This past weekend, my husband hauled all the Halloween boxes from out of the basement for the annual decoration ritual. As the calendar changed from September to October, it all begins, the fall holidays that come and go, urging the winter ones right along behind them.
This time of year, like so many of them it seems, carry heavy reminders for me personally. From the first moments of October all the way through to the end of the year, it's as though each week practically has some date that means something in one way or another.
October carries more than a few of those dates.
The first of October has become one of the hardest days of the year for me, for reasons that I still haven't shared here and maybe never will. Probably never will. As time passes, I find myself even more protective of the people who were here in many ways, even though they've been long gone and are no longer in need of my protection, not that they ever necessarily wanted it to begin with.
Anyway, we were unpacking the boxes of all things Halloween, lamenting the fact that we almost never put things away in an orderly fashion. Costumes are supposed to have their own boxes, outdoor decorations their own, indoor ones separated, and so on and so forth. What ends up happening, regardless of our best intentions is that we tend to just throw it all into a box and banish it to the basement until the next time.
I need to be better about that.
As we were pulling things out, a pattern emerged. One that I didn't have to deal with last year because I was so deep in the postpartum fog that the decorations never even made it out of the basement. One that I didn't have to deal with because those boxes were never unpacked. Instead, the contents all remained stashed away down where I didn't have to see them.
Halloween is probably my favorite holiday for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it's really the last remaining holiday that isn't encumbered by huge expectations. No gifts to buy, no places we have to be, no obligations raddled with guilt. Just fun. That, and my kids are clinging tightly to this idea of family costumes, which both amazes and amuses me tremendously. I know that I'm on borrowed time here, I feel like I have been for a while now. Waiting for someone, anyone to outgrow this thing we do, to demand that they go their own way. It hasn't happened yet, and for that I am grateful.
I love Halloween. I always have.
It usually makes me so content inside. The changing seasons, the earthy tones of the decorations, the chill in the air, the comfort of blankets and warm cups of tea. The mystery and the intrigue. You can be whoever you want to be this time of year. For a person like me, that's pretty fantastic.
I do love Halloween, but something happened this weekend as we were unpacking the boxes that made it all hurt a little bit in a way I didn't see coming. Grief is like that, though. It tends to sucker punch you in the gut when you least expect it to. I truly should know this by now.
We took the rug out for the kitchen, realizing that that the baby's name isn't on it alongside all the rest of us. My husband asked where my Mom had ordered it from, said we'd just get another one.
I took the candy bags out of the boxes, the ones that I don't even think the kids have ever used, the ones individually embroidered with their names, the ones that are too small to be practical for kids who won't stop trick or treating until they can't carry their loot any more. Those ones. They all have names on them. They were all from her.
But the baby doesn't have one.
He doesn't have one because she was gone before he came.
Then out came the pumpkins. The silly little decorations. The orange smiling plastic jack-o-lanterns that, not surprisingly at this point, are personalized with the names of the older four. From her.
This was my mother. All the things. All the things for all the holidays. Everything had to be personalized and so far over the top that it was almost nauseating. It was too much.
It was all too much.
It was always too much.
Until it stopped.
And now I just miss her. I miss her so damn much, and I'd give anything for another holiday full of silly things emblazoned with the names of my children. I'd give anything for her to have had a chance to meet this sweet boy and shower him with nauseating personalized trinkets for every single holiday.
I miss you, Mom.
It sucks to be here without you.
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