Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Celebrate.

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Girl Warrior. Celebrate. Everything. And anything. You can always find a reason. Take a moment every day to honor and take pleasure in something. Even the smallest and simplest. The stuff that’s so easy to overlook. The outwardly ordinary. The seemingly run-of-the-mill. Start here and let it grow. Like a heaven-sent happiness seed.

You woke up. You’re alive. You’ve been blessed with another day to give this life your best shot. A clean slate. A fresh beginning. Another day to dream and scheme and breathe utter brilliance into every single thing you do. Take note and rejoice in that astounding thought.

Make every day a special occasion. No matter where you are or who you’re with. Enjoy every second. Whoop and holler. Party hardy. Live it up. Have a ball. Kick up your heels. Be silly and make a fabulous fool of yourself. Let things get insanely messy. Eat drink and be merry. Dress up and go out on the town. Or throw a pajama party for all your besties. Celebrate your friendship, your sisterhood, and all those you hold near and dear. Crack-open a bottle of wine or a bottle of pop. Dunk Oreos in milk. Make bread and break bread. Have big wonderful meals together. Or snuggle two-by-two. Make hot chocolate with extra marshmallows and read a good book. Celebrate your priceless alone time too.

Celebrate the holidays, special occasions and all the magnificent milestones along the way. Don’t let them slip carelessly by unnoticed. For these are the markers of your life. The things you’ll look back on that will make you smile and fill your heart with joy and gratitude. These are the essentials of memory making. The lumps in your throat, the flutter in your heart, and the shiny tears in your eyes. These are your finest happy pills.

Girl Warrior, cherish the gift of celebration all the days of your life. You will never be too old.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Annual Thanksgiving Jam.

316591_10150309850086266_1794444596_nI love Thanksgiving.  It’s like Christmas without the retail hook and hassle.  In Canada it’s a fairly low-key, somewhat muted holiday.  I find this understatement peculiar, since we celebrate in October, which is smack-dab in middle of Autumn’s glory. In most of our country, it’s a month of colorful spectacle.  Fall is strutting her stuff.  Showing off in every possible way.  Crisp days.  Big blue skies.  All those bold radiant colors.  Red and orange dominate the scene.

But in typical Canadian fashion there isn’t a lot of hoopla around this holiday.  Perhaps because it falls during a month when we have a fun and flamboyant fete. Creepy costumes and free candy are far more compelling than counting your blessings and gobbling turkey. Maybe having two holidays in the same month is just too much merriment and mirth.  Thanksgiving is like the peas of October.  You just want to get it over with so you can get onto the good stuff.  Have some dessert.  Lick your lips.  Let it all hang out.

At the end of the day, there’s just none of the fanfare that our southern neighbors bestow on their holiday of the same name.  No Macy’s Parade. No colossal pro football marathons.  This isn’t our biggest travel time of the year. We don’t flock from hither and yon to be together.  That’s what we do at Christmas. Plus, the next day isn’t Black Friday, the American fever-pitched super-sized shopping day of the year.

That’s just not us.

Technically the Canadian Thanksgiving occurs on the second Monday in October.  However, I doubt many of us actually celebrate on that day.  I bet if we took a poll, we’d discover many of us “do it” on the Sunday.  This allows at least one full day for recovery. It’s damn near impossible to fill your face with a ton of tryptophan-laced turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, canned or homemade cranberry sauce, a buffet of sauce-laden vegetables, copious amounts of wine or beer, ridiculous amounts of sweets, not to mention pumpkin pie, all topped off with strong freshly brewed coffee, with or without a hit of Baileys.  You can’t possibly expect to go to work or school or daycare the next day.  Seriously, can you?   No.

The Americans get Black Friday and Christmas shopping.  We get an alarm clock catapulting us from our collective Canadian tryptophan comas.  It’s a deplorable first world problem.

So in full-out Canadian style rebellion we celebrate a day earlier.  It’s defiant I know.  I guess to be fair, and God knows I’m all about fairness, not all Canadians do this.  But this is the way it goes down at our house. And has, for as far back as I can remember.  I’m a real stickler for family traditions. Just the way I roll. Or rock.  Bang my head and fall over.

When I was younger I completely overlooked, and took for granted, the “thanks” in Thanksgiving.  I didn’t appreciate the earth’s bountiful harvest, its lavish cornucopia.  All that was lost on me.  Christmas was the shining star, the big holiday kahuna and nothing could compare. It was all I could think about from the moment the Maple trees, that lined our street, turned from green to gold.  Yes, the family meal was delicious.  And yes, having a long weekend in the middle of October was nice too.  But beyond that, it was a lukewarm holiday at best.  No matter how hard Ma tried to make it lovely and festive.  It was never more than a pre-curser to Christmas. Well into adulthood I was still wishy-washy when it came to Thanksgiving.

300420_10150309848916266_1742277456_nBut that all changed about twenty years ago.

Something wonderful and miraculous and completely unexpected happened.  It began with a casual impromptu jam on the Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend.  It was unplanned. Unrehearsed. Unscheduled. Nothing fancy. No big fuss.  Beer and chips.  Maybe a crudites or two tossed together.  A few bluegrass musicians.  And a whole lot of really fine music.  Little did we know that this modest unpretentious shindig would blossom into something legendary.  At least in our circle, amongst our tribe.  That first Saturday night grew into something so glorious and stupendous.  One of the highlights of our year. Talked about for days and weeks afterwards.  Imagine that.

Quite simply, on that Saturday night twenty years ago, our Thanksgiving was transformed.  A new tradition arose from the ashes of apathy.

The following year we planned the occasion.  Somewhat.  We invited a few more jammers, family and friends to join us for an evening of appies and music.  It was still an intimate and simple affair. A kitchen party through and through.  But the day after, basking in the glow of an evening done well, we began planning the next one.  By year three, we opened our home to even more musicians, family, friends, colleagues and neighbors.  There was a generous overflow of musical talent, food, laughter, kindness, joy, love and memories.  Beautiful memories.

304123_10150309850896266_2094474882_nThus began B and E’s Annual Thanksgiving Jam.

For over a decade we gathered for these jams on the Saturday night.  The morning after, I would wake up early to put the turkey on for our traditional family dinner.  This was a smaller, more intimate festivity attended by our immediate family and a few close friends.

We celebrated and gave thanks this way for well over a decade.  The Saturday Night Jam and the Sunday Family Feast.  Weeks of planning and preparing food followed by two intense days of celebration became too much for this old broad.  E and I made the decision to combine the jam with the feast, pare back the guest list to a manageable number and host a less demanding Thanksgiving Jam on the Sunday evening.  This has been pleasant and enjoyable.  But just not the same.

Last Thanksgiving we had no idea what was in store for us.  E may have had some inkling because the cancer was brewing in his body.  But the rest of us were clueless.  It was a big year.  One that took its toll.  Drained us both physically and emotionally.  We were often in the mud wrestling with the devil.  Other times we danced and soared with the angels.  We were all over the place spiritually.  E has had his recovery to contend with.  But so have I.  Sometimes I think he’s farther along that road than me.  I’m still untrusting of the process of life.  Wary and weary at times.

But we’re here.  I’m grateful for that.

And because we’re so very grateful, E and I decided that this year we would resurrect our Annual Saturday Night Thanksgiving Jam.  We’re doing this thing.  Celebrating the past year and all that it has taught us.  We’re celebrating our life. Our family. Friends. Music. Laughter. Joy.  Love. There will be turkey and ham and all the traditional trimmings. There will be apple and pumpkin pies.  Autumn will be showing off.  So will we.

And our hearts.  Our sweet Canadian hearts will give thanks for the opulent abundance that is all around us.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Lessons in Gratitude and Patriotism.

IMG_1825Grateful and patriotic.  That’s how I felt last weekend when E and I escaped again to the mainland.  This time there weren’t any medical procedures tagged onto the end of our trip.  No Big C cloud hovering over our heads like an alien space ship.  Just two glorious days of freedom and fun with our oldest daughter A.  Quite simply, it was divine. And exactly what the doctor ordered.

I like to keep an attitude of gratitude. I’m happier and far more optimistic when I do. Life just feels richer and amplified when I see the glass half full. This thankful continence isn’t always easy to maintain though.  Sometimes I engage in rip-roaring pity parties of one. But most of the time I count my blessings.  And they are many.

Last Saturday afternoon, smack dab in the middle of a busy crowded downtown Vancouver street, I had an epiphany.  The sun was shining gloriously overhead.  The energy and positive vibe in the city was electric.  Music and laughter, breezy summertime conversations, and the smell of suntan lotion wafted from every street corner.  It was picture perfect.  Endorphins flooded my limbic system, and by doing so released a profusion of happy childhood memories of summers at 204. In an instant, I was as lighthearted and mirthful as a ten year old girl running under the garden sprinkler. Yippee!  It doesn’t get much better than that.  Another neat thing happened in that moment. My gratitude muscle expanded and skyrocketed, then soared heavenward through the brilliant clear blue sky.

Giddy with glee, I turned to E and said, “Life doesn’t get much better than this.”

He looked at me as if I had suddenly grown two heads. I fully appreciate why he would find my declaration untrue, given the circumstances of our life right now.  But before he could protest or disagree, I repeated, “Life doesn’t get any better than this.  In this cosmic moment, which is all we have, life is perfect. Just the way it is.”

Then he got it.  His eyes welled with tears and he smiled. Big honest smile.  Right from the heart. One filled with gratitude.

Later that day, our daughter took us to a baseball game at the Nat Bailey Stadium, where the Vancouver Canadians and the Tri-City Dust Devils were playing. I can’t think of a more definitive summer diversion or pastime than going to a ballgame.  Some people find this game boring. Too quiet and slow.  But for me it is beautiful.  Elegant. Subtle and masterful. First and foremost, a team sport.  Yet each player has a time when they stand alone at home plate.  Armed only with a wooden bat, years of practice swinging it, the sagacity and the wits of a street-fighter, the indelible voice of their coach always with them, the encouragement of their team mates, the cheers of their devoted fans, and the genuine love of the game.  It is there that each player, one by one, bravely faces the nine guys from the opposing team, all focused on the same thing. Stop this guy from getting a run.

My love of the game goes way back.  The Old Man loved it too.  He was one of the guys who started Little League in our hometown.  He coached and umpired games well into his senior years. When I was young, I used to tag along and sit in the weather-beaten wooden bleachers and cheer on ‘our guys.’  It was during those long hot steamy Northwestern Ontario summer nights, that I fell for the game and the boys who played it. During my Toronto years, The Old Man loved visiting, especially in the summer.  Going to a Jays game was a dream come true for him.  To see a major league game close up and personal was beyond his wildest imaginings.

The Nat Bailey Stadium is gorgeous.  Most people wouldn’t describe a sports stadium this way. But to me it is. This was my first time, and like many firsts, it was memorable and I loved everything about it.  The pre-game excitement, the smell of popcorn and hotdogs, pizza and beer, cotton sundresses and pink cotton candy, fans in red tee-shirts and baseball caps, flip-flops flapping up and down concrete steps, hoots and hollers across the stands, the red wooden bleachers with perfect views of the field, the calls from the beer guy and the fifty-fifty girl, the playful fan photos taken with Bob Brown Bear, the cornball music, the repartee and easy banter of the announcers, the pre-game warm-ups, the national anthems, and the crack of wooden bat on leather ball.  Gorgeous.  Every last bit.

Before the game begins two national anthems are sung.  I don’t recall the name of the singer only that she gave a virtuoso performance.  Flawless. Resplendent. A crackerjack job. I love the American anthem.  It’s impressive and majestic.  But I’m a Canadian girl.  Through and through.  Tried and true.  Homegrown, born and raised.

From the very first note, when this crowd of devoted Vancouver Canadians fans stood shoulder to shoulder, hats in hand, young and old alike, and gloriously sang our national anthem, I was moved. Unexpectedly touched yet filled to the brim. With patriotism. With pride. With gratitude.

Oh Canada.  Dear sweet Canada.  My home and native land.  I am so grateful to be here.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Search for Meaning.

E on his throne enjoying the Christmas festivities.

E on his throne enjoying the Christmas festivities.

I’m a seeker.  Especially at Christmas time.  I search for perfect gifts for everyone on my list. Ones filled with wow and wonder.  I comb second hand stores for delicate vintage glass ornaments like the ones we hung on our tree at 204.  I inherited all of Ma’s and have been growing her precious collection every year for the past decade.  It’s my magnificent holiday decorating obsession.

I scour cookbooks, online cooking blogs and recipe websites looking for something new and delicious to bake or cook over the holidays.  In the end, nothing compares with the treasure trove found in Ma’s sacred and magical Gurney Recipe Box.

I flip through fashion magazines for inspiration on what to wear for all those festive occasions.  This is a silly pastime because E and I don’t attend those kinds of affairs.  Yet I do it anyway.  It pleases me.

I’m also bedazzled by sparkly festive shop windows.  I hunt for the perfect holiday outfit.  I daydream about a beautiful more glamorous version of myself that will somehow magically appear like Cinderella at the ball. I wonder what it would be like to knock ‘em dead at our office party.  I fantasize about a transformation from drab nondescript woman in the corner cube to glamor girl in the shimmery dress with legs that never quit.  That never happens.  Even the younger me couldn’t have pulled that look off.  Truth is, that’s not me. Never was. Never will be.  But it is fun to play that movie in my head once a year.

Pursuit of the perfect gift, recipe, or dress aside, what I really seek at Christmas time is meaning. What’s it all about?  This search trumps everything.

With E’s cancer diagnosis hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles, the desire to find something deeper, more profound, more significant was intensified.  It served to remind us of the fragile nature of this life we live.  Teach us to grab onto every precious moment like it was your last.  Embrace the ones we love.

We were given a reprieve from the fear and anxiety that brought us to our knees the week E was in the hospital.  The Friday that he was released from the RJH was glorious.  A heaven-sent day.

The first thing E did when we got home was take the dogs for a walk in the crisp clean December air.  It was as though he was breathing for the first time.  He could walk unencumbered by the inescapable steel dance partner he had been hooked up to all week.  Free from all the medical machinery that monitored his every heartbeat and breath.  Free from the antiseptic smell that clung to every cell and fibre of his being.  Free to walk upright. Stride. Strut. Swagger. Flounce his new found freedom up the rocky hills that surround our home.

Simply be alive.

For as long as I have known E, he’s been a real crank about Christmas.   He would happily take a page from Rip Van Winkle’s book and sleep right through the entire month of December.  It was the same old thing every year.  Come the day before Christmas, the spirit would finally move him and off he’d go in search of my Christmas present.  Some years this was found at the local Shoppers Drug Mart down the road.  When M got old enough he solicited her help. This put a stop to the drugstore gifts.

“I’ll make sure he gets you something really good Ma,” she’d say.

And she does.

Of course, it’s not about the quality of the gift.  Or even that there are gifts at all. But in our family, we do enjoy this tradition. We like to acknowledge each other in this manner.  It’s sounds cliche but it isn’t so much the gift as the giving.  As a family we like this and we’re good at.  One look at our living room Christmas morning says it all.

This year, the curmudgeon grouchy bah humbug E left the building.  Like Elvis on August 16, 1977.  Replaced by the new and improved version.  Enthusiastic and joyful.  Happy to celebrate. Cheerful and charitable. Without complaint nor criticism. No protests. Gripes or grumbling.  Beefs or bellyaching.  And above all else, the new E, that emerged from the chrysalis on Friday, December 14, was grateful.

Deeply.  Profoundly.  Beyond words.

Recently, I read a quote by Cicero that really resonated with my spirit.  It expressed so beautifully the meaning I sought and found over the Christmas season.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

E and I are consumed with gratitude these days.  There is so much to cherish and give thanks for.  Starting with our love for each other.  For our family, our beautiful children, our granddaughter, our extended family and friends, our good neighbors, our understanding colleagues, the compassionate caregivers and spiritual teachers. Everyone who has touched our tender hearts so sweetly.

Kindness and compassion.  Generosity and magnanimity.  Big-heartedness and goodness.  It’s everywhere.  Dressed in the same attire.  Cloaked in the fabric of love.

Jesus and John Lennon were right. Love is all you need.

I’m grateful for that.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Christmas Dance.

Hugs after the dance.

I have many fond memories of Christmas.  The wonder years at 204 waiting for Santa’s arrival. Shaking the merrily wrapped boxes adorned with bright ribbons and bows.  Guessing the contents. Hoping and praying Santa brought the number one thing on my list.  Moody teenage walks through the evening snow pondering the true meaning of the season. Looking up to heaven for clues.  Breathing in the cold air and welcoming the white flakes on my ruddy cheeks. Celebrating the magical First Christmas for each of my three children. Planning and preparing, making lists, shopping, decorating, wrapping, hiding gifts, baking, cooking, roasting, mulling, eating, singing, laughing, welcoming and praying.  Joyous greetings.  And wistful farewells.  I love it all.  And recall with bitter sweetness.

There’s this little snapshot in my mind of one particular Christmas that always makes me happy and takes me back.  Not to 204. But to a snug cozy living room tucked away in my heart.  One filled with warmth and a whole lot of love.

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas.  A song came on the radio, a festive tune in three-quarter time.  A waltz.  Inspired by the music, E spontaneously scooped up M, who was two or three at the time and began to dance with her.  I watched as they twirled around the living room, E crooning to his little daughter, who was decked out in her holiday finest, a deep purple velvet dress with a white peter pan collar.   An angel.  Heaven sent.  Divine in every way.  M giggled with sheer delight as they swayed around the coffee table and sashayed past the tree laden with festive baubles and twinkly lights.  Her diaphanous white-blonde hair fell around her delicate face, her skin so blue-white you could almost see through it.  E was badly in need of a shave but on this wintery afternoon I found his two-day-old stubble somehow less objectionable.  Oddly endearing.  Downright gorgeous.

The Divine Miss M in purple velvet.

Around and around they danced.  It was glorious.  Took my breath away.  My heart and soul and every cell within filled with gratitude.  I never felt more alive.  Nor at peace.   Humbled by the awesome grace these simplest of occasions bring.  Clear out of the blue.  Unexpected.  Gifts from God.

Could this be what it’s all about?

As I sat on the sofa and witnessed this intimate father-daughter connection I remember wishing I could stop time and stretch the moment out forever.  Every once and awhile life presents a situation that is so picture perfect that it puts everything into perspective.

There it was.  The fullness of life dancing around the living room to a White Christmas.  Just for me.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: We are the Champions.

Ma and Mel surrounded by a sea of cat pillows.

On Halloween night I was driving home from work when I passed a little girl who was out trick-or-treating with her mom.  She was about six years old and dressed as a Princess.  She had a wand in one hand and a pumpkin candy bucket in the other.   It was just the two of them.

The sight of this little girl brought me back to another little girl, another Halloween night.  My daughter Mel was about the same age when she too dressed as a Princess for Halloween.  That night, we visited Ma at my sister’s place where she was staying at the time.  Ma was on the doorstep of death by then.  She was tired but uncomplaining.  As sweet as the candy being given.

I took this picture of Mel and Ma on my sister’s white couch surrounded by a sea of cat pillows.  It would be Ma’s last Halloween.  A few months later it would be her last Christmas.  Last New Year’s.  Last everything.  She would not see another Valentine’s Day.  The Old Man’s Sweet Heart would be gone by then.

The vision of that little Princess released a flood of tears. I longed for Ma.  And my own little Princess Mel.  I longed for all the little girl Halloweens where we walked the rainy streets while she collected her bucket of treats.  All gone.

As I drove down the road, the divine and powerful voice of the beautiful Freddy Mercury filled my truck with We Are The Champions.  Yes we are Freddy, I thought.   Mel, Ma and me.

Forever champions.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Why I Never Liked Halloween.

Daughter #1 makes fabulous costumes like this Mummy for my grand daughter.

I hate Halloween.  There I’ve said it.  I’ve come clean.  No more pretending.  Putting on a false face.  Wearing a polite mask while the rest of the world gushes fanatically about how killer Halloween is. I think it stinks.  Truth is, I’ve always hated it.  I can’t think of one happy Halloween memory.  It terrifies me.  Even as an adult.  I’m intimidated by complete strangers dressed in costumes and wearing masks or bloody makeup knocking on my door.  Even the small ones make my bones chill.  Nothing more sinister than a teensy weensy spider.   Some would say that’s kind of the point.  But not for me.  Before you call me the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween, in my defense, there are some spellbinding reasons I feel this way.

Little back story.  I grew up in a small town in Northwestern Ontario.  Winters were cold there.  Very cold.  And very long.  Bleak at times. Some years the first snowfall came as early as October.  And the last one could come in May.  May, for God’s sake.  In between the snow was relentless.  Some years it felt like perpetual winter.  Perhaps that was just the teenage me in a bad mood.  But still.

This foul, malicious mean-spirited weather played a major roll in shaping, if not permanently blackening, my recollections of October 31.  I don’t even know what to call this thing.  Is it a holiday?  An event?  A special occasion?  A celebration?  Festival?  For me, it’s none of these.  But it truly was, and always will be, a night of horrors.

Here’s the blood-curdling, hair-raising reasons why.

The Halloween before Ma died my youngest was everyone’s little princess.

1. I was a shy kid.  This made knocking on the doors of strangers difficult at best.  Okay, I’ll admit these were all neighbors’ doors.  But every year on October 31 they felt like complete strangers to me.  Creepy visitors from another planet.  They just seemed weird.  Not like themselves.  I particularly feared the ones who invited me in to retrieve my treat.  Then asked me to sing or something equally humiliating.  This was painful.  It scared the Bejesus of out me. You’d think they were handing out million dollar bills instead of a lousy peanut in a shell.

2. I didn’t have any siblings close in age to trick or treat with.  This meant The Old Man or my older sister, who was practically an adult, had to take me from door to door.  It was lonely.  And sad.  I felt like an outcast.  A loser.  There’s nothing more pitiful than a lone trick or treater. Not nearly as dreamy as the Lone Ranger. Not even close. This also brought out the green-eyed monster in me. I envied the rowdy screeching C kids from across the street who paraded around the neighborhood in their clannish cluster of clever costumes.  Their mother was off her rocker at the best of times but this zaniness came in handy when constructing costumes. She was an artistic genius with an imagination that knew no bounds.  Her costume making skills were unrivaled.  Having said that, it might not have taken a whole lot of talent to out-costume the rest of us.

The yellow crayon costume. I was proud of this one at the time.

3. The options for costumes were limited. Nothing like it is today. You couldn’t go to Walmart and buy one.  Nor could you order one online. There weren’t any pop-up costume stores.  There were no tickle trunks. None of that.  You were left to your own devices.  Make do with what you had on hand.  At our disposal at 204, and for most families of the era, were sheets with holes, black shoe polish, raggedy old clothes, chiffon scarfs, square bandanas, bed pillows, worn-out cotton house dresses, broken brooms, fake cowboy hats and silver cap guns from Kresge’s or Woolworth’s.  This mundane collection of household odds and sods gave birth to the likes of Aunt Jemima, Roy Rogers, various uninspired ghosts, bums, witches and lesser famous cowboys, the odd pirate, gangster or something vaguely resembling an animal.  That was it.

4. I was often sick on October 31.  Fever.  Cold.  Body aches. Runny nose.  Headache.  Stomach flu.  The shakes.  Just overall malaise. The change of season brought with it the usual run of childhood illnesses.  Mine seemed to start right around Halloween.  I would drag myself from door to door in my Aunt Jemima costume, scarlet freezing hands clutching the white pillowcase I used to collect my treats, uncomfortable wooly winter jacket left open because it wouldn’t close around my stuffed-pillow belly, the ground slushy, slippery, uneven and hazardous under my brown rubber galoshes, snot and tears pouring down my black polished face as the wind fought for possession of my sack of treats.  It was abysmal.

5. Most of the candy was as ghastly as the night.  Just downright disappointing too.  Molasses kisses.  Tons of them.  Everyone, Ma and The Old Man included, doled these out by the fistfuls.  They were cheap and adults liked them.  There was an abundance of the regular old suckers as well, mostly grape, which I hated.  Just plain bad luck that I ended up with so many in this loathsome flavor.  There was the odd BB Bat, which I loved, and Double Bubble which I could have eaten by the carload, and one or two Tootsie Rolls, which I seriously considered trading The Old Man for.  There were also apples and weird nuts.  Nobody ate those even back then.  Razor blades and poison could be hidden in anything.  Besides as far as I was concerned, healthy treats had no place in my pillowcase.  After all, this was Halloween.  The one time in the year where you could stuff your face silly with sugar.  Even if it was in the form of molasses.

This Casper costume was a colossal fail.

So there you have it.  I traipsed around the neighborhood with The Old Man, frozen, sick, exhausted, pretending to be the woman on a pancake box, terrified and lonely.  Only to get home to 204 to find a pillowcase full of disappointing and lackluster treats.  Of course, this did not deter me from eating every last morsel by the middle of November.

I stopped this torture when I was 11 or 12, and no longer “went out.”  Back then you didn’t wear your costumes to school, nor were Halloween parties widely embraced.  I was off the hook.  Also, decorating your house was unheard of.  If there was a carved pumpkin on the front steps you were possibly over-the-top and an extreme Halloween celebrator.  It wasn’t the festive occasion that it is today.  Not by a long shot.  At best, it was a blip in the radar on the way to the best holiday of the year.  Christmas.

There was a blissful decade where I avoided all things Halloween.  And then I had children.  Don’t misunderstand, it still wasn’t something I embraced, nor got enthusiastic about.  My costume making skills hadn’t improved with adulthood either.  My imagination in this area appears to be stunted or nonexistent.  I always liked the notion of a tickle trunk but just never got around to creating one. I was a terrible costume maker despite my Seamstress chops. I could make an evening gown for Ma but for the life of me I couldn’t stitch together anything interesting for my kids to wear for Halloween.  No fierce animals.  Nor mythical creatures.  Nothing regal nor royal. Otherworldly.  Nor conjured. Nothing evil.  Nor good.  I was hopeless.

My oldest daughter is a living doll in this costume.

Over the years I made two feeble attempts at fashioning a costume from scratch. There was the yellow crayon I made for my oldest daughter.  She graciously wore this felt tube a couple of years in a row. The first time it was a full length crayon.  Ankles to neck.  The last time it was more mini.  Knees to neck.  The other atrocity was the Casper the Ghost costume I made for my youngest daughter.  The head piece was a complete fail.  It looked more like a brain on steroids than poor Casper’s head.  Thank God she was only three at the time and unaware that the costume was a hot mess.  And that her mother was responsible.

This brings me to reason number 6 for finding Halloween horrifying. This has nothing to do with the child from 204.  This is all about the adult me.  I feel inadequate.  Ineffective. Incapable of making a good costume. A lifetime sewer and I can’t stitch together a single idea that works.  I have been a complete and utter failure at all things Halloween.

Despite all of my Halloween trauma and agony, it appears I have not passed any of this anxiety and distress onto my three children.  Well, perhaps a little onto my youngest daughter. Maybe this has something to do with the Casper costume. Let’s just say, she’s seen pictures and leave it at that. They fully embrace the holiday-occasion-event-spectacle.  They dress up.  They’re gifted costume devisers, especially my oldest daughter.  They have fun.  They hoot and holler. They go boldly into the spooky night.  Unlike their mother who cowers in the corner waiting for the night to be over.

My son as somebody from Star Trek.

Footnote to this story.  A few years ago I wore a costume to work for Halloween.  Some of my colleagues were dressing up for the day and I wanted to be included in this group of “fun” folks.  I went as Cindy Crawford.  The costume was simple and understated.  I drew a mole just above the outer edge of my lip.  It was identical to Cindy’s.  That was it.  The rest of the costume looked like I always looked on Halloween.  Dull.  But I did have a great time that day getting my colleagues to guess who I was.  Best costume ever.

I also love molasses kisses now.  So there’s hope.