I look back on certain holidays like Halloween and feel lots of remorse. Remember when your parent or some other parent said that they wanted to meet the parents of this girl you liked or a boy some girl was in love with….remember your reaction. In my case I was passionate about how stupid that was, how judgmental and myopic and imagine allowing people to pre- judge a human being that was often striving for success …….uh….like me. I had a single mom raising 4 children and I was not going to accept any judgment for my injustice or so called handicap. Youthful denial and transference are part of a person’s survival and armor and as a result we often put off the confrontation of our character’s strengths and weaknesses till our 40s after we have injured a lot of things and people.
Halloween was chaos and injury and excitement and reckless abandon for me. Halloween provided lots of fun and hormones and some people were ready to manage it and some were not and would ricochet in the chaos they were comfortable with as a child. Halloween and the myriad of characters and scary indulgence was what I was about.
In retrospect, if I had two parents who would have “raised and prepared me” for life I hope and believe I would have accelerated sooner. We were taught strict manners at the table and in people’s houses with the traditional, Please, Thank You and May I Please Be Excused. We learned by rote I suppose but did not take the time for the discussion about what it truly means in life and how to model such in your choices in life. However in my case, I lucked out with acting and its enormous rewards at a point when I was still evolving. I was not ready for success and money as a young man. I was all of a sudden making one million dollars a year and not even close to being ready. I was thrust into Halloween again, chaos with reckless abandon and all the money to play. The Bible talks about corner stones and foundations……and of course mine was one of sand and high speed.
I was raised by my wonderful mother as our father was an alcoholic and had abandoned the 4 children he indulgently created with my mother. I never was around him so I never missed him and to this day I do not feel as I missed anything. However, my choices in life suggest I missed a lot. This was my template, my model of a good life. I can remember as a boy being proud of my identity. What identity? Well, my memory says that my Mom said, “Larry, he is a strong boy with a hair trigger temper.” I thought that was a compliment. My brother would question my identity by asking if I got in any fights this week? My Mom, well she never asked me and just told me to work hard in life so work ethic was my template. Manners were my template but the depth of understanding feelings and people were NOT my template.
Today I was thinking of the kids who have limited or no parenting. I was thinking about kids whose parents yell and scream with rage and profanities as a model. I was thinking of those kids today who replicate the behavior of the “model” they see and hear daily. On top of that, today I was thinking about the kids who had their first love affair and were abandoned and could not fathom the loss of such deep new and unfamiliar feelings. I was thinking of the vacillating identity that each of these kids sought when they had no models, no templates and only a couple of masks to help them through a life of searching. How many people would they punish directly and indirectly in their lives? Yes, Halloween was full of real masks upon masks. It was an exciting time in many households with no sturdy architected foundation to start life or often referred to as behavioral disorders.
Halloween always seemed to me just an excuse to raise Caine one night in October with my buddies. Imagine being the “subject matter” of tomorrow’s cool conversation as one’s conscious scanned the horizon for sunlight and looked for identity, not sure how to discern a good and bad identity.
Well, as little boys (Randy, Larry and Andy) walking in the dark with spooky characters and masks we wondered what might happen to us as we ran from one door to the next without any supervising parent. Randy would leave us immediately as we were too young and we were baggage for our big brother. It was scary and the older boys salivated as they could smell our youthful naïve vulnerability. In those days, my Mom was home busy giving candy to all the trick or treaters so we were on our own. We could stay out late and fill our candy bags as full as we wanted as long as we could carry them home.
I do remember one odd night when this man appeared for the first time at our rented home and my Mom reminded me this was my Dad. I looked at him nervously wondering what a DAD meant and sheepishly said hello. My Mom said, “how about ‘Hello Dad’”. I looked at his green eyes and said HELLO. He grabbed me and his whiskers rubbed my cheeks and it hurt and he kissed me hard on the mouth. I did not like it. Then he told my Mom that he wanted to take us boys to trick or treat to the club and then he would bring us back. I can still remember going up to each man at the club ( BAR ) and saying trick or treat in the middle of the stench, the smoke and cackling and some drunk would pick me up and hug me with his smoker alcohol breath and put a quarter in my Halloween bag. It was a scary and confusing environment for me and left me cold and lonely. Somehow I knew I was in a WRONG place with the WRONG people and it reflected poorly on my dad. Each time I see the James Dean movie, East of Eden, there is a scene in that movie that reminds me of the repulsion my heart felt in that old drunken Eagle’s Club bar full of drunks.
On other so called more normal occasions, my younger brother Andy and I were turned loose with our pillow cases as our candy bag and off we went. I can remember Andy getting his Halloween candy sack stolen from some punk who ran off with my bro’s goods. Unresolved Injustices you say……as it all began back then with “choices” and forks in the road. A few years later, as PUNKS we began to model what we had seen and perpetuated the ugly template as we transitioned to the so called rite of passage. We escalated it a bit and added some more drama and hick creativity and took our BB guns out and when we saw older kids dressed up or overweight people dressed up we shot them in the butt with a BB gun and watched them yelp in pain as we laughed hidden in the shadows of darkness. That sadistic behavior then escalated to thumb tacks. Yes, we used to put tacks in their seats in school also and watch them pee their pants when their overly plump butts sat on those sharp tacks. Yes I am so sorry for Linda Vasquez and others who I was the consummate prankster. Identity….what is it you are searching for if you have no idea what is good and what is bad? I searched for control of something in my youth. In retrospect, we probably only shot one or two in the butt with our BB guns but I am truly sorry that I was such a latch key punk. Shot a lot of street lights out though and that was cool. And sure had fun taking that old tar can and lighting it on fire and tying the on fire tar can to a rope we had draped across a dark street up by the city park. Talk about angry drivers when they came around a corner and all of a sudden the fire popped up right in front of their car as they slammed on their brakes. Barely got away I was laughing so hard a few times! My apologies to the City ofRawlins,Wyoming! In retrospect I try to teach my boys to reason from principle and not be punks. As parents we know that does not always work with kids. Yes, I sure enjoyed the life of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer who would surely be placed in jail today for 5- 10 years! In retrospect, I really had no template in life, except, to write and create my own. Toilet paper, bubble gum and thumb tacks with my special BB gun gave me identity in a vacuum, and some laughter with my buddies looking for fun in a podunk town. I could go on and on but it just might cause Huck Finn to be reincarnated and he would get me in trouble. The Huck Finns of my world are of course now, upstanding citizens. I will hold back their identity .
As I am now older and boring as a parent, I look at my younger boys and reflect deeply. I tell them good stories about Heidi and Derek and Wendy. I tell them that Halloween is about having fun, and sharing your candy with others, especially the little ones who just cannot keep up. Halloween can teach indulgence and narcissism or it can teach love, sensitivity and modeling. My son Derek and daughters Heidi and Wendy have learned over time the good and bad of having a dad named Larry Wilcox. The good is they know I love them dearly and my model for behavior is constantly growing and evolving and reaching for a better place.
I believe a parent must learn every day of their lives and in some cases, accelerated learning and coaching is warranted! I hope parents realize how much they contribute or diminish in the evolution of identity in a child. Coaches, teachers, policemen contribute so very much. I hope the MASK of Halloween is not the choice for children searching decades for who they are and what their character is about. My goal in this piece was not to wallow in my background but to share with you why I think it is so important to interface with kids on many levels and to discuss the significance of all of it with some wisdom that will help them become good citizens in a shorter period of time. Parenting is such a difficult and life long path isn’t it? Someone asked me what I would do to improve schools recently and I said provide PARENT COACHES; provide TEACHER COACHES; provide POLICE COACHES and get the community involved in this life long education!
Have a happy Halloween and more importantly, please help your children navigate the treacherous roads of maturity and the definition of character. Talk, share, cry, laugh give them some positive arrows for their quiver in life. Keep them away from Deans of Schools who JUDGE them instead of nurture them. Go fishing….and talk….slow down….and talk……go hiking…and watch the sunset…and hug them with a deep loving eye.
My mask is now on I think or maybe that is just an older Larry….……Happy Halloween to all.