Above is, unfortunately, the only surviving photo of his first Halloween costume that I can find (there must be more out there, but I didn't use iPhoto during Cal's first year so many of those digital image files are archived somewhere unreachable). It also showcases Joe's unfortunate predilection for grafting cheesy beyond belief titles and borders onto photography--just be grateful we're spared a wreath of pumpkins around Cal's face or something similarly Printshop circa 1988. Anyway, I just show you this picture because this, taken at the time that Cal was about Nina's current age (they were both born in July), is the last time that we were able to cram Cal into a Halloween costume without him complaining.
Here the following year. You can't see most of the costume since he's you know, running away from Joe (I think I was actually on call that particular Halloween so I wasn't even there) but he's supposed to be a monkey. See how happy he looks? SEE THE LOOK OF CHILDLIKE WONDER WHILE TRAIPSING THROUGH THE MAGICAL WORLD OF MAKE-BELIEVE?
Above, the following year, when he was two years old. We, thinking ourselves terribly clever, dressed him as a medical resident. Cal quickly stripped himself of the accessorizing accoutrement (the scrub cap, the pager, the stethoscope which had been doused in alcohol and Clorox to eliminate all traces of Enterococcus fecalis--it's the small touches that really make the costume, after all) and just barely tolerated the rest of it, mostly once he realized there was candy involved. This was back when we still lived in New York by the way, so his exposure in costume was minimal--mostly we just walked down the hallway, trick-or-treated one apartment, and then walked back. (Some of the candy he got may have been from our own bowl.)
I had some high hopes the following year, as in September Cal specifically requested a pink butterfly costume. Yes, a pink butterfly. So I got the costume (OK, so maybe I got a red and orange butterfly costume--I am as open-minded as the next parent but maybe it's my own bias that led me to apply some well-meaning edits to his original intent), but by the time it came Cal decided that he didn't want to wear any costume, butterfly or otherwise. "I just want to wear regular clothes," he said, a refrain that would dog us again and again subsequent Halloweens. We went to his nursery school Halloween party that year wearing khakis and a grey cardigan (I begged him to let me put some baby powder in his hair so that we could at least pass his costume off as "old man," but he was not having it) and had no further costume planned as of October 30th.
Finally, we just ended up putting him in his beloved "regular clothes" (black long-sleeved t-shirt, long pants), gussied it all up with his rain boots and a two-tone bolt of electricity that I cut out from construction paper and taped on his chest. Enter "Captain Lightning Bolt." He was OK with this for some time, but then had a little potty accident after hitting three or four houses (three year olds never feel like they have to go to the bathroom until all of a sudden OMG THEY TOTALLY DO) so trick-or-treating was cut short and the costume issue was put to rest for another year.
At age four, Cal finally acceded, after weeks of cajoling to think of a Halloween idea, any idea; to go as "a builder man." Again, a costume involving his everyday clothing and some accessories from the toy bin. The hat, tool belt and goggles were, of course, instantly shed the second after the pictures were taken, and he ran around his school Halloween party somewhat incongruously dressed in jeans and a blue oxford shirt.
And then, the year he was five, Cal refused to wear anything even approximating a costume. In fact, we didn't even go trick-or-treating that year because he just flat-out refused to do anything and Mack was too young to know any better. At the 11th hour (that is to say: 6:00pm on Halloween night) we thought maybe we had convinced him to go as Steve from "Blues Clues" just by wearing stuff out of his closet (green striped rugby shirt, khakis, blue dog stuffed animal--boom, instant Steve) but then at 6:05 he decided with finality that costumes were BOGUS and trick-or-treating was DUMB and a horribly humiliating ordeal for LOSERS. Also maybe he whined and cried and acted like we were asking him to eat not but burning hot coals and drink not but burning hot cola.
"But if you go out and wear a costume, people will give you candy!" I told him, playing what I thought was my trump card.
"We have candy at home," he said, quite reasonably.
So after that debacle, we decided last year, when he was six, that he was going to find a costume that he would tolerate and we were going to go trick-or-treating whether he liked it or not. I don't think we're of the type necessarily to force our kids to do stuff that they hate, only it seemed like he was getting himself all worked up over nothing, and that if only he would stop being so rigid and just relax about "looking dumb" and allow himself have fun, that maybe he could actually have fun and we could be like a normal family going trick-or-treating. And then maybe I finally get some candy runoff at long last. IS IT SO MUCH TO ASK?
We decided, after brief discussion, that he would be Harry Potter, which was cool because he already had a Harry Potter wand, and anyway, Harry Potter wears regular clothes, he could even skip the glasses, all he'd have to do is let me draw on the forehead scar and wear this Gryffindor scarf that he got just so it looked like he was trying a little.
After a lot of discussion (and more whining, and more crying), he finally let us tie the scarf on him. But he was not real happy about it. "You know, Cal," I told him, "most kids actually really like Halloween. They think it's fun to dress up, and go around, and they like going door to door to get candy. It's kind of a really big holiday for kids, you know? Some kids look forward to this all year!"
He just grunted.
(Though eventually he did get into it.)
This year, we didn't even have a discussion. We were going to do this thing. After polling Cal to see if he had any costume ideas (to which he responded, "I don't know. I have to consider it.") I just decided, boy, you're going to dress up as a Star Wars character, and I don't want to hear any more about it. Originally I bought a whole pile of cream and brown fleece and was going to sew all the kids matching Jedi costumes (pause for laughter), but reality testing eventually intervened and I ended up buying the chintziest of chintzy drugstore Jedi outfits for both boys, coupled with these foam colored light up rods that I highly recommend to anyone who has kids that are into Star Wars.
And when we went to the third grade Halloween party this Friday, he put it on without any discussion.
Put on an actual non-regular clothing costume!
(High fiving a million angels)
I know it's not a big deal (and believe me, I'm trying not to make it into one, especially in front of him), but it's been seven years and eight Halloweens to get to this point so...yeah, it is kind of a majorly big deal.
Both of the boys, by the way, decided to be Obi-Wan Kenobi for Halloween. Originally Cal wanted to be Obi-Wan and Mack was going to be Anakin Skywalker (which I found actually quite fitting), but then Mack decided that he wanted to be Obi-Wan too, and Cal got mad because what are you nuts, there can't be two Obi-Wans, haven't you even seen the movie? Like, a couple hundred times? And there was much squabbling, and I came in and decided, perhaps at a slightly higher volume than strictly necessary, YOU KIDS SHUT UP EVERYONE'S GOING TO BE OBI-WAN.
Ah, Mack. Mack, on the other hand...
The only problem we have with Mack is getting him out of costume.
I'm kind of hustling to write this while the kids are asleep so I don't really have time to reflect on this fact or get overly introspective/profound/lachrymose about this fact, but: this weekend marks the twelfth anniversary of this blog.
Twelve years. That's a lot of years, boy. Twelve years ago I was starting my second year of medical school and decided, on a whim, to start an online journal in lieu of memorizing the complement pathway to have even a faint hope of passing my immunology midterm. And now I am an attending anesthesiologist, married to my med school classmate (who, not to knock my own clinical skills, but I often think is a better doctor than me, or at least good at different things), a mother of three, living in the South.
Aside from the part where I now have a medical degree, at the moment I started this blog I had no idea where I would end up ten-plus years down the line. I can't say that everything that has happened to me since has been expected. But as much as we Type A personalities like to control things, the unexpected can be exciting, and what's more, the unexpected can be quite good. And really, I don't think that this blog anniversary requires much more reflection than that, only to say that life now is busy and full and, most importantly, fun. I think I've reached a point in balancing my life and obligations where I feel that if something extracurricular ceases to be fun, it's probably not worth doing anymore. But keeping this blog, even after twelve years, continues to be fun, and that's why I keep writing. So thank you for sticking around with me.
And yes, if the finer details of the CXCR4 signaling pathway are indeed important to my clinical practice, I am pretty much screwed, because I don't think I ever really learned it in the first place.