For my kids, one of the high points of moving to Brooklyn is Halloween.
When we lived in the Mission in San Francisco, plenty of adults in wild costumes filled our streets on Halloween, but celebrating with kids took a little bit of planning. If we had tried going trick-or-treating to the homes and apartment buildings on our block, most people wouldn’t have opened the door. Instead, we took our kids to a planned neighborhood celebration a few blocks over, where residents sat on their stoops distributing treats. It was a lot of fun, but it felt like a family-friendly celebration in defiance of the gritty reality of the city streets we lived on.
Here in our kid-packed neighborhood in Brooklyn, Halloween decorations go up on Oct. 1. On our walk to school, we pass home after home covered in cobwebs and plastic spiders. Last year was our first Halloween here, and on the morning of the 31st, I texted a friend to ask what time trick-or-treating usually got started. I wondered if 5:30 would be too early. “Right after school,” she said. Confused, I asked her to explain, then texted two more people to confirm.
It was true: In my neighborhood, kids come home from school, change their clothes, and they’re in the streets by 4 p.m. I never would have believed that all the adults in the neighborhood would make special plans to leave work by mid-afternoon just for Halloween, but there they were, handing out piles of candy as the sidewalks filled up with trick-or-treaters. Luckily, my husband was able to cut out of work early after I frantically texted to fill him in on local custom.
Last year, my kids were both skunks, at the request of my then 5-year-old. I got the costumes from Etsy, and my 18-month-old got a lot of compliments as he ran down the street with his black-and-white boa tail bouncing behind him.
Nate, my oldest, was and is obsessed with skunks; I think it’s because they are transgressive animals that are best known for doing something bad. Nate and Harvey still dress up in their skunk costumes around the house, grabbing their tails and pointing them to “spray” us.
This year, my children’s costumes will come from Amazon and will speak to another aspect of their imaginative lives. They will both be Gekko from the Disney Junior show “PJ Masks,” a superhero show where three kids transform into super-powered alter-egos — Catboy, Owlette and Gekko — to fight villains.
I have mixed feelings about my kids watching episodic TV. Even though there are decent shows out there, my children seem to suck them up like junk food, always wanting more. I limit their exposure and generally try to steer them toward movies, which to my mind are better because they at least have more of a story arc and a beginning, middle and end.
My feelings toward “PJ Masks” have softened a bit lately, though. I have never been into comic books, Star Wars or superheroes of any kind. As a child, my fictional models were smart, intrepid girls like Nancy Drew and Jo March, and I didn’t understand the appeal of Superman or Wonder Woman. But now, when Nate wants to run fast, he whispers, “Super Cat Speed,” and when he needs to be strong, he shouts, “Super Gekko muscles!” He’s a kid who needs an extra shot of bravery and power as he moves through school and transitions to first grade, so I’m glad that he’s found some to draw on.
Come Oct. 31, I expect my children to have the night of their lives as they collect gobs of candy, play with neighborhood friends and use their Super Lizard Grip and Super Gekko Camouflage to navigate the sidewalk jungle.
Last year, as I tucked Nate in on Halloween night, he mourned that there were 365 days until the next Halloween. It will be another long wait after this year’s Halloween is over, but at least my kids will be able to suit up in their Gekko costumes and climb our walls while they wait.