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.