Trick or Treat with Nate

Halloween is a favorite time for Nate. He has a tradition of helping Karen make thematic treats and of getting me to carve pumpkins and bake the seeds. Nate also likes trick or treating, still. Going door to door with Nate has always been unpredictable. When we still lived in Lincolnshire, I waited at the curb as he went up to a house, having rehearsed with him proper form. One year, he may have been 10, he walked the long driveway to a stranger’s house. He didn’t come back for a long time. When I finally panicked and made my way to the door, the unsuspecting homeowners were shocked to find that he had taken a personal tour of their house. They’d assumed he was a friend of their child’s.

On Sunday, I suggested to Nate that he was too old for trick or treating; after all, he is 20! At first he took it poorly, but clearly mulled over the idea during the course of the afternoon. By 5 o’clock, he’d come to a conclusion: maybe he was too old to don his grizzled hobo mask that covers half his face behind a rubbery mouth, stubbly beard and half chewed cigar. It’s pretty creepy when accessorized with a long black shroud.

Instead, Nate wanted to hand out candy to our little bell-ringers. His first encounter went like this:

Ding-dong.

Nate opened the door to a trio of tikes.

“Hey, you kids. You’re Darth Vader, and you’re a princess and you’re a solider.”

He yelled in a hoarse, excited way that, for those who know him, means he’s happy and enthusiastic. For those who don’t, it’s a little scary and borderline inappropriate.

The kids turned to leave the porch and I heard one girl say, “That man was funny!”

Karen’s favorite moment was when a father rang the bell. Nate opened the door and zeroed in on the tiny boy adorned in satanic regalia held in his father’s arms.

“You’re a little devil aren’t you?” Nate said in a softer voice. He’d worked out the kinks in his delivery over the course of the evening. With that comment, Nate gently touched the little demon on the nose.

Nate’s favorite costume was a bitty cowboy. “You’re Woody from Toy Story!” Nate handed out pieces of candy all night long.

The next day Karen and I watched video of Nate at 3 1/2 years old. I needed to find some snippets of speech for a book proposal I’m working on. There was Nate, getting ready for Halloween in a chef’s costume, Karen carting him around in his wooden wagon. When he returned home, I asked him how it went, and he walked right by me, muttering to himself.

The Nate of December 1993 was incapable of talking to us, never, never, constructing a voluntary sentence for conversation or response. Now, he was answering door bells, interacting with total strangers, commenting on their garb and, all in all, responding properly to all he saw.

Now that’s the best treat of all!

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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