“Um, Mom? There’s a tooth in the pumpkin seeds…”

I hate Halloween.  I despise it really.  It comes at THE most inconvenient time of year.

Halloween strikes at the end of the first nine weeks grading period, the time of the year when reality is setting in for my students and everyone is suddenly reaching out for help all at once.  It’s usually the week of parent conferences and in the middle of my students’ semester-long research project.  It’s near my mother’s birthday and usually accompanies the first big Alabama cold snap that I somehow always, ALWAYS fail to see coming.

To me, Halloween means: 

  • daily trips to walmart for one million extra random things needed for classroom parties and Halloween-themed science experiments.  
  • frantic digging through boxes of mislabeled hand-me-downs because the box labeled “H 10 some W some S” which should mean “Henry size 10 some winter and some spring” apparently means “everything I have to get out of Lillian’s dresser so she has room for swimsuits because we are going to the pool today for the first time and I’m not sure she has a suit that fits.” 
  • more shopping trips to buy jackets and pants because nothing in the hand-me-down box fits.
  • seeing pictures of people’s adorable yet freakishly elaborate fall decorations and admitting to myself that three pumpkins is all I can manage this year.  Again.
  • getting the kids to commit to costumes — and reiterating that they CANNOT CHANGE THEIR MINDS — and then start figuring out how to make it all work…which means borrowing things from friends and convincing my son that the green shirt and shorts combo he needs for his outfit will have to be old green swim trunks and his sister’s green t-shirt turned inside out to hide the glittery heart design.  
  • skipping lunch on the day of Halloween to run to the store — again — because I forgot to buy candy on the other ten trips this week.  How on earth did I forget to buy candy??
  • making kids do homework assignments two days in advance (oh, the moaning) so that we have one free evening to carve pumpkins and one to get costumes finalized.
  • worrying over pumpkin carving as kids beg to use the big knife and insist “I can do it myself!” all while Henry tries not to vomit at the smell and texture of pumpkin guts.
  • saying no to the constant refrain of “Can I have another piece of candy?” for weeks.

 No, I don’t like Halloween.

But my kids do.  They really love it.  To them, Halloween means:

  • laughing with their friends at spooky stories and gross facts they’ve learned at interesting Halloween-themed lessons.
  • the return of some of their favorite clothes (“Oh!  My soft purple sweater!  Yippee!”) and the demise of ones they hate (“I can finally give away these itchy shorts? Yea!”)
  • endless possibilities of costumes.  They discuss favorite characters from recent books and TV shows.  They debate the cutest versus the creepiest animals.  They work together (usually without arguing) to make spider legs out of paper towel rolls and yarn, debate the merits of eyeshadow versus eyeliner for freckles, and construct cat ears out of duct tape and a cat tail from a feather boa. 
  • the even greater possibilities for their pumpkin faces.  Are we going for funny or scary this year?  What is the best way to carve a logo?  How do I make googly eyes?  They brainstorm and critique, again, with minimal bickering. 
  • traditions like “Spider.”  We have a giant ugly creepy, fairly realistic plastic spider that we hide around the house — in laundry, under pillows, on the toilet paper, in lunch boxes — to scare each other.  Once you are on the receiving end of a scare, then you have to pass the scare on.  This goes on for a couple of weeks and can involve increasingly elaborate set-ups, many with moving parts.  We’ve had two blood-curdling screams so far this year.  
  • endless debates about the perfect candy, keeping candy inventory, juggling candy, building candy towers, etc.
  • toasting fresh pumpkins seeds and eating so much someone gets a stomachache. 
  • trick-or-treating around campus at the boarding school where we live.  There’s a hayride for the kids.  They seem to like cold Halloweens best where we snuggle together against the wind because somehow we forgot blankets. Again.  
  • watching the pumpkins slowly rot on the front porch until we finally put them in the compost pile so we can have yummy potatoes next summer.

My middle child, Lillian, likes holidays the most.  She loves traditions, especially holiday traditions, and she considers Halloween the “start of the holiday season” which ends at New Years.  Sigh.

I try to see Halloween the way my kids see it.  I try to focus on the joyous parts and ignore the extra work.  

Some days it is easier than others.  Usually, however, our two different views of the holidays merge.  Usually, our holidays are both fun and chaotic.

For example, yesterday was Halloween, and it was Parent Conference Day at my school.  During my late afternoon conferences, I started receiving texts from my children:

“When are you coming home?”

“Where are the extra sharp scissors?”

“Can I spray paint my hair now?” 

“It’s OK if I open the grey face paint, right?”

“What should I use to clean up grey face paint off the floor?”

“Can we open the candy or do we have to wait?”

“I need you to pull my tooth.  It’s an emergency.  It’s BLEEDING.”

My last conference ran late, so I arrived home and hit the ground running.  Child by child and chore by chore, things started coming together.  It was a flurry of painting hair, pulling a tooth, lighting candles, and taking pictures.  Somehow, we got out the door in record time and arrived at the hayride early.  

Later that night, after the chaos and cold and fun, we couldn’t find the tooth.  We hunted and hunted with no luck.  The tooth fairy would have to come a different day.

This morning, one of the kids went to get the pumpkin seeds ready for toasting.   “Um, Mom?  There’s a tooth in the pumpkin seeds…”

Happy Halloween.

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