Decorative gourd season is upon us, and I have so much I want to show my kids, and so many costumes I want to put them in (young Harrison Ford; the guy from The Darkness; Carrie Fisher looking unimpressed by her salad at Tavern On The Green). But even as I clip my kids into their carseats ready to head on out to a great field in which pumpkins have been pre-picked and then sat behind a tiny wicker fence that couldn't keep out a chipmunk, I realize with a pang: we only get 18 Halloweens.
Just 18 Halloweens to stroll the streets our children grow up on dressed as a Sexy Influencer, baseball hat propped over our long blonde wig, apple sauce pouches stuffed down our bras just in case; only 18 Halloweens to insist that we follow a family theme, and if Star Wars is the only thing we can agree on, then BY GOD I WILL TURN MY BABY JOGGER CITI MINI DOUBLE STROLLER INTO A MILLENNIUM FALCON SOMEHOW. Eighteen Halloweens to parade around your neighborhood as Cat Woman, then discover the gaping hole in your Spanx when you pop into your neighbor's house to pee.
Eighteen Halloweens to coach your children to say, "We live over on Maple!" after you commute to the ritzy neighborhood with the premium candy to trick-or-treat.
Just 18 Halloweens to take the marshmallow man costume I hand-sewed for my toddler, and at the last minute turn it into a frog costume because she changed her mind and the tears won't stop and we will not make it out the front door unless I snip my husband's green v-neck to pieces and glue and staple it over the top of the old costume. Just 18 Halloweens to say "SHE'S A FROG, A FROG," when people try to guess.
Eighteen Halloweens to gestate wild and elaborate plans for my child's costume, then give up and order whatever is available on Prime two days before the ragamuffin parade because lol who was I kidding.
In fact, by the time you subtract the number of Halloweens my daughter will insist on going as a lazy "skeleton" with her cool future high-school buddies, we really only get 13 Halloweens. Thirteen Halloweens to go door to door, trick-or-treating with our precious offspring, then hide their candy after bedtime and eat it all ourselves in the coming week while we watch The Sopranos for the third time through.
Thirteen Halloweens to marvel at the fact that the small boy who lives down the street and is demonstrably afraid of the potty feels totally fine about stringing up a latex corpse on his porch.
Thirteen Halloweens to gripe that Jessica Biel stole your costume idea.
Thirteen Halloweens to dress your child as a paper salesman and affix an "IT IS HALLOWEEN" banner in a non-descript grey font to a nearby wall.
My children, by now, are already 1 and 3, which means I have even fewer Halloweens to treasure as a mom who has secretly thought about buying herself a deluxe $99 Lady Gaga meat-dress costume online, even as she promised her husband they could all use egg cartons to make great costumes "without spending a dollar!" I have perhaps only 11 Halloweens to show up to the "ghouls" festival and glare at all the moms who judge me for hiding wine in my Starbucks coffee thermos. (It's shiraz, not zinfandel, so let's all calm down.)
We have less than 11 Halloweens to prop novelty hats on our sons who pull them off, but will eventually lose the will to fight if we put the bumblebee hat back on their heads another 27 times.
Less than 11 Halloweens to figure out how to design a cat-robot-dancer, at request of our older child.
Less than 11 Halloweens to clutch a tiny, bloody vampire to our chests and smell their sticky heads and realize time is passing by faster than we would like, and are they biting our shoulder? JESUS.
For the costumes that post the greatest challenge to limb movement, we have just one, or perhaps two Halloweens. Just two Halloweens to jam your beloved baby into a ham costume, or turn her into a baby president and wheel her down the street behind a makeshift lectern, advising all the neighbors of your true political affiliations in a way that can't be walked back come November 1.
Just two Halloweens to figure out how to breastfeed dressed as a giant rasher of bacon.
Just two years to wonder if dressing your baby as a scary clown is a jot too far.
"These years are fleeting," a friend with grown children once told me, "dress them as tiny Village People while you can. And treasure it. Treasure the tiny, flamboyant man in chaps you hold in your arms."
For the leaves will fall, and there will be more Harley Quinns strolling the streets in hot pants this year than last. Slimers will face-plant, and the 5-year-old Rey from down the road will accidentally crack a mini-Power Ranger in the head with her staff, then grow up to be a Sexy Influencer — and I shall treasure it all. I shall treasure all 18 Halloweens.