Friday, October 30, 2009

Hallow what?

Oh, how I hate Halloween.

It has little spiritual significance. It glorifies evil. From an autism perspective, the costumes present enormous sensory challenges. It is the ultimate exception to the rule about trespassing. And it causes cavities!

Nonetheless (like Barney) my kids covet it all the more because of my objections.

In years past, I have downplayed it by suggesting we go to the Harvest Festival at a local church, leave town, darken the house and take in a movie. I have told my teens they are old enough to pass out the candy at the door. All to no avail. The lure of a once-a-year binge on artificial coloring and high fructose corn syrup wins out every time. Will they ever outgrow this juvenile display of immediate gratification?

My most successful work-around has been the Great Candy Trade-In whereby I purchase the likes of Christmas gifts which they "buy" from me at the end of trick-or-treating so as to eliminate the toxic intake of sugar and dye but retain some sense of euphoria.

Annually, I procrastinate getting involved, hoping that I can avoid it this year. I find the neighbors' obsessions with ghouls and goblins, demented decorations and haunted patios more than a little disconcerting. At the eleventh hour though, I scramble to avoid embarrassment and be responsible for the only child at school without a costume. I cave, comply, conform. (Is this becoming a theme?)

Stubbornly resisting the status quo, but ever the dutiful mother down to the wire again, I texted Jim at Party City last night at 6pm: "get a wig for Reid to take to school"

He texted me back two choices: a Donald Trump or Florence Hendersen. As I deliberated (there must be a third option), this command arrived: "$15 should i get it or not"

He was surely next in line and famished. Party City is mobbed on October 29th at 6pm. I knew he was having his own crisis. Not there by choice, he had to buy black hair paint to impersonate Elvis Costello in order to fulfill his responsibility to participate in Costume Day at his office.

It is wonderful to be a united front and share so many critical moral stances with this man I've loved for 23 years. I can't decide what I love more, the fact that he hates Halloween as much as I do or that he will never consider Grecian Formula.

I passed on both wigs, saved 15 bucks, and put off the inevitable until this morning.

With the bus waiting at the curb, I threw a Zabar's apron and a chef's toque into Reid's backpack. He dressed in a flash donning his Whole Foods t-shirt. The tricky part was telling him what to say in reply to the perpetual question, "What are you?" I hastily told him to say he was a cook at Whole Foods. So lame. We can't be bothered.

Despite my Scrooge-like attitude, I have amassed some pleasant, if not amusing, Halloween memories which came flooding back to me as I wondered if Reid had heard anything I said. Now I feel like a Jehovah's Witness who doesn't celebrate birthdays but will remove the candles and eat my cupcake in an adjacent room.

There was the Chronicles-of-Narnia year when Reid wanted to be Mr. Tumnus--the half goat, half man Lucy first befriends. I put a little effort into finding tights, designing hooves, leathery ears; after all this brainstorm was literature-based! As darkness approached that night, Reid changed his mind proclaiming he'd be Edmund now.

A kid after my own heart! Easy cheesy! He stayed in plain clothes and I grabbed a faux fur pelt we'd stashed in a sensory bin. Off we went on a blue streak to as many houses as possible in the time allotted. Eventually the fur went by the wayside and Reid looked like himself. The friendly lady at the next house inquired on cue, "What are you?" Reid's reply, "I'm a boy."

There was the year we worked diligently to reinforce the "stay on the welcome mat" concept.

"Ring, but don't go in."

"Where do you wait?"

"Are you on the mat?" we chimed repeatedly.

He only entered the houses where television was on. Progress is certain; now he has it down pat.

There was the year we made a yellow sandwich board out of a retired science fair poster. Holes were hand drawn after dinner to imply SpongeBob. Totally pathetic, I know. And somehow impressive too, given our limited investment of time and thought.

There were several years, Allie wrangled me out to Target on October 28th or 29th to choose the least obnoxious of the picked over, store bought costumes. We have in our possession the absolutely tackiest, 200% polyester girl pirate, Cinderella, and ladybug costumes you've ever seen. All were purchased under duress in acquiescent desperation only after total avoidance had failed me.

There was the year Jim loaned his gigantic black afro wig to Reid at dusk.

There was the year I handed out gum because at least it offers proprioception.

There was the year I gave out raisins.

There will be a year I give out toothbrushes.

Every year, I recycle the candy collected and put it back out on the stoop by 8pm. True confessions.

Halloween; I'm just not that into it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

U-verse Installation Day

Do you realize what day it is today? Hold the mail, close the bank, cancel school, this is on par with any national holiday; we are getting television.

No, not buying a new flat screen, but subscribing to cable. Jim and I have prided ourselves on this intentional absence in our family room for the past 15 years. I don't want to know who Lil Wayne is; I'm not at all interested in Sex in the City; we have actually asked hotels to remove the blasted box from our rooms (they don't). Why have we caved?

It has become a safety issue.

Hard as it is to believe (if you haven't met my persistent, persuasive, relentless son), his compulsion for remote controls and unlimited access to Barney have led us to take drastic measures. Last week, given 10 minutes unsupervised, he fled to a neighbor's house (1/4 mile away) to access their channels and remote. Thankfully and to my great relief as I barrelled north on a train to LA, he chose a trusted neighbor from our church who was home and had my cell number. Nonetheless, it was dangerously close to an encounter with Child Protective Services or worse.

He carries and sleeps with a printed image of a Comcast remote like the one from Natty's Nantucket house. He intercepts AT & T bills from other people's mail, calls the 800 number to subscribe, and has changed our home machine outgoing message to say, "Sprout please..." We are blue in the face, trying to explain why buying a remote from CVS is not the same thing as subscribing to a system. Trust me, it's debilitating.

Another day after school, he wanted to "get the cable on the ground." Unclear what he meant, but always reasonable, I agreed to take the dog for a walk to the "corner by Vons" so he could show me what he meant. As we approached, his literal thinking and my empathy clicked. I saw the pathetic, sad truth of how desperate he is for a boob tube. He was returning to a spot he'd eyeballed earlier in the week: utility boxes announcing "Underground Cable."

He'd told the dog on the way, "you'll be good at digging." As he bent down, scraping wood chips and debris away, I could only wonder what he expected to uncover. A Narnian room like the s
econd floor of Sears? A tunnel of working Comcast remote controls? A subterranean utopia of KPBS on demand?

I had to laugh as a friend drove by and yelled "hello" out her Tahoe window, "what are you doing?" I casually and truthfully echoed back, "oh just digging for underground cable."

It's a good thing people know me. I'd hate to be new in town at this point.

So it is that we have opened our mind to a different possible solution. Could we, in our intentional insulation from media, be responsible for fueling this obsession? By making it unattainable, are we increasing the allure of television? If watching television were more readily available, would it lose it's cache?

We shall see. Jim has also suggested that if Reid knew some other more age appropriate shows, he might diversify from the Barney fetish. Could the Food Network usurp Sprout in popularity? Given the chance, wouldn't Discovery Channel speak for itself?

AT&T arrives at noon to begin installation. To say Reid can hardly wait is a gross understatement. Jim is out of town. Why does this feel like a giant step forward for Reid and an acre of ground lost for Jim and I? Have I completely burned out and compromised my standards? Not really. We remain open to reverse psychology and God working in mysterious ways.

Perhaps, in addition to the 2 TV Rules, I will laminate this next to the cabinet.

This is a test. This is only a test. For the next thirty days, we will see if we can engage interest beyond Barney the purple dinosaur. This is only a test. If this becomes an actual endorsement of network news, pop culture, and graphic violence, you will be instructed how to tune back into peace and family time in your area.