I’m paralyzed by Halloween.

Our box of decorations is sitting in the corner as it has for weeks, my sewing machine is perched on the table– threadless and indecisive– and I haven’t made a single batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

Halloween is a ‘mom’ holiday and my mom rocked Halloween.

At the beginning of October she pulled out a notebook as we detailed our costume fantasies–centipede, spaceman, robot, witch, princess, lion. Eschewing patterns, she simply cut and created. I’ve heard of kids who begged for store bought costumes but we were conceited about our mother’s masterpieces.

I grew up in an old hunting cabin– down the golden wheat field lane, through the canopy of trees and beside an alternately roaring and frozen creek. The ancient house couldn’t be destroyed by our antics and the vast property beckoned with endless adventures. Our lack of neighbors and remote location gave my parents the perfect excuse to forbid trick-or-treating. And 1970s news reports of poisoned candy and razor-filled apples cemented their decision.

“We’ll have more fun at home!” my mom chirped.

And we did.

We raked massive piles of oak leaves in front of our swingset; pumped our legs into the blue and leapt into the musty leaf piles. Pulling pumpkins from the garden, we lent them features while mom scraped one clean for a soup tureen. “You need a healthy dinner tonight.” she advised while ladling rich stew into our bowls.

At twilight, we dusted off our costumes and trotted down the lane and across the bridge to our one neighbor’s house– the Greers– where they admired and spoiled us.

Home again, dad poured entire bags of candy into bowls while mom heated oil for homemade doughnuts. Scrabble, UNO, Old Maid and Monopoly (monotony) stood ready while we melted caramel over popcorn. We played and ate until we sank into a sugary stupor.

I finally went trick or treating at age 12 and found it profoundly disappointing.


Numerous friends have warned me that the holidays would be hard this year, that each event would trigger memories and tears. And so I’ve tried to clear my schedule, to find space.

Grief is a mountain that I’ve been climbing ever so slowly– slipping, falling, gaining scarcely any altitude. There are beauties and wonders along the way but no valleys in sight.

Last week, something happened (and the worst things are always the ones we can’t share aren’t they?) that sent me tumbling to the bottom of a mountain and deep into a black pit that I didn’t even know was there.

I didn’t handle it well. I’m not as strong as I thought.

Happiness surrounds me, in my childrens’ faces and my husbands eyes. I know, I know we have so much joy ahead of us. Today I’ll thread the sewing machine, search for a clown nose and–who knows?–maybe by Saturday I’ll make doughnuts too.

October 27, 2009



  1. dalene

    October 29, 2009

    i have no words of wisdom. just a hang in there and an i love you.

  2. Glazier5

    October 29, 2009

    As I sat here reading your post I just took a step back in time…completely visualizing your “hunting cabin,” the creek, the Greers…I’m glad for great memories!

  3. Selwyn

    October 29, 2009

    I wish I could hug you in person!

    Be gentle with yourself, and remember you are not falling down or on your butt alone.

    Luvies, SK

  4. Tracy

    October 29, 2009

    What wonderful memories you are making for your children too.
    Love you, t.

  5. Kim

    October 29, 2009

    Michelle, I hope the climb will get easier for you soon. The description of your childhood Halloweens sounds incredible. I’m sure your kids will have just as many fabulous memories.

  6. Melissa

    October 29, 2009

    Thinking of you Michelle.

    Crumbling under grief is not a sign of weakness. It is one of love. You are every bit as strong as you think you are, and moreso.

    Love you.

  7. Jess

    October 29, 2009

    Your description of your childhood home and your amazing Halloween tradition made the romantic in me sigh deeply and long for such a place. You have such a way with words, Michelle!

    I’m sorry for your sadness and missing your mom. She really was an incredible woman…I only wish I could have met her! I hope that my children have half the fond memories you have of your mom and all she did to make holidays and life special.

    I wish I could hug you for real.

    Lots of love to you…

  8. Abi

    October 29, 2009

    You are amazing Michelle!

  9. Jeanelle

    October 29, 2009

    I wish I was as strong as you…I know you don’t feel strong but you so, so are.

    You and your cute family will have a good Halloween because you’ll be together, enjoying each other, loving each other. And not that you need an out but your kids don’t need to go trick-or-treating — they can just go to the pantry and get into that big box of German chocolate!

  10. Christie

    October 29, 2009

    Just keep going forward – it’s all you can do. Hugs…

  11. Alyson (New England Living)

    October 29, 2009

    I’m so sorry, Michelle. I know what it’s like to feel so weak and low. You are strong, don’t doubt yourself. Feeling deep, painful emotion for a time does not make you weak. My heart truly breaks for you. I hope you find some joy this Halloween. xxx

  12. Travelin'Oma

    October 30, 2009

    It happens to me all the time. I remember something else my mom did to make life special, and realize I probably never said thanks, or even appreciated the memories she was creating.

    I pray all the time that someone will give the message to my parents that I am grateful for what they did. If they were still alive, I think I would still be my unappreciative, ornery self, wondering why they were cluttering up my busy life.

    I miss them both, and especially my mom. But I’ve learned so much from them since they died. As I gather up the memories, I can hardly wait to create a similar feeling in my own family.

    For you, this is a time of remembering, appreciating and gathering. You’re going through the most precious box of treasures your mom left you—her time, attention and personal strengths. It’s bitter-sweet, but it will fill you up with love and a desire to incorporate her ideas into your personality. Hang in there. It will become sweeter,and the bitter part will be gone soon.

  13. martha corinna

    October 30, 2009

    I’m sorry Michelle. I don’t know what to say except that I hope you have a happy halloween. Your childhood Halloweens sound lovely.

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  15. Kira

    November 3, 2009

    That you for sparking my own memories of my childhood. We grew up in San Diego…our nieghborhood was not really a great neighborhood. My Mom also didn’t do sugar so we had a party at home. I remember being 18 the first time I went Trick or treating. I lasted about a 1/2 hour. I found it very boring. Your kids have a great mama. They will be fine if you let it all go this year and bask in the wonderful memories.

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