Candy that he is, continued on with his friends - and I led her home. She went up to one doorway ("I don't want to go to any more houses where I don't know anyone", she declared after that) and then handed me her treat-bag and skipped alongside my uneven stride, chattering artlessly as all around us little groups of spectres, heroes, athletes, and household appliances scrambled shouting through the darkened streets.Portland Halloween is often a sodden business, but Monday was clear and chill. The drifts of yellow and orange stirred in the night wind whose cold kiss promised the end of autumn and the coming of winter. But the lights of our house were warm, and the scampering footsteps of my daughter's homecoming were in perfect time with the contentment in my heart.