IMR: 1999: November: 01 —  Monday, 9:33 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

Halloween 1999 was wonderful, and exhausting.

We got up yesterday morning both looking forward to and dreading Katie's first foray into the bizarre traditions of the holiday. It's a peculiar kind of giddy restraint that I imagine is familiar to any parent, both excited beyond words on the brink of a new experience, and yet deathly afraid to expect too much, afraid to overwhelm our little one.

[ Dancers ]Although we knew we'd spend part of the evening there, we nonetheless also started our day at Ala Moana Center. Jen wanted to get a haircut, leaving Katie and I to wander in sparkling retail splendor.

At Centerstage, there was a dance recital for some studio in Wahiawa — not exactly a neighborhood I'd call a haven for the arts. Nonetheless, the show kept Katie entertained for nearly half an hour.

Number by number, the kids (mostly girls) got older and older. Below me were dozens of beaming faces of proud mom's and dads. For a moment my mind reeled. Could I be just as thrilled to see my darling daughter dancing to "Splish Splash" in a tiny mermaid costume as I would seeing her baring her pierced navel, spinning and wiggling in face paint and army fatigues to a deafening rap song?

That's love. That's scary.

Eventually Jen was beautifully and properly shorn, and we headed up to Sears' children's department to buy Katie a Playskool® Magic Reward™ potty seat. The kind with a little circle at the bottom that changes to a star when... er, it's warmed up.

Now, I was never in a hurry to get Katie out of diapers. I was the laissez faire dad, stressing that Katie advance when she's ready. She was a little late to walk, after all, but now she can outrun adults if she wants to. So I said, toilet training can wait.

But that was before Katie outgrew Size 3 diapers and started in Size 4. Size 4 brought us into a whole new world of unit-pricing economics.

Back at Size 3, you see, diapers of various brands hovered at about a quarter apiece. If we were lucky, if there was a sale, we'd get down to 19 cents each. (Comfees and other discount brands, although even cheaper, have proven to be terrible.) For $15 bucks, you could get a Mega Monster Pak that could last a tad over a week.

Well, at Size 4, those Mega Monster Paks break the $20 barrier. Each one of those little wads of space-age paper costs 30 cents each. Pampers Premium, which we'd never spring for, goes as high as 41 cents apiece.

To those who've never dealt with diapers, I'm sure all this sounds like the pennypinching mania of a major cheapskate. I recently tried to be a good social guy at work and shared this dilemma with my coworkers, but they just looked at me like I was speaking Swahili. But I swear, if you realized that you're burning through more than $100 a month on stuff designed solely to catch involuntary excretions, you'd be in the aisle right next to me with your own calculator.

Or buying a brand-name potty seat at list.

The thing now has a semi-permanent place in our bathroom. But until we can get Katie to spend quality time with it, i's just something else to trip over in the middle of the night.

[ Po! ]We rested at home for a couple of hours, ate an early dinner, then eagerly prepared for the day's main event.

With a tug here and a tie there, Katie was quickly transformed into Po, the littlest Teletubby. I immediately melted into a little puddle. Jen and I couldn't stop giggling. It was great. We handed her a little mirror, and she gazed and smiled into it nonstop for almost ten minutes.

We loaded our Po into the car, and arrived back at Ala Moana at 5 p.m., exactly when the trick-or-treat fest was to begin.

I honestly expected something small, if not a little anticlimactic. I imagined the three of us weaving between crowds of oblivious everyday shoppers, tracking down baskets of candy guarded by store employees who'd much rather be earning a comission.

Instead, the entire center was crawling with wee Halloweenies. Princesses, Pichakus, ninjas, strawberries, and of course other Teletubbies (but only one other Po). Beaming, dressed-up kids flanked by brave parents, marching store to store with hungry candy bags.

Some merchants weren't participating, and others ran out of candy almost immediately, but for the most part the people there were very good sports about giving up most of the evening's business to cater to the throngs sugar-crazed kids.

Katie was clearly a little confused at the sight of all those other little people in funny clothes, but she charged along like a trooper. Holding Jen's hand, she went door to door, salespeople smiling and cooing at her as they plopped candies, stickers, and the occasional coupon into her bag. Now and then a little kid would see her stomp past and go, "Hey, it's Po!" And I know she got a thrill out of that.

[ Christine ]Over at The Nature Company, Christine — a former classmate from some time ago who remembers me for some reason, and always greets me heartily — went bonkers for Katie, as did a few of her costumed colleagues. They begged to hold her, but sadly, Katie would have no part of it.

We toured the whole length of the mall, and even made a few stops on the new fourth level. Katie insisted on walking most of the way, heavy candy bag and all. Only an hour after we arrived, Jen and I were both exhausted and quite satisfied with how things went. We headed out just as the crowds got thicker, just as the parents started getting a little impatient.

[ Haunted ]As we left, we passed Ala Moana's highly touted Haunted House, a long line of people waiting to get in and get spooked. Just as I was about to suggest Jen give it a try (I would have to stay outside to watch Katie, of course), the doorman bellowed, "Haunted house, just six dollars!"

Six dollars? No thanks. The price alone was enough of a fright. I swear those things were once traditionally free, or at least pair-of-quarters cheap. I can't believe it's been that long...

We picked up mom at Kaimuki High School and headed out to Mililani for Halloween Part II.

Actually, we were tired and didn't expect to do much of anything out there except hang out and cringe at grandma's regular viewing of 'Walker: Texas Ranger.' But the stream of kids who came to our door after we arrived (grandma didn't want to be bothered, so she just sat in the dark until we got there) inspired us again.

[ Pumpkin ]After setting up our Halloween pumpkin — a Jennifer Ozawa original — with a most uncooperative set of candles, we headed down the street to see what loot the Mililani suburbs would provide.

Though the streets seemed dark at first, the front doors of many homes were invitingly lit. Several neighbors were just sitting out in their driveway, sharing candy and friendly conversation. And while the Ala Moana set had to give sparingly in order to serve the masses, their residential counterparts were more interested in clearing out their inventory before the night was through, and were thus rather generous with the sweets.

[ Po! ]

On a whim, we headed up the street to see if Wayne was home, figuring we'd just say "Hi!" to an old friend.

He was, as was his family, and we quickly remembered there is no such thing as just saying "Hi!" in that household. Before we knew it we were invited in and set up with a table of snacks and icy cold Coke. The famous Akiyama hospitality had once again turned a quick stop into a full-fleged visit.

We talked of everything and nothing. His not-quite-a-girlfriend, his DVD collection, his ongoing job hunt, and his father's fishing expedition in Alaska. Time flew, and eventually we had to go, but as we left Wayne vowed to take up my invitation to exert some of his evil influence upon me.

Back at mom's, Katie finally started slowing down, and the evening ended quietly as she fell asleep to the evening news. We returned home and crashed immediately, glad to have closed such a jam-packed day with heaps of photos, happy sighs, and enough candy to feed us until Thanksgiving.

Okay, Veteran's Day then.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 01 November 1999 · Last Modified: 02 November 1999