Colleen and Val sent me this blog right after Halloween, but it got lost in the midst of my trying to move.
Re-reading it this week, I realized that it, as with most of our blogs, doesn’t require the holiday to still be relevant.
The things that matter aren’t the things we sometimes worry over.
What matters is being there. As mindfully and as fully as you can.
Halloween is this month. My husband and kids love to dress up and decorate. This year he and the youngest had big plans for a haunted garage. Except he deployed. Those plans are distant memories. I want to put a witch costume on the kids and throw up some bats, paint a stupid pumpkin, and give out the cheapest candy I can find.
I knew I could manage costumes if I got most of the stuff from Amazon. I can handle shopping right now as long as I can do it at 11 o’clock and have things just magically appear at my house. Luckily, they picked some costumes that were extremely doable this year. I even found myself starting to get into it…. Almost.
We went to the Girl Scouts’ scarecrow building event and they got a complimentary pumpkin out of that… AND a hayrack ride. Two fallish things that just happened and I didn’t have to think too hard about making them happen. WIN!
One of our neighbors put all of their haunted house decorations up for sale. I knew our youngest wanted to make a haunted house. This was the easiest way to get all the things we needed. I bought 2 bins of body parts and bloody cloth. She told me all the scary things in her wild imagination. Body parts, bloody sheets, rats and spiders, and face paint.
I can do this.
I can do this in less than an hour with our bin of body parts.
It’s not as easy with the pumpkin carving. Gosh the pumpkin carving. I have such amazing memories of doing that with MY Dad that my natural bent for that event is to step back and let Daddy have it while mostly I sit at the table and smile. Except Daddy isn’t here. He is also the one who actually has a visually artistic bone in his body. If you wanted me to write a beautiful passage about a Jack-o-lantern, I’m your girl, but carving them… I’m just not so great it it.
It’s not just the doing of it, it’s the doing of it and the fact that that reminds us all the he’s not here. I know it, and they know it, and the pumpkins usually show it. The Daddy years have pumpkins with scenes or fun flowing lines or great creativity. The just Mom years feature a lot of triangles and squares. And that’s why I hope that when they look back, what they’ll remember is that Mom DID show up to make the holidays holidaysy, even though she did it imperfectly.
I spent Halloween morning hanging trash bags and tying fake plastic body parts to the garage rails. I rushed to the grocery store to buy the “good” candy so we would have extra. He always likes to give out the good candy. I did it all while in my head I could only think about how “if he was here” it would be easier. The dishes were in the sink. Laundry was piled around. The bathroom counter was strewn with Halloween makeup. I painstakingly drew whiskers and eyelashes on a six year old girl’s face so she’d look like a witch cat. I lent my good costume jewelry to the ten year old. I helped her wrap her scarf. She was a beautiful gypsy. I put makeup on myself and dressed in a black dress. They were happy I was dressed. We tramped through the neighborhood with the friends they brought along. I was exhausted. My feet ached. Daddy usually takes them. When we returned home, we gave out candy to the trick or treaters. When it was over, I still had to untie trash bags from the garage rails. If only he was here, I could wash them and he could take everything down. I was exhausted.
When the six year old lay in the bed with me and her dog climbed across us, his eyes droopy, she sighed and looked at me with her deep blue eyes. She said, “this was the best Halloween ever. I love you, Mama.” I did it. I was there for them. Even without my life partner, I was able to make Halloween.
Exhausted, I closed my eyes, content that I am a hero in her little eyes.
That morning we woke up slowly, and I piled them in bed first thing to watch the Charlie Brown Halloween special. Linus jumped in the pile of leaves and advised them not to do so with a wet sucker and the world felt a little righter. Trick or treat plans were negotiated upon and agreed on with friends. Finally the time came and my Glinda the Good, Wicked Witch of the West, and Lady Bug Girl posed for pictures before we took off with five other neighbor friends and another Mom. I’d had a feeling of Halloween Bah-humbug for most of the day, but as I walked the streets and saw my neighbors smiling at one another–and saw the lengths that some people were going to to simply be kind, I remembered that one of the reasons I enjoy Halloween is because it gets even the Humbuggy ones of us outside and smiling at one another.
We made it home and passed out our own candy. The entryway and porch weren’t perfectly cleaned up the way my husband would have had them, but we got the job done. Then, I sat down to email pictures off to my him on a ship on the other end of the world, and I thought about the sailors around him who would get similar crops of pictures of their kiddos carving pumpkins and dressed up in costumes. I thought of them huddled around computers in their spaces, sharing pictures of one another’s kids and getting a taste of the holiday and a feeling of home, even if they weren’t there in person to get their share of the Halloween parental Candy taxes.
These moments apart are far from perfect, but they can still be good.
And now we get ready for Thanksgiving.