A Hero for Halloween

By Diane Stark

“What do you want to be for Halloween this year?” I asked my then four-year-old son, Nathan.

“Captain America,” he replied without missing a beat.

“Our last name is Stark though,” I said. “I think it would be really cool if you were Iron Man because his real name is Tony Stark.”

“Nope. I’m dressing up as Captain America.”

I’ve always been the kind of mom who believes in choosing her battles, so we went to the store and purchased a Captain America costume.

The next year, when Nathan was five, I asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween.

“Captain America,” he replied again.

“Are you sure? You were Captain America last year. Wouldn’t you rather be something else?”

He shook his head and folded his arms across his chest.

It was clear he’d made up his mind. “Oh, well, at least it will save me some money,” I thought. But when I pulled last year’s Captain America costume out of the closet, I could tell it was going to be too small on my growing boy.

So we went to the store and purchased another Captain America costume, this one a size larger than last year’s.

The next Halloween, when Nathan was six, I crossed my fingers and asked him what costume he wanted for Halloween.

You’ll never guess what he said.

“Nathan, you cannot be Captain America for Halloween three years in a row,” I said.


“Well, because…”

“Because why?”

“You’ll have to choose something else.”

“But why?”

I realized that for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a valid reason why a child could not dress up as Captain America three Halloweens in a row.

I sighed. “But remember how Iron Man’s real name is Tony Stark? You could be Iron Man’s little brother, Nathan Stark. It would be so cool.”

He folded his arms. “I really want to be Captain America.”

“Nathan, please, can’t you choose something else?”

And that’s when it happened. A single tear slipped down my son’s cheek. Was I really going to make my son cry over a Halloween costume?

I gathered him in my arms. “All right, Nate. It should be your decision, and if you want to be Captain America again this year, you can.”

I found last year’s costume in the closet and helped Nathan put it on. Then we both started laughing. It was skin tight and about two inches too short.

“I guess I need a new one again,” Nathan said, smiling.

So we went to the store and bought a third Captain America costume. As I paid for it, I hoped our Captain America costume collection wouldn’t continue to grow.

On Halloween night, Nathan put on his costume to go trick-or-treating. As we were walking, he spotted one of his friends from school.

“I like your Pikachu costume,” Nathan told the little boy.

The boy smiled. “And I like your… Hey, weren’t you Captain America last year?”

Nathan nodded proudly. “This is my third year as Captain America.”

“Don’t you want to dress up as something different?”

I liked this little boy already.

“No, I like being Captain America.”

The boy shrugged. “His movies are cool.”

“Yeah, but that’s not why I like dressing up as him. Captain America is a soldier, and my daddy was a soldier. And today is his birthday.”

“Your dad’s birthday is Halloween? That’s awesome. Presents and candy in the same day!”

I didn’t hear the rest of their conversation. I was too busy digesting what Nathan had said. I’d never guessed that his Captain America obsession had anything to do with my husband’s military service. Tears filled my eyes as I remembered how many times I’d tried to change his mind and make him feel as though there was something wrong with dressing as Captain America for three years in a row.

There was nothing at all wrong with it. After all, my husband dressed in camo for eight years, and many men serve our country for far longer than that. And every one of them is a hero, and not a fictional one like Captain America.

Later, when Nathan and I were alone, I apologized to him. “I didn’t know that you wanted to be Captain America to be like Daddy.”

He nodded. “He’s my hero. And it’s his birthday.”

The tears were back, but Nathan was too excited to notice.

“When I grow up, I think I’m going to be a soldier. Either that or a paleontologist.”

I smiled. Nathan loved dinosaurs almost as much as Captain America costumes.

Today, Nathan is nine years old. We haven’t purchased another Captain America costume, but Nathan still wants to be either a paleontologist or a soldier. If he decides on the former, I’m not sure he’ll be able to find a job. But if he chooses the latter, my fears for him will be far more serious.

But just as I had to let him choose his own Halloween costume, when the time comes, I’ll need to let go and allow him to decide on his own career path. No matter what he chooses, I’ll be incredibly proud of him and always concerned for his well-being.

I don’t want him to grow up and leave home, but I know that he – like all of our children – will be in God’s hands when they can’t be in our arms.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark

    Diane Stark

    Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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One Response to “A Hero for Halloween”

  1. Rose Ann says:

    He wanted to be the real Stark…this touched my heart!

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