Bland

The Arizona Republic - - Arts & Entertainment -

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.

TYLER FLAKE

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