Our two older kids were anal, compulsive overachievers whose Halloween costumes reflected their personalities. Sam, the older one, first went as Alexander the Great, not only demanding candy, but unconditional surrender from the neighborhood, as he moved from door to door. Next, he was Genghis Khan. And then he went as Napoleon, where he really hit his stride, with a huge black cape, the black cocked hat, many medals on his red sash, and a scowl that had emperor written all over it. But as he got older, and learned more about the actual system in the United States, he went as a Master of the Universe, that is, as the head of a worldwide conglomerate, with a thirst for mergers and acquisitions.

Meredith, his younger sister, also wanted to change the world, but to save it, not bring it to heel. Thus, in her first great costume, she went as a barrel of toxic waste. Her trick-or-treating included distributing literature explaining the importance of saving the Super Fund cleanup funds, which at that point the Republicans were trying to eliminate from the federal budget. (She was 9 at the time.) A couple of years later, she went as an eyeball. It was an ingenious costume, designed to promote eye care, a subject dear to her heart, since she was very nearsighted. Helpful handouts from an ophthalmology doctors’ association thrilled our neighborhood. Her crowning achievement was to go as the “Blue Monkey,” an inhabitant of the fast-diminishing rain forest.

Sam started his first company while a student at Berkeley, went to business school, and is rising fast in the world of Internet marketing. Meredith, at Harvard Law School, has just returned from a summer working with the U.N. High Court for the Rwandan Genocide, which is situated on the Rwanda-Tanzania border. Both of them have been true to their Halloween costumes, or perhaps Halloween just brought our their true personalities.

Our much younger third child, Shef, went dressed in whatever was simplest. His goal was to get the candy.