When I was five or six I had a dream which has stayed with me for all of my life.
I dreamt that my mother was fixing my Halloween costume just so, dabbing powder on my face, tugging at the waistline of my garment, making adjustments to the fabric, pinning things here and there and telling me to wait just one more minute… In the dream she fussed with my costume for so long that when I finally made it out the front door and onto the street, Halloween was over! The street was dark. There were no voices. I had missed it all. I missed Halloween getting ready for Halloween??!? The irony of it just killed me. No, it was too much – this was not possible! I never forgot the feeling of panic and heartbreak I awoke with after that dream. Never. If one believes the theory that dreams allow us to experience alternate outcomes as a warning for what not to do in one’s waking life, I can say that it’s served that purpose well through the years.
Many years ago I told my high school sweetheart about the dream, and as we are now still good friends, whenever I feel I’m close to missing some deadline he’ll say ‘oh no, it’s Halloween!’ and we’ll laugh. Life is a busy affair; everyone of us flirts with our own ‘missed Halloweens’ as we scurry to get it all done in time. When Halloween approaches each year I get a little nervous. I’ve always made a costume for Elihu which takes many, many hours (before he was around I spent those hours on my own costume). However daunting the goal, I always know I’ll pull it off – thanks in part to that dream – yet the week prior I’m never completely at peace. Although the real trick-or-treating is tomorrow, our big Saturday is now behind us. It was a jam-packed day and we both had a very good time. The costume made it too – no touch ups needed. My house looks like a bomb went off inside it, we’re out of milk and there are no clean dishes left, but I made it. It’s Halloween, and I’m happy.
Just what was Master Elihu for Halloween? An Anchiornis. An early, feathered dinosaur. He was bedecked in crispy, high-contrast black and white feathers with a large headpiece of red and black feathers rather like a Mohawk, two shining eyeballs with tiny dots of white to create depth, a foot-long beak with pointy white teeth, a six foot wingspan and bendy, curving black claws at his feet and wings, with large, scary-looking nails. All accurate, by the way. He wore his costume the week prior, to a neighboring community’s event. (It’s nice to get a ‘dress rehearsal’ before the big day; it’s an opportunity to fix the bugs and make last-minute adjustments.) Elihu entered the costume contest there and surprisingly he didn’t win or even place. I was kinda shocked at that, but even more shocked that he didn’t care a whit. ‘What a really good kid’ I thought, truly impressed. He had a lot of emotional investment in that costume. In the end though, only two things mattered: that people responded to it and that his wings could really move some air. Both of those requirements were enthusiastically met.
Yesterday, in and among our many stops we attended a telling of scary stories by local heroes the Bruchac family, a clan that has chosen to celebrate the tiny bit of Abenaki Indian blood they share by dedicating their lives’ work to the promotion of the culture through the sharing of stories, music and artifacts. It was snowing fat, moist clumps when we arrived (having just left a party with a band that invited Elihu to sit in with his djembe on the next set, ah well, can’t do it all) and we were glad to see they, like us, were running just a little late and had yet to begin the really scary stories. We took our place in the small audience. What a lovely and unexpected surprise when one of our hosts announced there would be a prize for the best costume – and that they were awarding it to this fellow here – he motioned to Elihu, who with such a potentially appreciative audience as this had thankfully not yet removed his headdress. He won a book written by the speaker and afterward had it signed. Ha! That more than made up for the oversight by the frumpy matrons in the Wilton rec center the week before. That, and the post-performance discussion about birds with several like-minded as we stood in the lobby ready to leave. Just perfect.
We then joined Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Andrew at a party on the other side of town in an ancient brick home with wood stoves and crumbling plaster. We’ve joined this family at their party every year since Elihu was born. Behind the old house there’s a footpath illuminated by candles in old coffee cans that winds up the steep, wooded hill to the bonfire where most of the guests stand and talk. We pay a visit to the circle, and shortly thereafter a woman correctly identifies Elihu’s costume. His jaw drops open, then he recovers in a burst of laughter. He is absolutely thrilled. Plus, she’s actually seen the real fossil at Yale. Again, it’s just the very best news he could hear. Shortly we are making our way down the forest path through the falling snow to say goodnight to our hostess.
In the space of fourteen hours we did a lot. While the day included such mundane events as an hour of mobility work with his vision coach and home-bound, bird-related chores, it also included a pony ride, busking, being interviewed and filmed for the paper, attending several parties, being recognized as an Anchiornis by two people, jamming with some musicians, winning a prize for his costume, making s’mores around a campfire in the woods and coming home to a cozy house and a scary bedtime story. We both fell asleep as soon as I was finished reading.
And just now, as I begin to enjoy our do-nothing day, Elihu runs in my room to tell me that the Juncos are back. Ah, this is truly a wonderful weekend.
It’s Halloween and we haven’t missed a single thing.