shirt, zombie-style? What about yellow contact lenses for a werewolf?
And every year, we’d raise a cemetery in the front yard with Styrofoam headstones, drape fake spiderwebs across the bushes and hang bats in the trees. Inside, we replaced family portraits with framed pictures of zombies. I stocked up on fake blood.
My son had been losing interest in Halloween, a little more each year since he was 12. Every October, it took him longer to come up with a costume and he showed less enthusiasm for stick-on gaping wounds and gargoyles on the roof.
But it was Sawyer who nudged me during the reception — “Mom, look.” — and pointed out the skeletons. We grinned at each other.These were our kind of people. at Boeing, and he’s a cowboy on the side, riding horses and roping. (Thus, the skeleton rodeo tableau.)
But last year at Halloween he bought one skeleton from Costco, dressed it as a pirate, and put it in the front yard.
His neighbor across the street, Tracey Hein, and her two young sons were delighted.
A week later, Tyler posed the pirate so it was mooning the Heins’ house. Then he put a pumpkin on its head.
Tracey and the boys cracked up.
This summer, Tyler ordered two more skeletons from Amazon and vowed to do something different with the skeletons every day. He was on a mission. hope they didn’t get stolen. (They didn’t.)
And then on Oct. 15, the skeletons disappeared. They left behind only their clothes in puddles.
Early that morning, at 6:37, Tyler posted on Facebook: “The skeletons disappeared last night. They were all dressed up, the clothes are still here but the skeletons are missing.”
He asked the neighborhood parents to check their children’s hiding spots.
At 11:28 a.m., he posted good news: “The skeletons have been found!! They snuck over to our neighbor’s pool and have taken ‘skinny’ dipping to a whole new level.”
The accompanying pictures showed the skeletons lounging in the hot tub, the pool and in chaise lounges, with black bars photoshopped across their private areas.
His friend Amanda commented: “This is your best one yet.”
But Tyler was only halfway through the month.
His daughters helped him come up with some ideas. Ashton even wrote out a list.
Tyler sets the up the skeletons at night,angling every scene so Tracey and her boys see them first thing in the morning.
On Day 19, the skeletons went for a joy ride in a golf cart and then upped the ante the next day by cruising in the neighbor’s bright yellow Lamborghini, taking it through the drive-through at Burger King.
On Day 22, Tracey and her boys looked out their front window and laughed out loud.
Tyler had recreated the classic scene from the movie “E.T.” when the kids’ bikessoar across the full moon over the neighborhood. He had used rebar, a skeleton in a red hooded sweatshirt and an extraterrestrial skeleton wrapped in a blue blanket in the basket of the front bike.
It was Tracey’s favorite so far.
Tracey and her husband and their boys have lived across the street from the Flakes for three and a half years.
One night her boys, Gabriel, 7, and Ethan, 5, went across the street to watch Tyler set up a campsite for the skeletons, trying out the tent, giggling at the skeletons roasting hot dogs over a real fire in a pit.
“That was the point,” Tyler said. “It was as much for the kids as it was for Tracey. It gives them something to look forward to each day.”
Tracey’s parents are visiting from Florida, and each day they snap pictures and send them to their friends. “He’s famous in Florida,” Tracey said, laughing.
Other people began to notice and stop to take pictures of the skeletons as they drove past the house. A woman stopped and thanked Tyler for the displays. She said she drove by every day with her kids.
He has enjoyed the comments from friends and family on Facebook, too.
“It has been fun,” Tyler said. It is a little tiresome after a long day at work. And it’s harder to get clothes onto skeletons than he thought, he said, chuckling. But it’s been worth it. Tracey across the street got some bad news about her health recently. Tyler made it his mission to cheer her up. She didn’t know, not at first.
She found out last week when Jennifer picked her up to go to the store and told her that Tyler had been making the displays for her.
“I didn’t say anything,” Tracey said. She couldn’t. It was just so sweet.
Every night when she tucks the boys into bed, they wonder what the skeletons will be up to tomorrow.
“It’s something to laugh at and smile about,” Tracey said.
My son told me, now that he’s 18 and at college, that I’d have to make my own Halloween plans.
“You’re ruining Halloween,” I told him. (I know, it’s a bit dramatic, but don’t worry, he wasn’t daunted.)
It was time to assume responsibility for things I could do myself, Sawyer told me. He wouldn’t always be there. It was time I became more independent, you know, stood on my own two feet. (Hey, this speech sounds vaguely familiar.)
I had thought the scary costumes and the decorations were a tradition — albeit a bit morbid — that defined us as a family. Still, maybe I’d just skip it this year. But Tyler and his skeletons made me rethink that. Maybe I could enjoy Halloween on my own terms. Who says you have to grow out of it? Maybe Halloween was about fun for the little kids in the neighborhood and also about the friends who had learned over the years that they could get their wine glasses refilled on my front porch.
It could be both. (Cackles like a witch.)
So I will drag out the orange-and-black Rubbermaid tubs stuffed with strands of orange lights, plastic bones and rolls of mummy wrap from the shed and decorate.
I even have a skeleton I could dress up.