Tag Archives: Halloween

The New Guy

Nigel, in recent years, has developed a liking for scary movies. Like, horror movies. Granted, they’re not his favorite, and he likes many other types of movies. In fact, he likes most movies, so perhaps he just doesn’t discriminate when it comes to movies. But seriously, how can a kid who loves Winnie the Pooh and Tigger also enjoy horror movies? I’ve tried asking him why he likes them, but of course answering any “why” questions is always difficult for him. He said, “With scary movies, I just think to myself that it’s not really real, so I’m not really scared.” Well, okay then. Let’s move on.

So he stepped things up from last year’s zombie theme (he was the zombie killer from The Evil Dead, not a zombie), and this Halloween he decided to be Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. Pretty simple, as far as costumes go – just buy the hockey mask and put on old clothes. But there was one small problem – I had told him last year that that was his last year trick-or-treating. At sixteen and 5’10”, he’s just too big. But with his five-year emotional delay, that’s like telling an eleven-year-old that he can’t go trick-or-treating anymore. And on Halloween this year, Nigel begged me to let him go “one last time.”

I gently reminded him that last year was his last time, and in the split second before he could protest, I had a flash of genius. “And Nigel!” I proclaimed, “Now you are old enough to open the door for the trick-or-treaters! And you can wear your costume while you give out the candy!”

He smiled a little, processing. “Because I’m almost an adult.”

Wanting to save that conversation for another time, I quickly moved on to describing the duties and “policies,” as Nigel put it, of being the candy giver-outer, feeling triumphant that my idea had successfully diverted a tirade. Nigel was delighted about his new role, and I was just as happy about his not-usually-this-easy acceptance of change as I was about being relieved of my annual post for the past nine years. It was time to train the new guy. I told Nigel not to scare the little ones, to say “Happy Halloween!” in a cheerful voice, even though he was being Jason. I instructed him to give out one candy bar (Snickers, of course, and KitKat) per kid. We set up the candy bowl, and he diligently watched out the window.

“Hey, Mom,” he called to me from his spot near the front door, “I thought up a good catch-phrase for myself.”

“A catch-phrase?”

“I’ll say, ‘I left my machete in the shed.'”

“Okay, but not to the little kids.”

The doorbell rang, and I hovered around the corner, out of sight, ready to assist if necessary. I heard some little voices yelling Trick or Treat! One said, “I like your mask.” Nigel, confused for a second, dutifully said Thanks, and then Happy Halloween! before closing the door. “Mom!” he called out in an amused tone, “There were three little Dorothys!” I laughed to myself then, realizing that the ones I thought would be scared of his costume actually had no idea who he was supposed to be and weren’t scared at all. He was just a guy wearing a hockey mask.

Sure enough, as time went by and the older kids started coming, I heard Whoa, that’s kinda scary as he opened the door. His tone of voice changed from being cheerful and friendly (to the littler kids) to sounding a little more foreboding as the evening went on. He employed his “catch-phrase” a few times, and when someone asked for a second piece of candy, he answered in his typically flat, deep voice, “The policy is one piece of candy.” At my spot around the corner, I stifled a guffaw.

Even with Nigel’s strict adherence to policy, we ran out of candy by 8:30 and had to shut off all the lights in the front rooms of the house. Then we went back to the family room with the few pieces I’d fortunately squirreled away, and Nigel humored me while we watched one of my all-time faves, Disney’s animated The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Not very scary, of course, but it was the perfect ending to my favorite Halloween ever.

No More Heebie-Jeebies

Like many families with autism, we start planning for Halloween early. When Nigel was younger, it was to prepare him for the sensory issues that would come up. Eight years ago, the Halloween that he was six, while we carved pumpkins I played a cassette tape of “spooky” sounds: wind blowing, doors creaking, chains dragging, and an occasional howl or scream. Nigel was very disturbed by the tape, so I shut it off so that he could join us with the pumpkin carving. For the next hour, even though the music had remained off, Nigel would say every few minutes, “Music is off. Music is finished. No more music.” We didn’t hear much spontaneous speech from him in those days, but he was really motivated to tell me how he felt about that tape. Every time he said it, I assured him in a calm voice, “That’s right, no more music,” but he continued to make his statements until we were completely finished carving the pumpkins. (I realized that maybe because I left the tape player in the kitchen with us that he was afraid that the music would start again; I should have put it away, out of sight.) The following year, when Nigel was seven, I mentioned getting pumpkins to carve for Halloween, and the first thing out of his mouth was “And we will not play the Halloween music.” (His sentence structure improved greatly that year.) Then he said it a few more times that afternoon, and we hadn’t even bought the pumpkins yet.

But in recent years, the reason we start planning for Halloween early is because we love it so much, especially Nigel. We have many decorations to put up – both inside and outside, costumes to piece together, a party to plan (Nigel’s birthday is October 27), and movies to watch. Our all-time favorite is Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and we try to watch it only in October. Nigel couldn’t wait any longer and had it on the other day. I walked past him as he watched it in the living room, and he commented, “Brom Bones is a bully. He is an angry DNA strand.”

Brom Bones I told him that was a good way to put it.

Then a few minutes later, after the scene in which Brom Bones sings his spooky song at the end of the party, Nigel said, “I remember when those kinds of sounds scared me. They really gave me the heebie-jeebies – when I was a little kid. But I’m not afraid anymore. You know that music you played while we used to carve pumpkins? I don’t mind it now. Because I’m a little older.”

Halloween? Scary? What scares me is Nigel’s memory.