|Jason now chases my 3-year-old through her dreams.|
I must have been in the clutch of some kind of demonic possession when I decided to take my 3-year-old browsing for a Halloween costume for her older brother.
I actually thought I was being clever in pursuing this errand with Jane, while her 6-year-old twin brother and sister were at school. With just my youngest, I reasoned, I could select the most appropriate and least expensive outfit for my son without his interference. I wouldn’t expose Georgia to the wider-world of Halloween attire, causing her to change her mind about being a soccer player—a choice I favored because we could fashion it out of shin guards and cleats she already owned and her brother’s Philadelphia Union shirt she was talking him into letting her borrow. And since Jane was already contending with a pile of hand-me-down costumes, ranging from a fairy princess to a bumblebee, I didn’t feel she was a risk.
It was Griffin, I thought, who was the Halloween wild card, proving the most intransigent of the bunch.
“Do you want to be a baseball player?” I’d asked my son a few days earlier.
“A football player? You could wear the Ole Miss jersey daddy got you,” I hopefully offered.
“No,” he said. “I want to be a monster.”
“How about a gorilla?” Jane proposed, naming the most fearsome fiend she could think of.
Little did Jane know that she would encounter one of those and worse when I drove her through the drizzle to a temporary Halloween shop, the kind that rear their ghoulish heads this time of year, this one taking root in the shell of a former Sears and offering a disturbing array of cheaply made, over-priced costumes. As soon as we stepped through the doors into what had previously been the washer-dryer section, a life-sized, automated Regan doll—a campy replica of the possessed girl from “The Exorcist”—spun her head toward us. Jane shrieked and leaped into my arms.
Any sensible mother would have turned back, but I was on a mission. I wanted to check my son’s costume off the list. So I plunged ahead, lugging my terrified child toward a bug-eyed skeleton with “memento mort” scrawled across its chest, into what I hoped would be a more child-friendly monster section.
Jane continued to howl as I stood in front of a display board offering boys an army of creatures ranging from mad scientists to deranged ninjas. “There’s a gorilla!” Jane screamed, pointing, her worst fear embodied on the placard in front of her. “Let’s go! Let’s go!”
But I was debating about just what kind of freak my son would most like to inhabit, comparing price tags and weighing school prohibitions against weapons and masks. “Just look at the princesses,” I said, turning Jane toward a wall of Cinderellas and Tianas.
For Griffin, I eventually settled on a skeleton-zombie—as if either of those apparitions would be insufficient in and of themselves—because it offered the most material for my money, including not only a bony shirt and gloves but also gauzy pants. I spirited Jane to the checkout counter, where the clerk glumly told me she wasn’t dressing up for Halloween. And I thought we were finally making our escape until we encountered a towering Jason from the “Friday the 13th” movies at the exit, wearing his mouthless hockey goalie mask and hoisting a bloodied sword aloft.
“They were just statues,” I tried to console Jane on the ride home, having accomplished my errand but starting to realize the full extent of its damage, taking shape in the form of the cowering, blond bundle of nerves in the backseat.
“They aren’t following us, are they?” Jane swiveled her head and asked.
As if I hadn’t exercised poor enough judgment in taking my 3-year-old on my prowls, I had also unwisely done so while my husband was traveling. So I had to contend with Jane’s terrors into the wee hours on my own, as she and I danced a ghastly tango all that night.
Over and over, Jane scampered, wailing, out of her bedroom. I repeatedly carried her writhing body back to her bed. And as I lost my temper while Jane lost her wits, I couldn't help but imagine that we were cast in some kind of low-budget “Exorcist” remake—just short of head spinning and vomited split-pea soup—and that I had no devil to blame but myself.