A Halloween Tradition Lives On Another Generation


Halloween is on Wednesday, and my pantry is fully stocked with candy. On Tuesday, I’ll go out and buy some for the trick-or-treaters.

I support trunk-or-treating — which is more and more popular nowadays — but I also feel that children who put on hot, itchy, cumbersome costumes and stumble from door to door deserve to be rewarded. After all, for many of them, it’s the most walking they have willingly done in their lives thus far.

My grandson, Skippy, joyously figured out Halloween last year. That is, he figured out the ratios and probabilities of all that walking versus all that candy, and he decided it was worth being reminded about cars, curbs, traffic and not cutting across lawns block after block after block.

This year, he’s dressing as “Itchy Goomie, the Tree That Walks by Night.” In case you’re not familiar, Itchy Goomie is the focus of a Boy Scout ghost story that has somehow made its way into our family culture. We tell it and retell it (often around a campfire or, at least, our George Foreman Grill) and, because we are somewhat foggy on the original plot, it has become embellished over the years, until it is now a convoluted tale about a tree that comes to life after sunset to prey upon the brains of children.

At age 6, Skippy is supposed to clamor to dress as a superhero, but, no, his mother’s dark heritage precludes this. Her inherited willingness to scare the crap out of her own offspring (for which she pays, bedtime after bedtime, believe me) has rightly convinced him that a zombie tree is much scarier than anything you can buy off a rack at Costco.

He has already donned this get-up (created from 11 brown paper bags and a piece of old rope) and hidden behind a real tree, still as stone, for a full half hour in an attempt to scare his 4-year-old sister.

While he stiffly stood there with his eyes closed, Tess — alert and aware and one smart cookie — played just out of reach dressed in her own costume. Eventually, he gave up.

Tess was dressed as a Disney princess, of course, because that is the singular fantasy of every little girly-girl — to be tall and cool and beautiful. Having her brains sucked out by a tree is absolutely nowhere on her to-do list.

I think their school has a Halloween costume parade coming up, and Tess has suggested to her tree-clad brother that he pay particular attention to her girlfriend, Cici.

“You could marry her,” Tess suggested.

(Marriage is much higher on the priority lists of 4-year-old girls.)

“I can’t marry her,” Itchy told Tess, informing her, “You have to marry someone your own height.”

Or at least your own genus and species.