The only downside to being born on or near a holiday is that it can overwhelm the birthday. I have a friend whose son was born on the Fourth of July. My friend told his son the city was so happy to have him in the world that it set off fireworks to celebrate. I thought about doing something similar, but it just didn't seem the same to suggest that the city celebrated Sam's birth by unleashing ghosts and goblins on the streets. We borrowed the spirit of the idea, though, and tried to make Halloween our own, an attempt to let the holiday enhance, rather than detract from, his birthday.

And so there was Jessica, year after year, in the living room, stooped over a black plastic cauldron of bubbling fruit punch, the steam of dry ice rising into the darkened room while screams and moans from the tape recorder punctuated the night.

As they grew, Sam and his friends went from being intrigued and even a little scared by the sight and sounds of our house, to being excited by it to eventually becoming nonchalant, almost comforted by a tradition they had come to anticipate. But all that has changed.

For his first Halloween, Sam was a fireman. We have a picture of him, grinning broadly under a hat that was almost bigger than he was. Over the years, he was a pirate, a vampire, a devil, and Groucho Marx, all of the costumes homemade (save for the Groucho glasses). Last year, at 13, he was nothing so much as himself. He went as something, I think. I don't remember. It wasn't a pirate, though, or a fireman.

He left with friends and they went off on their own, no parents. There is nothing cute about opening the door and seeing a gaggle of teenagers on your front step. It is, however, in the spirit of Halloween, for it could be argued that for homeowners, there is nothing more terrifying than opening the door and seeing a bunch of teenagers on the doorstep.