Like a king on his throne, there sat our son. He was regally draped in a velvety-looking burgundy lap
robe, and wore a handmade crown of cardboard covered with gold foil. Proudly he reigned, a scepter in
He oversaw his vassals roaming the gymnasium floor in the community center. What a motley bunch
they were—their regalia ranging from tattered rags to fancy top hats. Ballerinas in pastel tutus
pirouetted to the music. A giant, hairy, brown ape had great fun huffing and grunting as he prowled the
room, bent over so his arms nearly dragged on the floor.
Supernatural creatures were there, too, as befit the season. One needed no more than a bedsheet to waft
airily about as a ghost. A tall, conical hat and a broomstick—and, abracadabra! a witch! In a corner,
other witches presided over a cauldron—remember Hamlet’s “double, double, toil and trouble, fire
burn and cauldron bubble”? And at the cauldron, brave kids shrieked or giggled as they handled the
slimy eyeballs—a.k.a. peeled grapes.
All through the town, other youngsters in costume were plying their annual “trick-or-treat” ploy, filling
their baskets to brimming. To the horror of their dentists, no doubt.
But these “youngsters,” from tiny ones to some well into their 20s, 30s, and even 40s were enjoying
their Halloween party with their peers in the city’s rec center. As I looked out into the crowd, I was
touched at the thought that, perhaps, for these folks the Halloween masquerade took on a special
importance. For the evening, they each had a persona beyond that of their daily lives.
Camouflaged though they were, many could be recognized from their classrooms I’d visited. The hairy
ape with his arms hanging low did so in part because his daily stride lists to one side. He has cerebral
palsy. The pirate wearing the patch over one eye was cleverly disguising his blindness. A Tiny Tim
hobbled about adeptly with his cane. Why not?—he hobbles adeptly with it every day.
This was the Halloween Costume Party for more than a hundred children and youths with physical and
mental handicaps. Or, as we say now, people with “special needs.” And I like to think that one of their
special needs was being met at this party. Here they were able to be someone other than themselves for
a few hours. Here they flew away from their limits and lived a charade of otherness for a brief time.
Yet, were they really so different from the trick-or-treaters trekking the streets? Doesn’t everyone like
to inhabit a fantasy world sometimes?
Our son did. For a couple of hours each Halloween, he was King of the Hill, reigning over his kingdom
from his decorated throne: his wheelchair.