Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch
The autumnal festivities are quickly approaching
Hughson’s Truck-or-Treat event at Lebright Fields on Halloween night, the Trunk-or-Treat generally held at the Assemblies of God Church, the Harvest Festival at the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This year, we have to consider our schedule carefully as we are no longer residents within city limits.
We are planning an early dinner-snack of fruit, veggies, and possibly some homemade butternut squash soup before donning costumes. The costumes this year are simple and nearly complete. My four children will dress as Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and with the star, our youngest, Peter Rabbit. We have bunny ears leftover from Easter, khaki pants, white shirts, red capes for the older three and a blue shirt with brass buttons for Peter, hoping it fares better than it did in the Beatrix Potter classic.
The greatest challenge to costumes for us is inspiring them to pick a theme and stick with it. We’ve had failed pumpkins in the past, a train conductor accompanying Cinderella, and a missing Macbeth because he needed to go to bed.
This year, everyone is on board, though I question if their ears will last the night.
We plan to hit the Harvest Festival for free corn dogs, chili, and games. Then haunt our old neighborhood, frightening old neighbors with how much our children have grown in the six months since we left.
As my tolerance for sugar-drugged children is low, we are not too strategic about Trick-or-Treating. We will hold as out as long as the youngest can, and with a young, bearded version of Mr. McGregor by my side, I feel we will make great strides this year.
After dark, when toddlers go to bed, we will build a bonfire outside and try to focus our littles on why we celebrate Halloween: that death and darkness have no power over us.
In the morning we attend mass for All Saints Day to celebrate the souls who have gone to Heaven. During the following day, All Souls’ Day (also known as “Dia de Los Muertos”) we visit the cemetery to honor and pray for our loved ones who have died.
Life is cyclical
As I plan all this, we have a little black kitten prowling about our house, looking for a piece of furniture, a set of toes, or a baby blanket to attack. In the front, a tree company cuts down an 80-year-old Deodar cedar perilously close to the power lines and road. We have a daughter whose gravestone decorates St. Stanislaus Cemetery, and I feel the pulsing kicks of a 27-week old baby inside me. Our garden bed now teems with bulbs and our mulberry trees’ overgrown branches look at us ominously. All around us, there is new life and life passing away.
It is sad, but it is as it should be. There is something cyclical to all things nature. The seasons change, circling back. The earth turns. The moon waxes and wanes. We grow older and new babies arrive.
I like this stage of life when I live with both realities. Death is real but does not crash into my world the way it did when I was 13. As parents of a child with a chronic medical condition, we live with an elevated level of risk every day.
Yet he grows taller and more willful and wilder.
If we isolate ourselves with only those in our circle, only those with whom our lives mirror, who are in our age group, marital status, have the same number of kids or same career responsibilities, I fear we miss something of the richness available to us.
So what do we do?
For our part, we’ll knock on strangers’ doors Thursday night, say trick-or-treat, thank you, and explain our costumes. We will drive carefully, mindful of the children dashing across the street, enjoying the independence we had as children. We will smile at parents hanging back on the sidewalk because we are not ready to let our littles loose (because of that whole “dashing” risk). Halloween is not a spiritual event for everyone but it is a community event, a valuable event, and an event I wouldn’t want to miss.