Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Life and Lemons
One of the tricky parts of moving to a new state is holidays. There’s the expected glitches, like trying to figure out where the tree should go in the new house when Christmas rolls around (in front of the window or in the corner out of the way?...) And there’s the new arrangements to be made, as some relatives are now too far away to visit on Thanksgiving and yet some are, for the first time, close enough.
For my kids, one of the most important holidays to figure out, way ahead of time, is Halloween. Every region of the country, every town, every neighborhood, has their own way of doing things on this all important kid holiday. You must figure out where everyone goes to ring the doorbells, if your own neighborhood is not conducive. You must pay attention to flyers on the grocery store bulletin boards and ads in the local papers, or you might miss the big community celebration just down the block.
When we lived near Washington D.C., our small street didn’t really participate in the trick or treating tradition. Instead we joined a family who lived nearby, and drove the kids to the nursing home, where the other family’s grandmother lived. The facility had set up stations where the residents could hand out treats to the children who showed up. Our kids got a bag full of candy, and a whole bunch of senior citizens had a ball, oohing and ahhing over all the clever costumes.
This Halloween found us as new residents in a mountain town in Colorado. We still have one child in elementary school so it was my job to figure out the system here. I happened to luck out when one of the room moms from my son’s class emailed about donations for the class Halloween party. I offered up some paper plates and napkins, then proceeded to pick her brain. If you can’t trust a room mom to tell you the scoop, who can you trust?
She informed me that all the parents show up at school to watch the all school costume parade, then they all file down to their classrooms for the parties. After that, everyone heads to our tiny downtown, where all the local businesses hand out candy and the lines of dressed up children becomes something like a second costume parade.
For round three, there were certain neighborhoods where you could hit the most houses, while climbing the fewest amount of hills. Much of our town’s population lives on remote, winding mountain roads. To snag a somewhat compact neighborhood, with plenty of porch lights on, was a gift.
Armed with that information, Sam was ready for his big day. But I still had another child to think about. Fifteen year old Isaac.
Isaac’s at that really hard age when you mostly want to be seen as a grown up, but on a few key days of the year it would be nice to be little again. Birthdays and Christmas are harder when your list doesn’t include half of the JC Penney toy catalog. The only fun things you can think of usually cost more than your parents are willing to spend.
Halloween becomes a problem too. Who doesn’t like free candy? But the ability to get grub for free depends on dressing up in a costume and ringing doorbells, right next to toddlers in teddy bear outfits. The scene is further complicated if you’re the new kid in town and risk social torture if you’re seen out fraternizing with those lowly elementary aged losers. This was where Isaac found himself last night.
He came up with a fantastic costume. He wore a plain white shirt with the word ‘LIFE’ across the front, and he carried a bowl of lemons. He was ‘Life, handing you lemons’. It’s pretty appropriate for our family this year, as we’ve hit many snags in our effort to move across the country.
There was no way he was lowering himself to go door to door with his little brother. Even worse would be heading out alone. His friends had been non-committal when he’d asked around at school. So he was stuck with me. He was stuck sitting by the front door of our condo unit, waiting for little kids to knock.
He was a pretty good sport about it, especially considering I told him I’d give him the leftover candy, if he helped me hand it out. We watched skits from Saturday Night Live on Hulu while we waited to hear footsteps on our stairs outside.
Then the heavens opened and his night turned around. He opened the door to find one of his best friends from school standing there, with his little brother. One was a ninja, one was a banana. I’ll let you guess which costume belonged to the cool high schooler.
With one friendly, “Hey Isaac, wanna come with us?”, my boy was gone.
He gathered his lemons, threw on a jacket, and was out the door in a flash. An hour later he came back, with a pillow case half full of candy, grinning from ear to ear. No sour lemons here.
We survived. Another Halloween of firsts and we got it worked out. I bought way too much candy, after being told by a neighbor that our condo unit usually had lots of kids show up. But it worked out well, when I overheard our downstairs neighbor tell some costumed kids she had run out. It was nice to be able to share my loot with these people we share so many walls with.
Isaac survived another transition into the world of big kids. Next year he’ll have his license and the whole story will change again. But we won’t be ‘new’ anymore. We’ll be experienced, with one good year under our belt.
Isaac had such a good time this year he’s already talking about next year’s costume. I haven’t been listening closely but it has something to do with stuffed animals hanging from an umbrella. My clever boy is scheming and dreaming and may show up on our neighbor’s doorsteps dressed as the phrase ‘raining cats and dogs’.
Or he may just be too cool to trick or treat at all.
We’ll just have to wait and see.