Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ghost of Halloween Past

Check it out:

That would be Nate, age 4 months, with Charlie, age 24. Wow, does he look young. (Nate, too.)

Halloween 1999 was one of those days that stand out crisp and clear in my memory for no obvious reason other than that it was nice. Other than that I was happy, and the people I love were happy. I suppose it was somewhat memorable as our first Halloween as a family, but I’m not sure that’s explanation enough. Beside the fact that we dressed our baby up like a chick and walked him around in the sleet trick-or-treating (yes, you read that right), it was a pretty standard Halloween.

I remember it began to snow before noon, the flakes turning to particles of frozen rain before I got off work. I went on a run in the late afternoon to find the streets slick with ice. I remember it was dark by 5 pm (par for the course for a northern Washington autumn), and a few early bird trick-or-treaters were already commandeering the sidewalks, their costumes covered up by winter coats. I remember making a big pot of chili and pan of cornbread, and having friends over later in the evening after the baby had gone to bed; we watched The Blair Witch Project and scared ourselves senseless.

It was nothing terribly memorable, but still, whenever I see this photo, I smile. And my heart lurches a little.

Maybe it’s because life was so different then. We were still straddling that line between young adult and mature parent, family and coupledom. I don’t think we could decide who the holiday should center around that year, or how. Most of our friends were still single and childless…we ourselves were still caught like deer in the headlights of unexpected parenthood. Most of what we did still revolved around us, our needs, our desires. We were us, and Nate came along for the ride. It wasn’t a bad thing or a good thing; it just was.

Slowly, that equilibrium shifts, of course. The needs of the child--and then children--edge out the needs of the parents to a certain degree; I‘ve never figured out how this can be avoided, or even whether it should. Now Halloween begins sometime in late September when everyone starts brainstorming costumes and doesn’t finalize until October 30th when everyone has finally settled (for the third or fourth time) on what they’re going to be, and then there’s 4-5 carnivals and fall festivals and you have to make caramel apples for the preschool and damn you never realized how messy making caramel apples can be (because you probably didn’t do it right) and you need a ream of vellum for the 4th grade ghost art project and there’s a fun run and a costume parade and by the time it’s Halloween night, hey, look at that...instead of watching it on TV, you now resemble that girl from Blair Witch, panting in terror with sticks and bits of debris in your hair.

And then your spouse reminds you that you used to make chili and cornbread on Halloween night, or maybe he doesn’t, because he’s older and wiser now and knows better.

This post was inspired by the Spooky Story Starters writing prompt at Mama's Losin' It.

Also, if you're looking for me today, I'll be writing over at 5 Minutes for Going Green. Come join me!
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