Thursday, July 10, 2008

Monsters in May

It’s almost summertime, time for swimming pools, time for beach parties and time for barbeques. My 4-year-old son says it’s time for Halloween.

I thought this was strange, my son’s early anticipation for Halloween. But I was just like him when I was a kid. I celebrated Halloween all year long. But I paid the price for such an idiosyncrasy.

I was a unique individual with a rich imagination able to keep myself entertained with very little. Put another way, I was the weirdo kid in school who spent his days alone on the playground shoveling sand from one end of the sandbox to the other, with no friends whatsoever -- not even the loser kids.

Whereas most kids talked about movies like “The Love Bug,” featuring Herbie, a little Volkswagen that makes people say, “It’s alive?” all I could to talk about were the classic monster movies like “Frankenstein,” featuring a mad scientist who, when bringing a corpse to life, says, “It’s alive!”

Even in December when most of my classmates were dreaming about jolly old St. Nicholas and his elves, I was more fascinated with the evil monsters of Christmas such as the Grinch from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and Scrooge, the mean old miser from “A Christmas Carol.”

When my classmates were bragging about the new bikes and skateboards they got for Christmas or Hanukah, I was showing off the Halloween masks and scary sound effects albums that I’d received, which, to me, were far better gifts.

You can see why I didn’t have any friends.

My lonely childhood flashed before my eyes when my son asked if we could put up the Halloween decorations a couple weeks ago. I told the boy that Halloween was months away, and that we’d put up the decorations when it was the right time to do so, the right time of course being the month of August.

A few more days passed, and my son kept hounding me to bring out the Halloween gear. I just couldn’t let my son suffer socially the way I did as a child, so I gave him a firm “No.”

I found the Halloween boxes buried in the garage. I couldn’t help myself. It was the monster within me acting out. I dug up my Halloween stuff like Dr. Frankenstein dug up bodies in the cemetery. And then, like in the movie, I used the stuff I found to create my monster. My monster, of course, was my son, who is certainly becoming more like me, for better and certainly for worse.

The parent in me wanted to keep my son safe from public humiliation. So the child and I made a deal that if we took out the Halloween stuff, we wouldn’t talk about it at school until Halloween time.

At school the next day, I found my son and his friends bursting with joy as they planned what they’d be for Halloween, and how they were going to visit haunted houses to find monsters. So much for our deal.

But since the kids were so excited about Halloween, I decided to spill some additional monster lore on them, including, but not limited to, the recipe for witch stew (black cats, spiders and human guts), how you kill a zombie (decapitation) and the words you must say properly to raise the dead (Klatto, Verata, Nicto).

And then reality grabbed me like the strangler in the night, and I realized that I was supposed to be a responsible parent and not a monster teaching pre-kindergarten kids about such gruesome and terrifying things. What if these kids started having nightmares about devil bats coming after them, or what if they became afraid of the dark because “that’s when monsters come out from the closet and from under the bed?” What if these kids no longer wanted to go into cemeteries alone at night? (Maybe that last “what if” isn’t so bad, but I don’t think many parents would appreciate the previous issues.)

I decided to be a responsible adult and, before these kids’ parents complained to me about corrupting their youngsters, I’d arrange a meeting with the grown-ups and admit the cold truth of the matter.

I’d tell these adults, with my sincere apologies, that I didn’t know where my son got all the nonsense about Halloween and monsters, and that I’d punish him for teaching their children about such horrible, frightening things.

Before I could say anything, the parents I wanted to meet came to me and told me how my son had cured their children of their fears of the dark, and that the little ones no longer had nightmares. However, the adults seemed a bit concerned about the fact that their sons and daughters wanted to visit nearby graveyards at night to dig up corpses to create their own Frankenstein Monsters in the garage.

-May 2008

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