Five years ago, in October of 2012, Caleb and Carter Guerrero hosted their first Halloween Party. Caleb had just celebrated his seventh birthday. His brother, Carter, was three. Attending were seven of Caleb’s classmates, Carter, their cousin, Malena Toulou, who was nine, and two of her friends. It was a modest affair.
The Boo Bash October 2016
I have flown in to attend Caleb and Carter’s 5th Annual Boo Bash. Invitations were posted on Facebook and over twenty adults responded; a head count tells me there are probably twice that many children. All guests, adults and children, have been asked to come in costume.
Carter and Caleb’s mother, Elizabeth, and Malena’s parents, Grace and Jeff, always out-do themselves, but as Malena has grown into an exceptionally creative young woman, she has often been the star.
This year, at fourteen, she is more reserved and I find her sitting quietly in the library.
Caleb and Carter’s Boo Bash started at 6:00 and can, I understand, go on until as late as 10:00.
I have come as a bumblebee. My first cousin, Jane Riley Gentry, grandmother to Malena, Carter, and Caleb, has donned a ladybug costume. We are garden creatures.
I’m not the only photographer at this bash and, before the party is over, pictures have begun showing up on Facebook. There are photographs of children and photographs of adults. Perhaps the most photographed guest is an eight-month-old baby girl in a knit cap with ears and what appears to be a monk’s robe.
There are children everywhere in this spacious, comfortable suburban home. There are children in the back yard, hanging from the top bar of a swing set that the boys have transformed over the years into a piece of gymnastics equipment, or staging mock fencing duels; there are children in front shooting baskets; there are children gathered inside to plan their next foray.
The children, with few exceptions, have adopted conventional costumes–the boys dressed as warriors, the girls–with a small nod to new possibilities–in pink satin versions of male heroes.
This 5th Annual Boo Bash is a celebration of a traditional American holiday, twenty-first century style. Elizabeth has rushed home from her high-powered job to tend to the elaborate preparations which include an impressive feast and decorations in every room of the house. She explains that because of an intensified travel schedule at work, she has done a much less thorough job than in years past. Nonetheless, the house looks impressively “done up” for Halloween, with lamps draped in black netting and spiders and ghosts around every corner.
Finally, this party serves as a time out of time when family and friends gather to spend a few hours together. We are all people with busy lives, lives filled to capacity with work, with children and grandchildren, with reading, writing, trips to the gym, shopping, housekeeping–with life.
A year ago, I flew into the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, was met by my cousins, and was driven back to Mansfield, Texas, to spend nearly a week with Jane, seeing her daughters for the first time in years, meeting her grandchildren for the first time ever. When I was getting ready to leave, Carter and Caleb both said, “Oh, Aunt Dean. We wish you could stay for our party.” I explained that I couldn’t but promised them I would come back this year and would wear a costume.
And so I found myself, in October of 2016, standing in the Guerreros’ kitchen, exchanging pleasantries with the parents of members of the children’s tribe that swarms around us, never further than arm’s length from a member of my own tribe, embracing that feeling that comes to me only in the company of family.
I am dressed as a bumblebee.