Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
They cancelled Halloween. I'm still not sure who "they"are and I'm not sure how "they" had the authority to shut down Halloween but "they" did.
My kids came out of school with their costumes on Halloween. Many of the children ambled out of the school like concussion victims, dazed and vaguely sad. Well, my five year old didn't look sad. She looked outraged coming out the door next to her seven year old brother.
When they saw me in the parking lot, they started running towards me. My boy, dressed fittingly as Flash from the Justice League, is faster than the five year old and got to me first in the parking lot. Everything to him is a track meet. If he's not running, he's sleeping. Or eating.
That's why it's kind of funny that when he talks he's so slow and careful about his words. He began to tell me the news by telling me the way he tells me things -- with a lot of uhms and scene setting and searching for the right word, "Uhm, we were sitting in class ready to pack up...uhm... and then I heard the loudspeaker in the class crackle a little the way it does right before there's an announcement so..."
My five year old daughter, dressed as Superboy, obviously felt this scene setting was a personal affront so she interrupted, arms open wide, face contorted in agony, "THEY CANCELLED HALLOWEEEEEEEEEN."
Now, the boy was not only upset that Halloween was cancelled but he had the glory of telling news stolen from him. So he was now mad not only at the cruel world but his sister too. So cutting off some interfamilial channeled anger, I specifically asked him what happened and he explained all about the crackle of the loudspeaker and the principal's voice (which is never good news) and she said that Halloween was postponed until Saturday because so many people were out of power due to the hurricane. They made the announcement late in the day presumably for the same reason companies fire employees on Friday afternoons. Avoid angry confrontations.
The kids looked not only like their dog had been kicked but their goldfish put in the microwave too.
My thirteen year old, dressed as some kind of princess, was obssessed during the ride home with discovering which controlling legal authority had the power to cancel a holiday. "Is it a federal holiday?" she asked. "Because if it is, there's no way our principal can cancel it."
There were suspicisons that their principal was going rogue and step one of her master plan to stamp out all fun in the lives of children was cancelling Halloween. What next? Christmas?!!!
So when we got home she got on our town's website and it seemed the town cancelled Halloween because so many were still out of power. This was terribly deflating as this was an extension of the government so it definitely had more of an air of authority than their villainous principal. Sadly and with deep resignation, my costumed children accepted defeat. Halloween was cancelled.
With acceptance of their fate doled out to them by their duly elected township officials my five kids in costumes looked to me. I asked them if they had any homework but this question was hardly treated with common courtesy. Their mouths wrinkled upon the sour taste of my question. As cruel as the principal and township agents she was in league with were, their teachers took pity on them and didn't assign homework on this treatless Halloween.
So I found the only thing that could assuage my childrens' assumption that the world was a cruel place and told them we'd go out for ice cream. A world with ice cream can't be all that bad. Ah there, the first smiles of the day. So we went and ate at the local Dairy Queen, the home of frozen dairy goodness. When we returned home, we even sang along to the Ghostbusters theme I'd downloaded earlier in the week
When we returned home, my wife pulled up in the driveway early from work to help with the costumes. Eek! I'd forgotten to call her to explain she didn't have to come home from work early because Halloween had been cancelled. When the kids told her, she simply said we should all say a prayer for the people still affected by the storm.
I chose ice cream. She chose prayers. Guess which one of us has a clearer path to Heaven.
There's something very cute about a princess, a furry monster, a Frankenstein, and two superheroes kneeling in prayer that I thought was very nice.
After we prayed for our neighbors, my wife called me into the kitchen and told the kids to wait in the playroom. She came up with a series of games to play including a race where the kids mummify each other with toilet paper and the first to get through the whole roll wins, balancing a balloon on a dish while succesfully walking around the room like a waiter with one arm behind your back, and finally popping a balloon that had a message in it which you had to act out for your teammate like charades.
In the meantime, we had a friend of my ten year old join us. She always comes over for Halloween and she joined us even for cancelled Halloween. It was good because it made the sides even. Three teams of two.
The games went great and there was so much laughing. Miraculously, none of the games ended in tears which anyone who's ever seen kids play games will apppreciate the near impossibility of kids' games not ending in tears. My nine year old had some major trouble popping her balloon to get the message out. She stamped on it, she kneeled on it, she sat on it, she bounced on it but nothing. Finally she grabbed a wire from the XBox console and popped it. Everyone applauded. When she read her message she rolled her eyes and said "Oh no."
She stretched out her arms, zombie style, which caused some confusion because she was dressed as Frankenstein so she ripped off her mask head and re-assumed the undead pose. "Zombie" someone screamed. Yes. But now the second word, she hesitated for a moment, and then started working on the ground doing something that nobody could figure out. "Eating brains," said the seven year old. But no. Well, what else do zombie do, everyone asked themselves. Zombies either eat brains or search for brains to eat. That's it. But still my nine year old exaspertedly pretended to do something on the ground. We were going on five minutes between her attempts to pop the balloon and convey some zombie action and finally she asked me for help. She came over and whispered to me.
Wait. What?" I asked.
I asked her if I could see the written message. She handed it to me and it said, "Zombies Coming!!!" What do you think it says, I asked her.
"Zombies camping," she answered.
The poor girl had been attempting to act out zombies attempting to start a fire with sticks. We all laughed so hard I'm pretty sure I damaged my appendix. You know you're laughing hard when you worry that you're internally damaged.
The sun was down by then and we decided to play a game of flashlight tag around the house. We went outside and the five year old and I were it first, mainly because the five year old didn't want to be alone. So off we went in search for the others who were hiding.
Just as we went off the find them, two little girls along with their Mom asked if they could join us in playing as there was nobody giving out candy.
Sure, you've got twenty seconds to hide, I told them.
The two little girls, a five year old dressed as a ninja and a seven year old dressed as...well, I'm not really sure what she was. She was a sort of a hobo looking thing but she had a ninja sword I assume she stole from her sister. But these two were the worst hiders in the world. I think it was because their mother didn't want them to mess up their costumes so they were essentially standing next to a bush rather than in bushes and up trees like my children like little Rambos. It didn't help the two girls that their mother was also standing next to the bush.
I pretended not to see them and shined my flashlight up in the air, down at my feet, and in the face of my five year old but it was all for naught as my five year old wasn't as forgiving. "Dad, they're right there" she said, pointing at them. "Right there!" She was jumping up and down. Finally, she grabbed the flashlight out of my hands and shined it right on them. "Right there!"
They had to go to jail on the front steps until one ofthe other kids freed them.
My ten year old and her friend were easy pickings because the two of them together couldn't stop giggling behind the shed. The thirteen year old was caught pretty easy because she raced to the front to free the two neighbor children from jail who screamed "Yay" and "Thank you" and then proceeeded to follow her everywhere she went. And their mother followed.
My five year old chased them down pretty easily.
I know how to catch the boy pretty easily because he can't sit still for anything over three seconds he doesn't really hide so much as run around the other side of the house when he sees the flashlight beam so all I have to do is point the light in one direction and wait for him to run right at me from the other side of the house.
Then, it was down to the nine year old. She's the tough one. She takes hiding seriously. And with her face in dark green Fankensteain camo, this was going to be a problem. My five year old and I looked in every bush, behind the neighbor's shed, in our shed, in the van, and in the tree house. She was nowhere. But then I caught a break. One of my neighbors walked into their backyard and their motion detecting light went on. It lit up my entire backyard and there she was laying flat as a pancake on top of the monkey bars. Because of the raised guardrails, she could've been there for years before I found her unless I walked under them and looked straight up.
Got ya! screamed my five year old.
We played a few more rounds and the girls' mother even let them hide a few feet away from them. There was just something beautiful and terrific about having all these superheroes, princesses, and monsters running around the yard being chased by flashlight beams that was just great. The kids became increasingly easy to find due to the giggling which is contagious. I'm not sure if science can explain that, but it's true. If a little girl giggles, it's like a ripple in a lake.
At the end of the night, the neighborhood children asked if we could do this again on the later Halloween. My nine year old said to me, "I hope they cancel Halloween again next year." And all the kids said "Me too.Let's hope they cancel Halloween again next year."