I was worried that Halloween 2010 would be a disaster.
And a disastrous Halloween would be especially traumatic for the Tyree family. Three years ago I wrote a column about son Gideon (now six and a half years old) titled "The Boy Who Lives For Halloween." Nothing has changed.
Eight out of every 10 library books he checks out are spooky. He loves to draw eerie pictures such as "ghost dribbling ball lightning." He breathlessly dictates scary stories to me. If he becomes an ambassador someday, I can imagine him announcing, "I know I'm supposed to dictate the terms of surrender, but instead I'll dictate 'The Legend of the Disappearing Cows'."
So the plan was to do selective trick or treating, maybe watch "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and, I don't know, go to the hospital and watch the senior citizens getting their Social Security checks x-rayed. ("There's got to be an increase in there somewhere! Ooo, if only I had a razor blade and a ride to the Capitol...")
But the prospects of having good, clean fun with the world of make-believe almost gave up the ghost. Gideon visited me at work a couple of weeks ago and got cornered by one of my more mischievous co-workers, who enthralled him with an allegedly factual tale about a ferocious 8-foot troll that lives under a bridge on his farm. (I suppose the presence of such monsters in rural settings is the reason the slogan "Don't cuss a farmer with food in your mouth" has been replaced with "Don't cuss your food with a farmer in your mouth.")
This troll has supposedly on occasion followed a dry creek bed to our own neighborhood. ("Doing the jobs that ogres just won't do"), with intentions of playing "bobbing for Adam's apples" or some such malevolence. Gideon fell for the yarn hook, line and sinker.
The next time Gideon showered, I left the room for a couple of minutes. He freaked out and started pleading for me not to leave him alone. I reassured him all the way back into the room, but he peeked around the edge of the shower curtain and did not show a smile of relief until he had visual verification of my identity. "I thought maybe the troll was just imitating your voice," he explained.
Oooooo-kay. So trolls aren't satisfied with harassing billy goats gruff or abducting children. Apparently they also yearn to horn in on impressionist Rich Little's territory. Who knows? Maybe there's even an elaborate Las Vegas act -- Cirque du Troll-ay.
I guess I should feel flattered that Gideon thought I could defend him from a marauding troll. Kids have such faith in Dad. All the world's problems can be solved with a plea to "Glue it back together," "Buy it for me," or "Beat it with this plumber's helper until it returns to the stygian depths from which it came."
The irrational behavior persisted for several days ("But Mr. Matt said it was true!"). Finally, Gideon confronted his fears by visiting Troll Island at the Nashville Zoo's "Ghouls At Grassmere" event. Admittedly, he didn't LINGER at the exhibit. I guess "the boy who lives for Halloween" also wanted to be alive for November 1.