I have the immense fortune of having a daughter. I know, I know. A lot of fathers say the same thing. But let me explain. For lack of a better term, my daughter Colleen is a bit of a miracle child. My wife was very ill when we first discovered she might be pregnant; she had to have an x-ray after being hospitalized for her breathing problems from reactive airways disease and a blood test revealed she might be pregnant. Our joy quickly changed to panic however, when a follow up blood test revealed that her HCG number was dropping fast. For the uninitiated, HCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin and is the hormone which, for lack of a better explanation, indicates pregnancy. When the number dropped, my wife’s doctors prepared us for the worst and told us that she may have miscarried. As her doctor prepared to arrange for a D & C procedure, her obstetrician said she wanted to do an ultrasound to make sure. And as fate and our eternal luck would have it, the usual ultrasound technician was not in that night; her shift was being covered by the hospital’s best ultrasound technician. I’m sure you can guess the rest. The hospital’s best ultrasound technician methodically took a very long time checking all the possible locations of the fetus and finally found that miraculous heartbeat. The HCG number had dropped because my wife had miscarried one of a set of twins. My daughter survived the miscarriage of the other twin and was born seven months later in 1997.
Now I don’t tell you that story to get you to well up in tears. (Okay, truth be told, maybe I do a little…) This is, after all, not an article about having children but about my most memorable Halloween costume. But the two go hand in hand for me. I grew up in a time when Halloween costumes were purchased at the Ben Franklin 5 & 10 for around $8.00. It was a cheap, colorful onesie suit that tied in the back and it had a hard plastic mask with an elastic rubber band to hold it on. Superman. Dracula. A clown. GI Joe. Planet of the Apes. Shaun Cassidy. (No, really.)
By the time I grew out of those boxed costumes, we started making our own costumes. Take your dad’s oldest and loudest sports dress jacket, add a dress shirt and ugly tie and roll around in the dirt. Voila! A hobo. Wear your brother’s football jersey and shoulder pads. A football player. Take a white sheet from your mother’s linen closet and cut holes in it. A ghost (I got a rock…) By the time I was thirteen years old, Halloween wasn’t really all that much fun anymore. Wow have times changed.
The world we live in now is far different. Halloween is a multi billion dollar industry. Gigantic mall stores sell elaborate costumes for children and, might I add, adults that sell for hundreds of dollars. Halloween candy and decorations hit the shelves as early as mid August in most stores. Families start decorating their houses with Halloween lights and elaborate props months in advance. I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that Halloween is starting to rival Christmas in terms of money being spent by adults on decorating, costuming and buying candy. More and more businesses encourage their employees to wear costumes to work on Halloween. More and more adults hold costume parties and spend the night partying. As a matter of fact, employers say that one of the most requested days for absence from work is November 1st, rivaling the Monday after the Super Bowl as the most requested day off of the year.
When I went to high school, no one wore costumes for Halloween. By the time I was teaching in a high school, Halloween had become HUGE in high school with most kids wearing costumes in classes.
My daughter’s first costumes were wonderfully cute; her first costume was an adorable pea pod. The next year as a toddler who had just learned to walk, she dressed up as a pumpkin. (Sidebar secret: the great thing about taking a young baby or toddler around for Halloween is that it literally only lasts around twenty minutes. By the time you get them in to the costume, they’ve fallen asleep and you head home to snack on some candy corn.)
As my daughter aged, the costumes inevitably began to get more elaborate. When she was actually old enough to stay awake long enough to walk around the neighborhood, my wife and I thought it would be cute for her to dress up with my wife as M & Ms. My daughter would be the little red one, and my wife would be…the green one. You know. The GREEN one. The “sexy one” with go go boots and elaborate eyelashes to indicate femininity. It would be adorable. However, this particular Halloween didn’t go according to plan.
My wife had to go to a school board meeting on Halloween that year, which left the execution of the M & M Halloween plan to me. (By the way, what school board schedules a board of education meeting for Halloween night?) What about the accompanying green M & M costume? When it became apparent that my daughter was not going to wear that costume unless I was wearing mine, I summoned all my courage and donned the sexy green M & M costume and walked the streets of Smithville, New Jersey holding the hand of my little red M & M.
Walking around amidst all of the other costumed children, teens and adults, it quickly became apparent that I was the talk of the neighborhood. As we went from house to house to get my daughter’s candy, I was definitely a bit of a spectacle. Some looks from my neighbors were polite. Others bordered on a combination of amusement and horror. I even got my share of wolf whistles and inappropriate propositions (and that’s saying something given the fact that I am not even REMOTELY qualified to be a “sexy” anything.) A lesser man would have probably been embarrassed about potentially having their “man card” revoked. But seeing my daughter’s face light up and laugh as her daddy walked around the neighborhood with her dressed in a great big green M & M costume is a memory I will always cherish. It reminded me that real men…real fathers…will do anything for their children. For you young men out there who say things like, “There is NO way, I would ever do that,” I say balderdash. Nothing prepares fathers for the love they feel for their daughters. Nothing. When a father first takes the hand of his little girl, his heart is forever changed. Given the chance, I would wear that sexy green M & M outfit every day for the rest of my life if it meant I could hear my daughter’s laughter at her silly old father.