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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Tidd

The Ghost of Halloweens Past

So, I was talking to my neighbor at the bus stop (where I get all of my good gossip) and she was asking about our Halloween plans. Frankly, I love talking to this neighbor because she is constantly telling me what a magical single parent I am to be able to keep 3 kids on the straight and narrow.

"I don't know how you do it!" She says. "I can barely manage with one let alone three!"

The kids and I don't go down to the bus stop every day. But when I start questioning my parenting skills, I go for a little pick-me-up.

This morning she asked about my plans and I told her, "I've got to get some work done. But I'll be in and out all day trying to make it to the kids' Halloween parties."

"I don't know how you do that all on your own," she said.

I thought about that for a minute and then told her, "Well, I always have."

It's true. Even when my husband was alive, very rarely would he be home for all of the Halloween merriment because he was constantly traveling for work. We were one of those dreaded houses that just put a bowl of candy on the front porch while I took the kids trick-or-treating on my own, just praying that our pumpkins would all be in one piece when we got back and not the victims of disgruntled teenager pumpkin violence.

One year in particular will probably be my favorite Halloween memory as an adult - and somehow, even though he wasn't with us, my husband is a big part of that memory. He was gone (of course), leaving me with a 10 month old, 2 year old, and 5 year old to get ready for Halloween. Because our neighborhood is not really trick-or-treat friendly (especially for little people with short legs), my sister had decided that we should meet up near downtown Denver for a trick-or-treat street.

"It will be easy," she said. "All of the stores on the block will hand out candy so all we have to do is take the kids up and down one block and be done with it. Simple."

For some reason, it didn't occur to me that this might be hard, given the fact that we live way out in the 'burbs and that we would need to get to the festivities right when they started so that I could make the long trek back home and get all of the kids to bed on time. And, having lived in Colorado for most of my life, I really should have thought about the fact that it might be a little hard to get everyone ready for 20-degree weather, then put them in the car for a 1-hour drive, figure out a way to parallel park, load people into strollers, and meet my sister and her husband with their two kids at our appointed time.

Rookie mistake.

At 4:30 PM I eyed my kids and mentally put together my plan of attack. I pointed to my oldest daughter and said, "Head upstairs and put on long underwear, sweats, and then your costume. I'll do your face paint in a minute."

She trotted off while I put the baby on the floor and proceeded to make her into a mini-version of the Michelin man with 2 layers of clothes under her Blues Clues costume. She squirmed and started to whimper in discomfort as I stood up and ran to the kitchen to make her a bottle.

"Ready!" said my oldest, waddling down the stairs in her fairy costume, stretched to the max over all of the layers.

"Okay, go sit in the recliner over there and push it back. I'm going to give you the baby and you're going to feed her while I get your brother ready."

She happily sat in the chair and I handed her the baby and the bottle while I put the required number of layers on my son. My husband, by now relaxing in a hotel room in Virginia, of course, called in the middle of this chaos (do they have the best timing or what?) and the conversation consisted of me saying, "Hi. I love you. We miss you. Actually, I'm really annoyed that you're not here. Gotta go. Bye." Click.

By the time I got the kids loaded up, they were all sweating and cranky. I slowly made my way downtown through the traffic with the air conditioner on high even though it was freezing cold outside. We finally made it to where we needed to be, got everyone unstrapped and loaded into strollers, and then spent all of 20 minutes trick-or-treating before all of the kids were too tired and just wanted to go home.

That Halloween, I was irritated, exhausted, tired, and annoyed. Now when I look back on it, I can't help but laugh at how we all must have looked - like the Griswalds on Halloween, trying to make the perfect memory, thinking at the moment that we were falling short, but ultimately making the most perfect memory.

And what does that have to do with how much I miss my husband on Halloween? I mean he wasn't even there!

Well. I'll tell you. It's strange how you can miss someone, just the fact of them, even if they weren't physically there to make that memory with you.

Because you still remember missing them at the time.

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