I’ve been dreading today. Like one dreads a visit to the dentist. You know what’s coming – a lydocaine shot in your gum, that awful drilling sound into your tooth, lying with your mouth open, getting a cramp in your jaw and needing to swallow. It’s bearable, but definitely not enjoyable. You do not look forward to the appointment. That’s how I feel about Halloween.
We didn’t celebrate Halloween in South Africa when I was growing up. It was something I knew about only from watching The Cosby Show and Three’s Company. It looked like a lot of fun, I will admit – dressing up, trick-or-treating with friends, candy, spooky smoke, hilarious mishaps. Fun but completely foreign. American. Definitely not Jewish. Something I would never have the opportunity to participate in. And yet here I am, three decades later, living the Halloween dream.
It starts on October 1 in my house. “What should I be for Halloween, Mom?” For someone who really prefers spontaneous to planned out, this is like hearing the whine of that drill on my tooth enamel.
“Can we talk about costumes closer to the time? Why don’t you think about it in the meantime, and we can discuss in a few weeks.” And please, please don’t ask me again until then, I silently pray.
But they do. They ask me every few days. They come up with all sorts of ideas that involve me going to Target, or to that Spirit Halloween store that suddenly pops on every corner as soon as school starts in August. Catalogs arrive with glossy photos of elaborate knights and fairies, Skylanders and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They beg for costumes that cost over fifty dollars, and when they realize that is definitely not happening, they start looking on Amazon for the versions that are sixteen dollars.
We have bins full of costumes – in all sizes and for all genders. We’ve been celebrating Halloween for almost a decade with two, three and finally four kids. I announce that I am not buying anybody a costume this year – find a costume from what we have, or make one I declare. I feel quite proud of myself actually. I am encouraging them to be resourceful and creative! They’re a little disappointed, but they realize I’m serious.
I loved it the first few years – when there were two kids to dress up, and we could go trick-or-treating early in the evening because they had to be in bed by 7pm. When they were too young to know about carving pumpkins. We would ooh and aah at our neighbors’ amazing jack o’lanterns, and scary Halloween decorations. We would collect a little bit of candy, but the oldest didn’t like candy, and the youngest was too young to eat it. It was low-maintenance, easy, something we watched more than did.
But ten years and an additional two kids later, it’s a full-blown, all-consuming, month-long planned operation. And I have to execute it all. The costumes are just the start. “When are you going to buy candy, Mom?” This was two weeks ago. Again, too far away to think about. “When are we going to the pumpkin patch, Mom?” Umm, I can’t even figure out today’s schedule, so how about let’s not?
The emails from school and after-school are relentless. “Your child may dress up for school on Halloween.” Read: your child must be in costume on Halloween, or else he/she will be the only child not in costume. Can’t have that.
“Your child may attend ballet in her costume.” Really? Revision: “Actually, we’re not having ballet the day of Halloween.” Really?
“Your child can wear his costume to the soccer game on Sunday.” What?? Who can play soccer dressed as Rafael the Ninja Turtle?
“Please parents, come to the Halloween party our class is having” – as if they’re not going to eat enough sugar today – “and stay for the hour-long parade around school” (reschedule the vet appointment, and definitely that dentist appointment, and anything else you may have had planned for today), “and don’t forget, all today’s after-school activities and homework clubs are canceled.” It’s Halloween!
Okaaay, I decided yesterday – something’s gotta give. It may as well be me. Orange is actually my favorite color. And I adore pumpkins – they’re quirky, and lovely to look at and to touch. My husband carved them with the kids while I was out of town. At the next request for candy, I climbed up on a chair and found two huge bags in the pantry – yes, they’re from last year. Listen, candy is candy and the nagging stopped. (But I do understand if you don’t want your kids to come trick-or-treating at my house). My hopes of staying home and sitting on the porch handing out my stale candy were dashed, when every one of my kids looked at me with wide eyes and asked if I was also going trick-or-treating this evening. Yes of course, I replied, we’re all going.
My little girl improvised from top to toe, and went from being a vampire to a biker and back to a vampire. One son used the other son’s costume from last year and is a banana – he really didn’t want to be a banana but he made it work with good cheer and excitement. The school parade was adorable – every child had an incredible costume and a huge smile! There was even a fifth grade flash mob to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
This morning, my daughter announced that she couldn’t sleep last night.
“Why couldn’t you sleep, Sage?”
“I was just so excited, Mommy. I can never sleep when I’m excited about something.”
The sun is shining, clear sky, California Fall at its best (it always rains the day after Halloween in the Bay Area) – and who doesn’t love orange velvet cupcakes decorated with black frosted spiderwebs? Let’s just be excited!
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