Last night I saw orange, and I exploded. My insides burst out of me in a gooey, slippery mess of seeds and stringy fibers, and I know my eyes flashed scarily like a Jack O’ Lantern in the dark.
After a too-schleppy day of school, appointments, ballet, errands, multiple drop-offs and pick-ups in the same place but at different times, dinner was not yet on the table, and the moon was rapidly rising white and full in the dark sky. 7:30 p.m. was not the time to carve pumpkins. And I definitely did not want to hear you ask me about it… again.
I’m sorry I screamed so loud and for so long that my throat hurt for hours after and the raw sharpness lingered in my brain and heart overnight. I’m sorry because no matter how hard I try every October to join in your bright excitement and candy-covered dreams, I am overwhelmed by your expectations, your requests, your costumes, your plans to make this Halloween the one to remember. And you do, you remember them all.
I’m sorry because you all love Halloween, and I hate it. I know you know this. I dread it.
As soon as summer is over and we are barely a week into the new school year, it looms. Mentions of costumes, parties, candy, and pumpkins creep like ghosts into conversation when the leaves are still green and clinging to their branches, when I’m seven after-school activities deep into my four color-coded desk calendar and I can’t get my head around tomorrow, never mind Halloween that’s still two months away.
I wish I had told you last night in a firm, quiet voice (instead of vomiting my Halloween loathing all over the kitchen) that no matter how carefully we plot and plan for this one day, something is bound to go awry and I don’t want you to be disappointed when that happens.
It might rain on Halloween night (it never does), or perhaps someone won’t be feeling well (like me) and we will have to cancel trick-or-treating, or your costume will suddenly feel too small or too uncomfortable or all wrong. And none of these are particularly big deals and it’s really OK if any or even all of this happens, but if we spend the entire month of October talking about, imagining, and planning these few spooktacular hours, your expectations are bound to be far greater than the reality. And so is your disappointment.
I wish I had calmly told you, instead of morphing into a screaming banshee, that I am once again proud of your creativity this year. You know not to engage too enthusiastically with me about costumes (in other words, don’t nag!), and I am impressed with your collective imaginations. You have brainstormed together and resourcefully borrowed, made, and raided your own closets. I wish I had said, “Good job!” instead of, “NO!”
I should have explained, rather than exploded, that my dread of the looming specter of Halloween has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. That I am still learning our routine in October, even though we are already well into the school year, and that the gloriously orange pumpkins that dot our neighbors’ porches remind me of yet another thing I didn’t do today.
Cobwebs do not flutter on our hedge and there are no plastic bag ghosts floating eerily from the tree out front. The front steps need to be swept, but I know the trick-or-treaters will still brave our naked porch to claim their candy.
I don’t love Halloween, but you do, and I wish I had taken three deep breaths and kept my scary outburst to myself. As long as it doesn’t rain, I think Princess Leia, Mr. Penguin, and Karate Kid will have a Halloween to remember, indeed.