The vampire princess kitten

by Brian Clarey

The afternoon began with an epic light-saber battle in Big Al’s backyard, pitting a blonde-headed Darth Vader, Yoshi from Super Mario Brothers and a Pittsburgh Steeler against a zombie ninja and an alien cyborg, while fuzzy bunnies and a vampire princess kitten frolicked on a dirt mound.

The vampire princess kitten was mine, 6-yearold Babygirl, and there is a bit of back story to her choice of Halloween costume.

She chose the princess dress, pink and frilly, about a month ago, and up until just a few days before Halloween she was pleased with her decision.

But in the final push, she decided she wanted to be “something scary,” and eventually announced that she wanted to be a vampire kitten — which is not the sort of costume they stock… anywhere. And then there was the matter of the frilly pink dress. But add a little face-paint and a good set of fangs, and my girl had the most creative costume I’d seen in a while.

“First I was a princess,” she explained, “and then I got bit by a vampire. And then a witch turned me into a cat.”

The zombie ninja had a similar genesis — because who wants to be just a plain old ninja when you can be a walking-dead ninja? And the alien cyborg… well that kid is just out there.

Our family has moved into a new Halloween paradigm as of this year. The kids are no longer babies; they no longer need — nor do they particularly want — their mother and me holding their hands and accompanying them to ring doorbells and ask for treats. And while they’re really into the costuming aspect of the holiday — god do they love dressing up — this year they were more focused on the great candy haul that they realized, if apportioned properly, could last past Thanksgiving.

As the afternoon grew dimmer we sent them out in our little neighborhood, alone, to prime the pump. Our little cove, consisting of five cul de sacs, is not great for trick-or-treating. There are no sidewalks, for one, and not very many houses. And many of my neighbors are from Africa and Southeast Asia; Halloween is not something they do.

My own childhood neighborhood on Ling Island teemed with kids every Halloween, hundreds of them cruising the avenues in small packs, evaluating each others’ costumes, trading gossip about who was giving Hershey bars or candied apples.

In my New Orleans neighborhoods it was too dangerous to trick or treat. In 13 years I had just one party ring my bell on Oct. 31. I didn’t have any candy but I gave a beer to the mother bringing the kids around before I put on my costume and headed out to the bars.

Halloween for a single man in his twenties is different than it is for a 40-year-old married father of three. Here’s something I know now that I didn’t then: It’s better now.

In Greensboro we’ve been hopping around town on All Hallow’s Eve: Fisher Park, the Cardinal, Irving Park, but we’d never experienced anything even remotely like the experience I had as a kid… until this year.

We kicked things off at Big Al’s house in Lindley Park, site of the infamous light-saber battle, with hot dogs and juice for the kids while the adults nipped on beers and wine. As the sun set we took to the streets, with almost a dozen children and nearly as many parents in tow. The older kids scouted ahead on the darkening streets while passing motorists slowed with courtesy and for the first time in 10 years my wife and I were able to stand on the sidewalk as our progeny begged door to door for candy, something my own parents stopped doing when I was about 6 years old, but we wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

Out there in Lindley Park, among hundreds of roving groups of costumed candy junkies and their guardians, I experienced a thrill that had escaped me for many, many years: a thoroughly enjoyable Halloween romp unfettered by dark houses, vandalism, costume malfunctions or the whimsical complaints of children.

At the end the kids tallied up their big score while the Saints game kicked off in Big Al’s TV. They dumped out their pillowcases and organized their booty into piles — chocolate, fruity, gum and the like — and began making trades: a Snickers for two Dum-Dums, M&Ms for Skittles, a few packs of Smarties for whatever they could fetch.

Just like my sisters and I used to do every year. I figure I’ve got a few more Halloweens like this, maybe three or four, before my oldest will opt out of the family trick-or-treat run for make-out parties or rock shows or whatever it is teenage kids will be doing in a few years. From there it will be a quick slide and before we know it all three will ditch us on Halloween, leaving us home to answer the door for another generation of candy grubbers, dropping treats into sacks and plastic pumpkins for costumed cuties while their parents wait on the sidewalk, smiling.