Last year, the girls' Halloween costumes took forever. They decided in early September they wanted to be cardinals and I patiently waited several weeks in the hope they would change their minds to something easier.
Since there were no pre-made cardinal costumes to be found, I got on Pinterest (cue ominous music) and went about making some. I chose assorted red fabric, bought and returned several red sweatshirts, and found little synthetic red feathers that are still turning up in various corners of our house one year later.
The costumes took weeks to make. Every day and every night, I spent all my free time cutting and laying out and sewing.
Due to a freak October snow storm, several parties and our local parade were all canceled and pretty much everyone gave up on Halloween that year. The girls wore their very pretty, very labor intensive bird costumes for exactly two hours while they trick-or-treated to dark unwelcoming houses in our neighborhood.
I felt gypped. I had worked so hard! The costumes were awesome! NO ONE APPRECIATED ME.
Is that why I did it? To be appreciated?
This year, the girls decided to be Laura and Mary Ingalls (Z insisted on being Laura "because she's the coolest" and E refused to be "BABY Carrie" so she was officially Mary and it's all a little confusing so don't think too hard about it.) It turned out we already had one dress and bonnet that worked for Z, we borrowed a gorgeous handmade dress from Marie Green, bought a few bonnets off Amazon and VOILA.
CG and I even got in on the act.
It was fun. It was easy.
I so appreciated it.
A couple of weeks ago I stood up in church during joys and concerns (a time when congregants can ask for a stone to be dropped into a bowl of water in honor of their life's milestones), opened my mouth and out came this:
"When my dad died last February, someone told me my grief would ebb and flow. This is one of those flow weeks. So if you would drop a stone for me and anyone else who is having a flow week."
I spent the rest of the service weeping on and off.
Then this past week, a local girl died after a year long battle with brain cancer. It was all over the local news and her memorial was held in a high school so thousands could attend.
Many of my friends changed their Facebook profile pictures to her image or a golden ribbon in her honor and I was so moved by the increasing numbers of gold ribbons in my Facebook feed.
But I didn't do the same.
I just kept thinking of the day people will change their profile picture to something else. All those matching images of her will slowly but surely disappear like the tide going out.
I just couldn't bear making that decision myself.
Grief will ebb and flow. How much do we control that ebb with our thoughts? Our actions?
Last October, we were wondering what was going on with my dad. His cancer was in remission. But no one could figure out why he was still having bizarrely debilitating symptoms.
Last October, a little girl and her family were struggling with terrible news.
By this October, they would both be gone.
By next October, we will be remembering them still. In our hearts if not in our Facebook feeds.
Halloween night, 1981.
I was carving my first ever pumpkin with my family. I scooped out the fleshy insides, slimy and pungent in my bare hands.
I was rushing, ready for the next part, thinking about how we would watch "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" when we were done. I didn't wash or wipe my hands before picking up the paring knife.
I grasped the knife for my very first cut, pressing hard, and my palm slid down the knife in one smooth, horrible instant. The knife cut through skin, muscles and deeper still and I don't remember much after that except my mother washing my hand in the sink, calling to my dad it was bad and we had to go to the hospital.
I had surgery and months of physical therapy to remedy the injury and didn't carve a pumpkin again until I was an adult.
Every year since I first became a mom, I've nervously envisioned carving a pumpkin with my kids. I was sure I would help them learn from my mistakes, with careful hand washing and painstaking knife skills.
Then, two years ago, when it first seemed possible, I bought one of those ubiquitous pumpkin carving kits and realized with a start that my kids would never have to carve a pumpkin with a paring knife. They would use these tiny serrated non-knives with dull tips, no doubt borne from years of kids like me appearing in ERs across the country.
My kids carved pumpkins this year and while they worked, I told them the story of the scars on my hand. They stared and then marvelled at me when I told them how I rushed and hurt myself.
How could you have cut yourself so badly, mom?
Last week, I was teaching in Sunday school and arrived early to set up the day's activities. The pre-k kids were going to have a sensory bin with open pumpkins and spoons for them to scoop and play.
I was running late.
(There seems to be theme here.)
I picked up an old, dull paring knife and proceeded to hurriedly hack away at the top of a pumpkin, trying to open it up quickly so I could move on to the next thing.
Something in me, something like wisdom, rose to the surface. I paused. I took a step back and looked at what I was doing.
I went slower. I didn't finish as quickly as I wanted to.
It didn't matter.
Maybe my kids will not have to learn from my mistakes. But maybe I will.