My valiant little burger

This past weekend was Goblins in the Garden again. Anthony was in the Philippines and so he missed this trip, as he did last year, which makes taking pictures of events like this about a thousand times more important than just logging it for posterity's sake. Now the pictures are so that Anthony can experience it as first hand as I can make possible.

Last year it was really warm and Hollis seemed flushed and warm the entire time we were there. This year I was strategic in my costume choice: it had to be open, not cover his head or legs, and be adaptable for either hot or cold weather. Enter, the cheeseburger! (I scored this one from Pottery Barn Kids of all places.)

And, sure enough, it was mid-70s, requiring a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. I definitely scored one for Team Mom on that one.

Once there, it was abundantly clear that Hollis was, once again, one of the most precious toddlers there. I don't know how else to say it even though I know I sound like an asshole. Of course other kids are beautiful and adorable and all those warm fuzzy things you like to say about kids, but truly, there aren't a lot of kids who stop strangers in their tracks because of their cuteness like Hollis does.

Until now. Behold, Princess Leia:

I took about a dozen pictures of this baby girl and about died from the cuteness.

There were tables set up around the central pavilion's wishing well where kids could look at bugs and artifacts. At one table was a man in a ghost outfit with animal skulls lined up in front of him. The face on this "ghost" was more ghoul-like, think Scream murderer guy, and the man behind the mask asks Hollis if he'd like to touch a skull. He holds what looks like a raccoon skull out and as Hollis tentatively reaches for it, the ghostman lunges with his free hand and freaks the shit out of Hollis who starts at the move and takes a step back.

My mom is ready to lunge over the table, but I'm more level-headed about it. Sure, this guy is an asshole and made a bad judgment call, but I was really interested in seeing how Hollis handled himself. He was pressed up against my legs, but he wasn't crying. He just stood there and processed. The ghostman felt bad and so offered the skull again and this time didn't make any moves as Hollis' hand reached out and touched the skull. Then I calmly and quietly took his hand and walked away while my mother muttered curses under her breath and what a son-of-a-bitch that guy was.

I calmed Mom down and kept a firm grip on the hot little hand in mine. He seemed really ok, so we walked over to the "haunted house," which really was just a small corridor that the Wildflower Center staff had draped in black gauze with some purple lights here and there. It was colder in that room by many degrees and fans fluttered the gauze making the walls move. Coupled with the sounds of a howling wind, this little space seemed truly other-worldly. There was a small 6 foot long tunnel that I would have to go through on my hands and knees and a curtain which hid whatever was on the other side. Presumably it made a horseshoe to the left with more hanging gauze and lights right out a door 8 feet to the left of the door you entered. Kids were wheeling through there at breakneck speeds and laughing the whole time. It wasn't so much "scary" as it was novel and maybe a little spooky.

Hollis didn't agree. It was all out no bueno for him.

I put him down in front of me and gave him a little nudge to move forward and he dug in his heels and said with more force than ever before, "NO!" I told him it was safe and that mommy would be right behind him and encouraged him to take a step but he backed up further into my chest and said again, "NO!"

We backed out and went to where the kids came out of the tunnel for a few minutes. He didn't realize that these happy kids had gone in that scary door and when we passed the entrance on our way to walk around he walked right up to it and tried to shut it.

Let's just close this portal to hell now, shall we??

To say that I was shocked is an understatement. This kid's got gumption! And is fearless! I remember being 7 years old and having to be carried out of a haunted house on my father's shoulder and there would have been no amount of ponies or ice cream in the world that would have propelled me to go anywhere near its entrance to shut the door! I simply was never as plucky as this.

It was at this point that system overload began: the scary ghostman, the scary hallway, all the children in costumes.

Hollis started howling like a ghost. "HooooooOOOOOOOoooOOOOOOo!" he'd say, "Toad! Toad!" Translation: "Did you see that scary ass ghost who boo'ed at me and did you see how cold and scary it was in that haunted hallway????" Click below to hear it for yourself.

27 seconds of amazing ghost-like cuteness.

He did this everywhere we went for the next thirty minutes, which, of course, just added to his incredible cuteness; a howling cheeseburger isn't something you see every day, after all. He didn't seem to notice the attention he was garnering in the least.

Then, to my disbelieving eyes Hollis began looking for the scary ghostman. I mean, actively looking for him. At first, I imagined it was so he could make sure he was safely far away, but that wasn't it.

Ghostman spotted!!

He still had some processing to do.

Once Hollis found him in the crowds of people he took my hand and led, yes led, me back to his table. We were within feet of this guy and Hollis was just looking with his blue eyes round. I could hear the gears catching and turning. He's never known fear before, has never before experienced anyone who wasn't 100% trustworthy. This fellow who had done the unexpected and looked strange was an anomaly of epic proportions for his two year old brain. And then something wondrous happened.

The ghostman took off his mask to reveal a red-faced, chubby, middle aged man with silver hair. He didn't even notice Hollis gazing at him with his mouth hanging open in awe and confusion. I felt I had just won the Lotto; what luck that Hollis could see this was something someone put on and wasn't real! Hollis pointed at the man and howled again but with less gusto and more confusion in his voice than before. I told him it was a mask, just a costume, and that it was make believe. I wanted to show Hollis that it was ok to be bold and so walked within inches of the man/ghost and he followed. We circled back around to the front of the table where my parents were waiting and we all just looked at each other in wonder. None of us could believe how bold and brave and fearless Hollis had been.

I decided to end on a high note and leave then. Hollis had slayed his first dragon, so to speak, and it was getting even more crowded and warmer by the minute. I'm still dumbfounded at his bravery, mettle, and fortitude in the face of uncertainty and the unknown. I mean, who does that?? Walks right up and shuts the door on something scary? Or walks right up to something unpredictable to observe and process?

Where did this little warrior come from? From me? A perversely shy woman who needs at least one glass of wine in her before she talks to strangers?? From his father? A painfully shy man who is happier in solitary pursuits rather than braving the unknown in others? It's like he was beamed down to us from outer space, or from a place of happy attachment and solid boundaries. A truly happy place. A place I wish I'd known as a little girl, for sure.

Wow... this was definitely one of those moments when the adult learned something new from the baby.


  1. That burger costume is one of the best costumes I've ever seen! Loved it. And his little "WhooooHoooo". It sounds like it was a great time. And good for Hollis for being so brave.

  2. oh my gosh that costume is darling. Ive never even seen one like that. He is such a sweetie in it too. you have a beautiful family
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  3. I do love that costume! Is he going to wear it trick-or-treating?

  4. That cheeseburger costume is to die for. I love it!

    And I am continually amazed by my own kids, too. It just really underscores for me how they are their own individuals. Yes, I have my influence, but they will be themselves no matter what.

  5. so cute... i love the clip of him howling...

  6. What a fabulous costume! I must say Princess Leia was waaaay too adorable as well. So very cool that you could experience him processing so many new experiences!

  7. Nice post - princess leia pictures ..Keep Posting

    princess leia pictures

  8. What a cute little howling burger! I just loved that audio clip. It sounds like you have a very brave (and yes, very adorable!) toddler there.

  9. Ive never even seen one like that. He is such a sweetie in it too. Work From Home