Last weekend, we took Alex to a local orchard to pick out his Halloween pumpkin, which is an annual ritual he anticipates every October. For many years, we took him to Keel’s Country Corner, a nearby pumpkin farm that closed a few years ago. Although the idea of choosing a pumpkin doesn’t seem to excite Alex as much as it did when he was younger, he still enjoys the ride to the outskirts of town and the chance to select from a variety of pumpkins the one that will be his. While his lack of dexterity prevents him from carving a pumpkin, he does like decorating one. Several years ago, we found a kit that contains colored translucent pegs, similar to those found in a Lite Brite set, that are placed in the pumpkin to form a face, along with a small flashlight to illuminate them from the inside. Much safer than knives and candles, this is a terrific option for him. Although I have to scoop the inside of the pumpkin and poke the holes, Alex can put in the pegs to decorate the pumpkin himself.
Like most kids, Alex looks forward to Halloween, and when he was younger, he liked dressing up in costumes and going trick or treating. Of course, his difficulties in saying his r’s made his request sound like, “Twick or Tweat,” and we had to explain to him that people's opening their doors to him did not mean that he was invited to come into their homes. He would keep reminding himself, “Don’t go in people’s houses!” as we walked along. Because of his restricted gluten-free and dairy-free diet, he wasn’t able to eat most of the goodies he acquired in his treat container, but the fun for him focused upon dressing up and ringing people’s doorbells. Beginning in early October, Alex and I would discuss what he wanted to be for Halloween, and then I would start working on the costume he’d requested. Where we live in Northwest Indiana, we must always include warm clothing as part of the outfit since it could easily snow at the end of October. I learned quickly how to incorporate sweatshirts and sweatpants in various colors as part of his costumes, or I made costumes that were roomy enough to accommodate sweats underneath them. In addition, we tried to come up with hats or headpieces as part of the costume that would also keep his head warm and dry in damp and cold weather. Because of his sensory issues, Alex would never wear a mask of any kind; therefore, we had to make the costumes definite enough that he didn’t need anything on his face to tell who he was supposed to be. For his first Halloween when he was just a few months old, my mom found a baby devil costume with a red tail, horns headpiece, and bow tie. He wore those accessories with red fleece footed pajamas for comfort and warmth. The next year, I made him a costume out of a white sweatshirt and sweatpants, some white, purple, and gold material, and a blue feather to transform him into Aladdin as the prince, from the video he’d watched over and over. I was particularly pleased with how the turban turned out and even happier that he was willing to wear it. The next year, I made him a Bugs Bunny costume out of gray sweats but had trouble getting the ears to stand upright. Alex liked the costume, though, but he didn’t like wearing the white knit gloves that were designed to look like Bugs but also to keep his hands warm. The next year, he dressed like Raggedy Andy, complete with the plaid shirt, navy pants with buttons, red and white striped socks, and the red yarn hair I attached to a sailor cap. After seeing a clown at the county fair the following year, he wanted me to make him a clown suit; out of brightly colored fabric I fashioned a loose tunic and baggy pants that allowed sweats underneath them. He wasn’t too thrilled about the crazy blue curly wig to go with it, so we left that at home. The next year, I didn’t have to make him a costume because he found an old one my mom had made of a pumpkin, which he thought was great. With a green sweatshirt and sweatpants underneath the orange pumpkin, he was ready to go. For his preschool year when he was into reading Dr. Seuss, I found a red and white striped felt hat that made him a perfect Cat in the Hat. With black sweats and a big red bow I made, he created much less mischief than the Cat ever did. The next Halloween, I found a fabric Reese’s peanut butter cup candy wrapper that made a tunic with a few simple seams to be worn over sweats. Of course, we gave out Reese’s cups that year in keeping with the theme.
As Alex got older, he requested costumes that required less sewing on my part. One year, he wanted to go as his favorite NASCAR driver, Mark Martin, and we found him a long-sleeved racing t-shirt and a Ford Racing hat to top off—of course—sweatpants. Another year, he wanted to go as Chicago Bears football player Brian Urlacher, which only required finding him a number 54 jersey to go with navy sweats. The next year, he decided that he’d like to be a doctor, so I thought that making surgical scrubs would be easy, but I was wrong. After struggling with the neck of the shirt, I wished I’d simply bought him scrubs instead. With his stethoscope around his neck, Alex looked really good, which made the effort worthwhile. His final trick-or-treating costume was literary character Harry Potter. After putting him in a dress shirt and pants, necktie, and my college graduation black gown, he was willing to wear Harry’s style of glasses to look the part perfectly. Out of all of Alex’s Halloween costumes, his favorite was no surprise to us; he liked the calculator costume I made out of felt when he was nine because he loves math. In many ways, he is a calculator with his mathematical skills, so this costume probably represented him best. What pleases me most, however, is that whenever Alex thinks back on the Halloween nights of his childhood, he tells in an animated way about the costumes he wore, which brings a smile to his face and to ours.
“The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘As we go into battle, I will disguise myself so no one will recognize me, but you will wear your royal robes.’ So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.” I Kings 22:30