Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Halloween 2016: A Field Trip for Two Hogwarts Students (and Their Professors)

There are some Halloween traditions that we missed out on this year, due to various reasons along the lines of not having an oven, of having too many weekend activities, of me grieving for Mac on his late-October birthday (and dreading that date for many days beforehand), of having kids who are simply older and older, every single year.

We bought the kids' Jack-o-lantern pumpkins at Wal-mart this year instead of at our local, family-owned pumpkin patch, because Wal-mart is open 24 hours a day and weekends aren't and I seriously had that much trouble getting my shit together. I still feel guilty, but fortunately Wal-mart pumpkins carve just as well as the Freeman Farm ones, even if they didn't come with all the good memories of their choosing:

We missed out on a dear friend's yearly Halloween party, if we were going to have a special family adventure on an actual weekend, it had to be that exact day or it would be no day. We took the kids to their first-ever corn maze:

I think they liked it!

They immediately ran off into the distance and left me and Matt to be corn maze failures. Sure, we looked cute and confident--

--but we walked around that maze for something like a mile, making what were apparently increasingly wrong turns:

We finally, finally, FINALLY saw plain air in sight, but when we left the maze, we saw not just our kids waiting patiently on some benches for us to finish the freaking maze already, but that, dang it, we'd accidentally found our way back out the entrance, not the exit. We had to call the kids to come and help us, lest we spend another hour and do the same damn thing!

We also discovered that along with a dog for Will, we deeply need a couple of miniature horses:

And maybe a couple of cows:

But probably not an outhouse:
And yes, this game DOES consist of tossing corncobs into a outhouse. Fun AND relevant!
We didn't make the Haunted Hoops run by our local university's basketball team, but a new tradition that I raced us out the door for one weekday afternoon was trick-or-treating on the university's sorority/fraternity row. Despite the horrifying amount of candy that the children received (fistfuls of candy at a time, my Friends. Fistfuls of candy!), I'm actually really glad that we did this one, because it involved putting on costumes early enough in the afternoon for photographs!

On Halloween night, Will went trick-or-treating early with a friend while Syd had ballet class, and by the time we all met up again it was far too dark for photos, so if it wasn't for this event, horrifying amount of candy or not, I wouldn't have had any photos of us in our costumes, and thanks to a promise that the entire family made me last Halloween night, this was my dream year of having the entire family go as witches and wizards from Hogwarts!

Here, then, is a Gryffindor student. She's technically a year too young to be a first-year, but her wild magic was so powerful and disruptive that she required early enrollment in order to learn to control it. They feed her lots of candy and get her to run laps around the lake like a Labrador Retriever, so that's why she gets to make a special field trip to America for Halloween--here's an entire semester's worth of candy in one night!

Here's her chaperone for this field trip, the Head of Hufflepuff house and the Quidditch coach/Magical Art and Design professor:

They're accompanied by this second-year student from Slytherin house, ostensibly here to gather research for a Muggle Studies project, but we all suspect that she somehow blackmailed the Headmistress into letting her come along, because candy:

In charge of the entire affair is the Head of Ravenclaw house, fencing coach, and Professor of Magical Literature. Someone has to keep this crew in line!

And it's certainly not going to be the Head of Hufflepuff House! Everyone knows that Hufflepuff is the party house!

I specifically told them not to perform magic in front of the Muggles, and yet look at that--caught right in the act of a Wingardium Leviosa!

Clearly the only thing to do is march them around and let college students give them lots of candy:

And then march them back home, blessedly too exhausted to throw a fit:

I'm told that holidays get easier, that one day I'll be able to tell the story of the time that I helped Mac dress as the guy who shot Ronald Reagan so that Jodi Foster would love him, and how that involved him getting fired from our library job, but it was okay because they just gave him a different library job, and in this job he had to manage the copy machines, which means that I never had to pay for another photocopy again thanks to all the left-behind copy cards that he scored, and I'll be able to tell that story with genuine happiness at the memory, not grief at the loss. I'll be able to tell the kids about my favorite Halloween costumes as a child without feeling deeply sad about Pappa, who isn't here this year, and all the family-related anxiety that's resulted from that.

What I'm also told, and what I'm really trying to do, although how successful I am at that they'd have to tell you, is to try to focus on the friends and family who are left to me, to be with Matt, to enjoy my girls, to make the kinds of memories that my kids can look back on one day as some of their happiest of the time.

The secret trick is that when I can do that, it actually lessens my own grief for a time. And if I carry on, and get through this year, then I won't have to go through one more first birthday without Mac, or first Christmas without Pappa. The first time that I have to do it will be the hardest, I hope, and the second time onward will be easier.

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