When he was three years old, my son Evan discovered dinosaurs. By the time he was five, he had watched every BBC dinosaur documentary made to date. He watched each video every day, morning and night, for about four months. Then I would get him the next one. Dinosaur facts and figures effortlessly seeped into his little-boy brain, along with the narrator’s beautiful English accent. Evan became such a dinosaur expert for his age, one October a friend of mine—and huge fan of Evan’s—gave him the costume of Aladar, the orphan dinosaur, star of the animated Disney feature film, Dinosaur (2000).
When he was five, Evan was buried in the costume because it was too big. The precious padded belly pooched out adorably and Evan couldn’t do much more than stand around as the girls in his nursery class rubbed Aladar’s tummy and giggled. When it wasn’t Halloween, Aladar was the half-stuffed friend Evan dragged around the house, always his audience or partner in room-to-room adventures, dinosaur-inspired or otherwise. A noble guest, Aladar was often head-on-the-table for afternoon tea when Evan set up, on top of a cardboard box, his sister’s bunny-and-flowers ceramic tea service.
Fast-forward four years. The costume comes out of the closet for one last Halloween. Even though it is more than a foot short, Evan insists on wearing it to school for a presentation. Evan now knows how to be a dinosaur. He is nine. He gets into the skin of Aladar. The skin is tight, but after so many years of play, Evan knows the body well. He’s decided it’s gonna fit and he’s fully conscious of the power and mystery of Aladar. He stalks, searching for prey. A blinding-white shape flashes in the shadows. He pretends to hunt Joey the cat, but decides he needs to hug the fur ball instead of kill prey.
The night is cold and still, yet, every now and then, loud and squealing with laughter. In his socks, Aladar hits the neighborhood streets. He hunts for treats with a stealth befitting his size, and socks. House to house he lumbers, up and down the big hill leading to his own cul-de-sac. His pillowcase of candy becomes heavy. Eventually, he emerges from the dark and trudges through the front door. He lies down on the floor. For a few minutes, he’s prone. Suddenly, as soon as he’s down, he’s up, ready to sort his candy treasure and get ready to trade.
He turns his pillowcase upside down in the middle of the living room and assesses the size of the pile. He sees a prized piece of chocolate and, in no hurry, unwraps it and tosses it in his mouth. He chews in slow motion and smiles.
“Ahh . . . meat!” grunts Aladar