Halloween Hell

By on Oct 26, 2014 in Essays

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4

Raggedy Ann with Grim Reaper

When my twins are almost six, they appear delightfully normal in our Halloween photos. Samantha, an impish Raggedy Ann, wears a red yarn wig; her lips are cherry red, and there are matching red spots on each of her round cheeks. She smiles exuberantly, showing off her missing front tooth. Her hazel eyes sparkle in anticipation of Tootsie Pops, Starbursts, and all of the candy she will bring home and beg to eat immediately. In contrast, Matthew is dressed as the Grim Reaper, holding a plastic scythe menacingly in one hand. His other hand grasps the death mask he removed because he was too hot. He wears white pancake makeup, thick black eyebrows, and grins through black lips. His pale eyes are wide and neon blue inside a circle of black.

“Do you understand who the Grim Reaper is?” I had tried to discourage him from choosing this costume.

“Yeah, he decides who’s gonna die and he gets them.”

“So you want to play Death? Are you sure? You might scare the other children.” Actually, it scared me that out of all the superheroes and cartoon characters, my little boy had chosen the Grim Reaper. Maybe he was trying to take control of his fears, after losing both grandfathers.

“Why can’t I be scary on Halloween? You said I could pick any costume I wanted.”

“Okay, you’re right.” Scary was cool for boys. Matt was just taking it a step further than his friends who were skeletons and ghosts.

As for Samantha, she had no interest in dolls and knew nothing about Raggedy Ann. What caught her eye about the costume were the bright colors, especially the wig. I was just happy she’d picked a costume that could be slipped on easily.

It would be hard enough going trick-or-treating with Samantha. She had already received a variety of autistic spectrum labels, and we never knew how she was going to behave. I worried that she would embarrass us at our neighbors’ doors, or that she would melt down and I’d have to take her home. Samantha was capable of erupting in an ear-shattering tantrum if overstimulated. Of course, we could have gone trick-or-treating without her, but that seemed impossibly sad. Halloween made Samantha’s eyes light up with joy, and her excitement kept her enthusiastically present with us instead of lost in her own world

Each year Halloween would improve, I told myself. Samantha would become more appropriate. Experience would teach me how to anticipate her upsets and avoid them. I would carefully explain the rules of trick-or-treating and make her understand that Halloween would be over if she broke them. Unfortunately, her punishment often became ours. At almost six, Matt was old enough to feel embarrassed by Samantha, and even if she went home in the middle and he continued collecting candy, all the fun went out of it.

“Let’s take pictures of everyone before we start,” Howard suggested. He knew it was always best to take pictures while our family was happy and excited. After snapping a few shots, the kids were anxious to start ringing doorbells.

“Dad, can we PLEASE go now?” Matt asked.

“Just one more of you together. Come on, Sammy, look at me and smile.”

“I AM looking at you,” she insisted irritably as she stared over his left shoulder.

“I think she’s really sensitive to the flash in her eyes, Howard,” I explained.

He looked annoyed at me for giving Samantha an excuse. “Just look at Daddy’s nose and pretend it’s a lollipop… Great,” he snapped twice. “Now we can go.”

“I only want to take my favorite elevator,” Samantha insisted.

“Samantha, it’s Halloween and the elevators are going to be crowded and slow. If we wait for your favorite, it will be too late to trick-or-treat,” I explained.

“Mommy, what about if we take the stairs?” Matt suggested.

“Honey, your dad and I can’t walk up from 9 to 21, but I suppose we can take the stairs on the way down.”

I pushed the button and prayed. The first elevator to arrive was not her favorite, but it was filled to capacity with parents and children. Finally her “favorite” arrived and we were able to go up. She only shrieked “my favorite” once, and then we were mercifully distracted by another family complimenting Samantha on her adorable costume and telling Matt he was really scary.

“Please remember — both of you — to just take whatever candy people offer you and don’t try to grab as many handfuls as you can. If you’re not sure, I’ll say, ‘That’s enough, thank you,’ and then you’ll say, ‘Thank you.’”

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4

Pages: 1 2 3 4


Born and raised in New York City, Marguerite Elisofon is a die-hard city girl. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College with a double major in English and Psychology and returned to her beloved Big Apple to start a variety of careers: editorial assistant at Redbook, account exec in financial public relations and real estate broker. With the birth of her premature twins -- a son with ADHD and a daughter on the autistic spectrum -- Marguerite became a full-time mother who was determined to help her daughter, Samantha, beat the odds, go to college and achieve some measure of independence. Now that both twins have graduated college, Marguerite has written Family Pictures, a memoir that's part inspiration and part how-to, about raising and advocating for her two very different special needs kids. She also has a blog, The Never-Empty Nest, which explores the challenges of living part-time with young, under-employed millennials. Marguerite has attended a self-publishing workshop, a writer’s conference at Hunter College, a workshop series with Jacob Miller, as well as a Writer’s Digest conference. Her work has appeared in Existere- Journal of Literature and Arts and Hobo Pancakes.

One Comment

  1. Loved the piece. If you have not done so already, I urge you to read “Shine Shine Shine” by Lydia Netzer. Given the opportunity to go through it all again, I think you would decline because you have grown through those years and have developed the ability (which I am trying to develop now) to say, “That was an accomplishment, and now it’s time for all of us to move forward.” For me, easier said than done (so far).