When Alex and Alphonse were little kids, dressing them in Halloween costumes was always a fun experience. True, the costumes they had 15 years ago seemed primitive and uninspired compared to today’s more intricate designs, but they were wearable, though not exactly cheap. Alex’s choice would always dictate the theme; if he was dressing up as Batman, then Alphonse would have to be Robin. If Alex was dressing up as Red Ranger, then Alphonse would be Blue Ranger. And if Alex was coming as Ash Ketchum, of course, he needed a Pokemon brother to come with him.
Sadly, Alphonse hated all his costumes. We couldn’t put a finger on it but something about the costumes- the fabric, the make, the style, we don’t know for sure- was driving him crazy. It was hard enough to put him in them, what with his squirming, whining, and crying. It was harder still to keep him in them. That boy could take off his clothes (underwear too) in three seconds flat, I swear.
When Alphonse turned four and was strong enough to kick the living s**t out of us, we stopped forcing him to wear costumes. Without a buddy to do trick or treating with, Alex lost interest soon thereafter. Sometimes, though, I could sense that he missed this activity too, though he was always quick to deny it. I remember the year he was in fourth grade and he had an elaborate costume of a gray and silver milkfish for a school performance. In the car on the way home, he was so hyped up that he said “Ma, this would be perfect for halloween. My friends and I can all dress up the same way and we could be a school of fish!”
It was genius! I was about to agree with him when he suddenly added, “Oh, yeah, Alphonse hates costumes. He won’t come with me. Never mind, Ma.” Nothing I said to him that day could make him reconsider his idea. He hid his milkfish outfit at the bottom of his drawers, much like a sublimated desire.
So when Alphonse put on his Roman knight garments for a school play years later, it was a time of joyous celebration. We loved this particular milestone so much that we still have pictures of it around the house. We have also used it on our family’s autism awareness campaign.
This year, Alex had a costume ready for a school play he was writing and directing. When he learned that his little cousin Sese was going trick or treating, he volunteered to come along as an adult companion for the village kids. We knew he wanted to go and wear this particular outfit; he had been wearing it around the house for days, popping out of dark corners and frightening Alphonse’s nannies for fun. But we also knew that he wanted Alphonse to come with him too, to experience another Halloween together.
The only costume we could find in the store nearest to our house barely two hours before trick or treat time was a zombie costume. We knew Alphonse would have issues with it, mostly with the thin strips of cloth that hung around his face. But we held our breath, crossed our fingers, and said a little prayer. Wonder of all wonders, Alphonse wore it with a smile. We were all so proud of him.
What may seem trivial to many “normal” families are exactly the things that define our life with autism. Each moment of happiness is precious; each challenge that we overcome is a source of pride. Halloween may be just another excuse to party, but for us, this year will be remembered long after other years have passed.
From the boys who missed ten years of trick or treats, they’d like to share this proud picture with all of you.