So, Halloween After Action Report.
First, I was exhausted. I did a two-day there-and-back trip to Youngstown, Ohio, via Continental, which showed me the love by canceling my 7 a.m. direct flight once I got to the airport and sending me on a four-hour-longer saga through Houston. So when last Wednesday night rolled around I was not in the best frame of mind to begin with.
The two older kids (Anakin Skywalker and Snow White, respectively) were overstimulated like a tweaker barrista, but I looked forward to some relatively sedate time with Elaina in the stroller as the older ones ran up to each house trick-or-treating. Elaina was dressed rather ambitiously and incautiously as a dragonfly, complete with wings that attached at the back and wrist:
[foreshadowing]This costume seemed like a good idea in the abstract when the wife mentioned it.[/foreshadowing]
The practice proved different. Two houses into the trick-or-treat death march Elaina became disenchanted with her stroller and began to buck and thrash like she was trying out for an Exorcist remake. I lifted her from the stroller to carry her for a while, handing the stroller off to my wife to carry the other kids' loot. That worked for about two more houses. Then began the Attack of the Killer Dragonfly. She thrashed. She tried to climb onto my shoulders, back, and head. She buffeted me relentlessly about the face with her powerful foam wings. She was a twenty-five-pound bundle of Odonata anger.
I could have handled even this without scandalizing the neighborhood if I hadn't been abandoned by the family and friends in the dark. We arrived at a house with a long driveway; there was some sort of haunted house within, and kids were streaming in and out while parents waited outside. My group — wife with potentially dragonfly-restraining stroller — headed up the drive. I retreated to the side, into a shadow, and tried to regain equilibrium. But Elaina chose this moment to redouble her efforts, falling upon me like the Aztec demon-god onto the drug dealer in that movie Q. She kicked my blackberry, which was sticking out of my pants pocket, and I felt it begin to slip away into the warm dark. With one hand I tried to pry the angry dragonfly from around my neck while with my other I groped for the errant blackberry, which at this point I hoped to use to escape ("Urgent message! Client in jail! Gotta go!") Meanwhile I was hissing "Hold still! Hold STILL!"
It was at this point I saw the gaggle of parents staring at me.
They were on the other side of the driveway and had been enjoying an animated chat and what I suspected were mixed drinks in sports bottles when I caught my eye. In a moment I saw myself as they saw me: a large man hunched in the shadows, struggling with a large thrashing insectoid thing, grasping vigorously at his groin area like Michael Jackson on a comeback tour, and hissing.
"Um .. what are you supposed to be?" one asked, and I realized that in the dark they thought Elaina was part of my costume — that I had come out, an adult on his own on Halloween night, standing in shadows and rendering some sort of 50s-B-movie performance art (with added inappropriate overtones) to frighten the children.
"I'm supposed to be home with a freaking beer," was my first response of choice, but instead I stepped from the shadows, calmed Elaina, smiled and reestablished that I was not anyone who needed reporting to the police, following, or tasing, and then strode briskly down the street away.
Daddy zero, Elaina one.
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