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Outgrowing Your Cape

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Every fall, children glance with expectation at store aisles until, sure enough, they begin to fill with costumes fit for every imagination. Parents buy candy and lawns get adorned with pumpkins. The colors are bright and warm, the air is increasingly cool.

Halloween is a holiday of both excitement and trepidation. Whether it is a worried parent or a person with spiritual concerns, caution with these long-celebrated October festivities is common.

Even more common, maybe, is the issue that we all must deal with concerning Halloween: growing up.

When I was young, the anticipation for Halloween fun grew into a fervor as the end of the month loomed. The memories of that time in my childhood have since taken on a golden hue.

I can’t remember with certainty just how many times I dressed as a monkey, I just know it was a lot.

I do remember the struggle each year to garner as many sweets as possible but the painstaking task of going house to house for hours has not stuck in my memory to be as vividly tiresome as it no doubt was for my parents.

This was simply a time in my life that I knew to expect every year. It was an opportunity for freedom, creativity and possibility. Each year, I could venture a little more bravely around a neighborhood. Each year, my costumes became more important in their complexity and each year, I just knew, would be the best year yet.

I should have been forewarned on that Halloween I spent in the north, trying to trick or treat in the snow and tiring out quickly. I insisted on staying committed to the task even as my sister went home early. I loved Halloween without condition.

This is what all children must feel as they participate in this time-honored tradition. I think that loving this event is perhaps in our blood, passed down from deeply superstitious relatives in centuries past.

As children, we are led blindly through the years to count on this holiday to feel a certain way, to yield an expected euphoria. Only, the joke is on us. Time does not continue to bring this holiday in all its glory to our tiny feet.

Here we have gone for years, usually at least 13, knowing Halloween to be on its way every fall. It will come, exactly as good as we remembered from the year before.

Then one day, our mother tells us that we are too old to go trick or treating. Suddenly, Halloween is an all too uncertain monster.

Here you have a kid who is growing up, no longer cute in a witch hat, who still desperately wants to go trick or treating. Only, this kid is met with skepticism at the neighborhood doors. I have been this kid. We have all been this kid.

For a time, we may try to carry on the tradition; we may take younger siblings or the children we babysit and try to live vicariously through them. We will encourage them to “keep going, don’t get tired, don’t be shy at this door, say trick or treat” and always, it will be that times have changed.

We will inevitably catch ourselves thinking, “Children are not as gung-ho as when I was a kid,” and we will no doubt hold the secret wish that the kids we’ve accompanied will share their candy with us.

We may turn our attentions to costumes in a vain attempt to recapture that youthful exuberance. The curious thing is that the costumes will have also changed. There will almost certainly be an element of sex appeal in girls’ costumes. The guys will exhibit loyalty to their favorite superhero. Or someone will get a costume beyond frightening. It will horrify us but we will feel too silly to admit it. Whatever the choice, we can be sure there won’t be a cute pair of bunny ears on the costumes unless they are connected to a scantily clad college girl.

All around our once innocent inner child, will be new opportunities. Our peers will wait expectantly for parties (aka alcohol), the way we once waited for candy. We will probably see the changes but grow immune to the protests of our childhood selves.

Outwardly, we will accept and embrace these changes. But somewhere inside, there will be that ever-present desire to go back to the good old days when our parents helped us. Back when they did the primary amount of work on our costumes and they handled carving the pumpkins.

Which, by the way, have taken on new roles in their extremity. Now, the pumpkins are either fantastically complex, or they fail in comparison. And none match up to Dad’s handiwork.

Years will go by and we may forget to miss the Halloweens of our youth. Until we are in a college class and realize there won’t be any classroom celebrations. We may pass by a creative candy sack on a store shelf and recall nostalgically our pillowcase.

Then, in what may be atonement with a touch of retribution, we will be adults with kids of our own. Halloween will sweep in again come fall. We will start to glance expectantly at store aisles and do most of the work on our children’s costumes.

We will cater classroom parties and carve pumpkins.

Then, as testament to us getting older, concerns of our own for the children’s safety will creep in.

Our memories will readily recall that golden hue of our pasts and we will attempt to recreate the same feeling for our children.

No doubt, Halloween will weave its way endearingly back into our lives. The children will love the idea of it, even though they don’t comprehend the long-standing cultural value or controversy, whatever your viewpoint is.

A new generation of holiday devotees will be born. The children will come to expect this time of the year. They will know absolutely, that in Halloween, there exists freedom, creativity, and possibility.

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