This column was originally printed in the October 26, 2011 edition of the Barrow Journal.
Happy Halloween and Turning Forty
When you’re a child, having a birthday on Halloween is a pretty cool thing. Besides cake and presents, you also get to dress up in a funny costume and go trick or treating. You get invited to parties, and though they aren’t for you, everyone pays you special attention.
When you’re an adult with children, having a birthday on Halloween is a pretty cool thing, but only because it’s easily forgotten.
My five-year-old is so excited that Halloween is coming. He decided several weeks ago that he wanted to be a ghost. Since I’m not a crafty person, we went to several stores the other day looking for a costume. Why are ghost costumes so hard to come by? Sure, we could just throw a sheet over his head, but I wanted something more creative.
We finally found a ghost costume his size, but it has a scary mask with it. He doesn’t want to wear the mask, but he’s happy with the rest of the costume. I tried talking him into wearing make-up or at least a white hat, but he doesn’t want that either. So, his costume may look a little incomplete, but he likes it, and that’s all that matters.
As for my two-year-old, I’m hoping he’ll be happy with the Peter Pan hand-me-down. Since it’s a non-frills costume (which we needed when the eldest was this age), I’m hoping it’ll work well for him too.
We’ve done a little decorating. “Little” is the key word. As I said, I’m not a crafty person, and decorations tend to stay subdued at my house. But we’re slowly adding on to them each year, and my son and I have made a bat and pumpkin out of construction paper. We strung some pumpkin lights in our activity room and a few paper ghosts on the front porch.
I’m happy to report that the small pumpkins my son grew this summer and harvested in August are still firm enough to sit on the porch without attracting flies. Unfortunately, his second crop of pumpkins is not going to be ready for the holiday. The plants are flowering right now, and I doubt they’ll survive the winter, but you never know in this unpredictable Georgia weather.
We still have to visit a pumpkin patch, attend a Halloween carnival, and read more Halloween books. But behind all this ghostly activity, I am aware that I will be reaching the summit and climbing “over the hill” on Halloween.
Once she reached the age of forty, my grandmother told everyone she was 39 for about 42 years…until the day she died. My mother takes a different approach. Sometimes she’ll tell people she’s older than she really is because she wants them to think she looks great for her age.
At least for now, I don’t mind telling people I’m forty. I think I’ve earned my age, and I’m looking forward to this next decade.
Perhaps some will argue with me (and I welcome that because I’m still learning on this journey), but I think by the time you are forty, finally you have a grasp of the myriad of emotions, possibilities and disappointments that life offers. You have probably lived enough to see or be touched by most of them.
At forty I know I’m extremely lucky. Though I have lived through heartache, disappointment, lonely times and humbling times, I have kept healthy, and I have not suffered severe tragedy. But I’ve watched disease and tragedy touch the lives of loved ones, so I know how easily it could happen to me. I try not to take my life for granted.
Not all my dreams have come true, and this still stings. But I hold onto this tiny card I found in the packaging of my one of my son’s toys: “You know what? Not all dreams come true. But that’s okay because you can always make new dreams.” It’s attributed to “Katie, age 4.”
It doesn’t surprise me that such wisdom comes from a four-year-old. I have gained more wisdom from rearing young children than I ever had in my previous, childless life. And the best perk of homeschooling is that I get to explore the world and learn along with them.
They have taught me that happiness is truly in the small details. It’s in the everyday routine and the little discoveries we make along the way. I think this is why I love photography too. It has given me a keen eye for small details, light and shadows. Everyday objects come alive in the right light.
If there’s anything I hope to instill in my boys as they grow older it is not to forget those feelings of wonder. I want them to hold onto their curiosity. The world begins to get darker as we grow older, but that doesn’t mean those small joys are gone.
So I’ll be sneaking candy, lighting jack-o-lanterns, and following my boys’ lead on my birthday. Hopefully there won’t be any trickery. Just smiles, giggles and treats.
Happy Halloween to all of you! May you receive lots of treats and no tricks this holiday.