Thursday, November 01, 2012

Halloween Then and Now


Since we moved into our current house almost three years ago, we have celebrated Halloween according to our neighborhood's traditional parade. On the 31st, we dress the kids up, meet at a main intersection around 5pm and walk the half-mile or so down a long sloping street and down a steep hill to the pavilion at the Swim & Tennis center, where there are hot dogs to enjoy before the trick-or-treating begins. All the while we take part in people-watching and the excellent fall weather. So far, it has never rained.

As the shadows fell long on our parade route yesterday evening, I couldn't help but remember last year's Halloween. Gaines wasn't able to be with us for some reason -- he probably had a class or couldn't get off work. But my mom came up for the event. The evening shadows fell long, then, too.

She was there, I remember. Jacob remembers. Ethan remembered. Last night, he remembered walking with DD "beside a large tree." (Which in our neighborhood, could be anywhere!) I vaguely remember introducing her to some neighbors. I hope I was in a good mood, but I was probably slightly annoyed at something, and took it out on her, what with my failing to procure a proper ghost costume for Jacob and settling on a white pillowcase with holes for eyes. It kept slipping off, and both he and I kept getting frustrated, so he finally just took it off. 

J 2011  
But Ethan as Elmo was pretty cute. 

E & J 2011

E 2011

I'm not sure why Calvin didn't wear his yellow jacket costume for the parade -- only for a few photos afterward. I think here he is being a "Yellow Jacket Fan." Better last year than this year, buddy.

C 2011
I remember she didn't talk much while we walked the parade route. I remember it was cold. I remember how last year, at the end of the parade, while I went in line to get the hot dogs, my mom waited with Calvin and started talking to a neighbor I hadn't met before, a new mom, and ended up telling her the story of my preemie birth. I remember we had chili, and how it made me think of my parents' golf course and how they had started out selling chili dogs and sandwiches at lunch and now have a real restaurant upstairs. We didn't trick-or-treat long that night, only a few houses (luckily the kids weren't old enough to care!). We came home, warmed up, put them all to bed. At some point Gaines came home before bedtime, because at least I have some pictures of the boys with him.

I have been looking back at pictures from October of last year searching for something, anything with her in it from that night. Anything. All I found was this:

Oct 31, 2011

 I'm not even sure which direction the picture should go, but you get the idea. Mom relaxing with her youngest grandbaby on her lap. Discarded bee/Buzz costume on the sofa next to the tissues and a stack of children's Bibles. Seems about right. She was always reading to them. This was probably taken after the older two were in bed and we were probably watching HGTV or the Food Network.

And this year, this year was fun, yes. I was more relaxed for some reason, even though I didn't finish Ethan's robot costume until THE very last minute. (I was still adding foil tape to the box when our friends arrived and I completely forgot to cut up and add the 5 feet of dryer vent duct stuff we were planning to use for Ethan's robot arms and legs bought just for this occasion. Sigh.)

E 2012
The boys had a blast. I enjoyed myself, enjoyed seeing everyone. Still, the shadows were a little too long for me yesterday.

up the hill 2012

In between chasing down the kids on their bikes and keeping them from running into people or falling head over heels onto the pavement, I had time to reflect on the difference twelve months makes in our lives. How, at Calvin's birthday party this year, my mom told me to "take pictures of me with the boys, because I may not be here next year." And I didn't believe her.

Tomorrow will be an entire month since Mom died, and I still keep wanting to call her and tell her about all we are doing. I keep waiting for her to comment on my album on Facebook. I keep expecting her to drive up and spend the night in the basement, in the bed with the sheets that I still haven't washed since the last time she visited in August. I still keep crying over letters and photos and missed moments. I wasn't going to cry while writing this blog post, but I find myself with tears running down my face.

Last night, there were neighbors who knew about my mom, who had even met her, but who I hadn't seen in a while. They offered wonderful hugs. And there were neighbors who didn't know, and I ended up telling, who offered comforting words. One said she was surprised I was "doing so well," because when her husband's parent died he didn't leave the house for two months. In that case, I guess I'm alright. God has certainly been sustaining me, been ever-present and real in the midst of grief.

My children have been so mature beyond their years, so understanding. They know I am sad more often these days. They know I am usually sad because "DD is gone." One day last week, while riding to church in the van I was sobbing, quietly, at a letter that had arrived in the mail from one of my mom's friends. Jacob told me, "I want to give you a surprise when we get there." And he got out, ran around the van, and gave me my surprise: a giant hug. And then he looked up at me, touched my tear-streaked face and said, "Now let me wipe those tears away for you." Oh, my, I've got a sweetheart. He's going to make someone a very good husband some day.

I've realized I am now the sole keeper of the family photos. She will never organize them, like she'd always planned to do "someday." I am the only one who will send out Christmas cards. I am the thank-you note writer, the historian, the collector. Yesterday, I realized I am the only actual administrator on the Facebook page for my parents' golf course. (I probably should teach my dad how to use Facebook, but I'm not sure he ever will). I suppose I should update it. Or not. I'm still not sure exactly what to do with my days.

For now, I will write. I will write memories as they come, and I will write about things that are happening to us just as if she were there to read them. Because even if no one else reads these words, they help to ease the pain just enough for me to keep going. One day, one event, one holiday at a time. I know the shadows will not be long forever. The sun is coming.

 I know the mountains will rise high again,
 I know the letters will make words again,
 I know the winter will grow warm again.
-- Eric Peters


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