October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat

It's Halloween. My almost favorite holiday of the year. It always runs a close second to Christmas. Let's face it--Christmas trees and presents will always beat out going door to door to beg for candy and then having to pick out all those nasty wax-wrapped taffy things and the boxes of raisins just to get to the good stuff. For all those who hand out chocolate candy, we salute you. May you not get egged or TP'ed this holiday season.

I especially love those last few days leading up to Halloween. There's just nothing like sitting in rush hour traffic only to look over and see Frankenstein is driving the car next to you. Or watching Batgirl get off the city bus and cross the street to (I can only assume) spend her day fighting crime. And all those parents who drag their kids to the neighborhood Trunk or Treat? You know they're only doing it so they can get away with dressing up like vampires and witches and cartoon characters without their mental stability being questioned by the authorities.

My kids get into the holiday just as much as I do. And every year their costumes get a little more elaborate. It's so much easier when they're little and have no input in what they're going to be. One year, I put my daughter in a cheetah print shirt, slapped some eyeliner whiskers on her, colored her nose, and voila! Instant cat. And she was adorable. But that kind of thing doesn't fly anymore. No, this year my minions wanted to be a zombie, a vampire and Fred--the single most annoying television character ever. Fred got nixed pretty quick due to the fact that he wears suspenders and those cannot be found anywhere. So instead, Bubba chose being a commando. That was just about the easiest thing ever. Throw some camo on that kid and paint up his face and we'll call it good. Howdy wanted to be a zombie but after lots of suggestions by me about how we could dress him up, he still couldn't decide exactly HOW he wanted to look so he chose Death instead. And wouldn't you know that we have a hooded cape in our Halloween costume stash--loaded up on our trailer which is currently making its way south from WA with all of our belongings. So that required the purchase of a new cape as well as a face painting kit so we could do him up all creepy with a skeleton face. (Turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.) Sassy wanted to be a vampire. Actually, she wanted to be a vampiress but decided the word was too hard to remember so she asked that I just tell everyone she's a girl vampire. I thought that one would be pretty easy too only she didn't want any face paint. Or fake vampire fangs. Um, then how will anyone know you're a vampire? By the drop of blood I had to draw at the corner of her mouth. After a snack and some juice, the blood was gone and she just looked like a girl with heavy eye makeup and a long dress. Oh well. It worked for her.

When shopping around for costumes and ideas, we of course went to the only store known to man--WalMart. I was amazed at the costumes for kids. There were plenty of choices if I wanted my little girl to look like a hooker with wings, or a pornographic fairy tale character. Since when did Halloween become an occasion for flashing everything the good Lord gave you? When I was growing up, we were lucky if we had any exposed skin at all. Of course, that was WA and it was guaranteed to rain on Halloween. Back then our costumes were those vinyl one piece sheaths with a character's image stamped on it. You had to buy them one or two sizes bigger than you needed so you would have room to put it on over your winter coat. And we didn't do the whole fancy face paint thing. Nooo. We had---the Mask. These were a plastic form of the character's face that had an elastic band around it to hold it onto our heads (over our knit hats that we wore to keep our ears warm). The Mask was such a marvel in costume technology that it is now only found in horror movies and bank heists. It was obviously designed by someone who was both blind and lacked nostrils. The Mask featured holes for the eyes because we wouldn't want to not be able to see. Duh. And just in case we wanted to be able to breathe, there were two pin dot size holes for the nostrils and a microscopic slit for the mouth. These little holes were not enough space to actually pull in any oxygen nor to vent out when we breathed so the inside of the mask ended up all damp from the air we were sucking through our open mouths and then exhaling back into our own faces. The words "Trick or Treat" were muffled by the Mask so they came out as unintelligible garb but when you show up at someone's door on Halloween in what is essentially a plastic bag with Strawberry Shortcake's face on it, they pretty much know the drill.

Neighborhoods where I lived weren't like the ones you see today. We didn't have 100 houses in a 5 block radius. We actually had to drive from house to house. We'd pile in the car, mom would pull up to the driveway, and then we would all pile out, do our thing and then climb back in the car to repeat the process. And--prepare yourselves--we DIDN'T. BUCKLE. UP. I know. It's amazing we survived, right? But we were just going to get right back out at the next house and it was too time consuming to get that seat belt stretched far enough to span our rain coat and costume clad bodies.

So after hitting all the houses in the neighborhood, we'd head back home. We were never allowed to touch any of our candy until it had all been thoroughly inspected by mom. After all, our teachers and parents had drilled it into our heads that there were some very bad people out there that might put poison or drugs or even razor blades in our candy. In fact, I went to school with a kid whose cousin's babysitter used to watch a kid that knew someone that had to go to the hospital after biting into a candy bar that had a razor in it. So you KNOW it was true. Only after mom had inspected every wrapper and tossed out anything questionable (which, having done this job myself a time or two now, I suspect was actually all of her favorites), were we allowed to gorge ourselves on our haul. The great thing was, for the next week, all the kids at school would bring candy in their lunches and it became like the trading floor on Wall Street. Twix were traded for M&Ms, 3 Musketeers were passed down the aisles, and pudding cups were sacrificed to acquire that prized peanut butter cup. That kid who tried to pawn off his candy corn? He ended up sitting in the corner...alone.

While some things over the years have changed (no plastic masks for my kids), all the best things have stayed the same (candy corn is still not welcome here). But we have put a little twist on things. For instance, when it comes time to go trick or treating, I find one of those cookie cutter neighborhoods that builds houses 6 feet apart. I park my car at one end and we hit every door until we can either no longer walk or our candy bags are just too heavy to carry. More goodies--less work. I'm all about efficiency.

And although I know the odds of someone taking the time to tamper with Halloween candy in an effort to maim or poison random children is slim, I still inspect every piece of candy my kids get. I did have a scare one year, though. It was the year after 9/11 when Anthrax letters and threats were popping up everywhere. My boys and I had done the door to door thing with all the other kids in the neighborhood. I remember they got so much candy the handles on the buckets were straining under the weight and I ended up having to carry them both. When I dumped everything out onto the table, I noticed a white powdery substance on the candy. My heart started thumping and sweat broke out on my brow. Was this Anthrax? All I knew about the deadly poison was that it was a white powder. Crap! All those years that I rolled my eyes at those warnings from my parents and teachers and they were RIGHT! Some psycho that got off on harming innocent kids lived in our neighborhood and had infected our beloved Halloween stash. Or what if this was the work of some disgruntled candy factory worker who was right now sitting at home just waiting to hear on the news where in the country his poisoned candy had hit? What was I supposed to do? Throw it all away? Call the police? Call Homeland Security? Would we be quarantined?

As I sat there wondering about the effects of Anthrax poisoning and how much longer I had to live, I noticed something in the pile of candy. It was a Pixie Stick. And it was broken. If you don't know, Pixie Sticks are straw-like containers of flavored sugar. Break open the paper straw and you will find (you guessed it) a white powdery substance. Huh. What do you know? I guess I won't need that Hazmat suit after all.

Hey kids, the candy's ready!

October 25, 2011

Getting Over Myself

After a weekend spent in WA, I am now back home. MC and I just spent the last 4 days moving all of our boxes and assorted oddball belongings from a storage unit to a tractor trailer. Our things will then be driven the 3000 miles to TX where we will call in every favor to have our friends and family help us cram it all into our new house.

The trip went well in spite of being rained on the entire time we were loading. We had a lot of people show up to help and we finished in record time. That was an unexpected surprise. We ended up with more time to spend with family and friends and I cherished every minute of it.

The rain stopped pretty much as soon as we were all done loading up and then we were left with typical fall weather. The air was just crisp enough that I put on a light jacket but it stayed dry so that I was able to walk around outside and get some pictures.

I've been in TX now for 5 months but being back in my parents' house it felt like I had only been gone a few days. Life has a different rhythm depending on where you are at and who you are with. Going back home was like reciting a synchronized routine. It felt like slipping into my favorite pair of jeans. Comfortable. Familiar. Cozy. Worn, but in all the right ways. My dad still lounged on his bed--barefoot--in front of the TV with his box of See's chocolates on the nightstand. My mom was still up impossibly early to make sure all the meats were marinated and rubbed and the salads were prepared for another of our traditional BBQs. My sister and her kids were still irreverent, sarcastic and fun. My grandma was still playing hermit in her house while unloading the contents of her closets on me. My girlfriends were still loud, obnoxious, and so funny that I was in danger of wetting myself.

I had to admit to myself that life continued on.

Without me.

Yes, I have a life here in TX and moving was a decision that I absolutely had a say in and could've vetoed at any time, but I didn't. I packed up my family and moved here so we could do more for our kids, so my husband could see his family and spend time with them for awhile. And for the most part, I'm okay with that decision. After all, it wasn't made lightly. It came only after about 9 months of discussion, prayer, research and many pros/cons lists. The kids are doing great and my husband has really enjoyed being away from all the rain and close to his family. I am the only one who really had to give up anything to come here. And I felt that loss when I went back home. I knew it was coming and I almost didn't want to make the trip, but the pain of missing everyone would've been worse than the pain of saying goodbye again.

And it was painful. I miss the fall weather, the changing leaves and the drizzly days that force everyone inside to huddle in front of the wood stove. I miss dinners with my parents where the conversation is completely inappropriate and quite possibly offensive but we all walk away from the table with our bellies full of food and sore from laughter. I miss late nights at coffee houses with my girlfriends where we open up and dump on each other and compete to see who can make the others laugh the hardest, and who can refrain from wetting her pants the longest. I miss the 97 different shades of green that surround everything and the bright sunbursts of yellow and red leaves that break up all that green. I miss standing on my parents' porch after it's rained and listening to the silence, that moment when you close your eyes and everything is so quiet and peaceful that you feel like you're camping in the middle of the mountain with no one around to intrude on your solitude. I miss driving through town and knowing that every where I go holds some kind of memory for me, whether it's a shopping trip with my mom, or an outing with my sister and our kids, or just seeing the same landmarks for 30-some years. THIS is my home, THIS is where my memories are, THIS is where my family is.

I sat on the airplane heading south and I wanted to scream for the pilot to turn the airplane around and take me back. (But pick up my kids first.) Texas just isn't the same, I wanted to shout. I can't hang out with my kids at the beach every week in the summer and catch starfish. We can't go hiking and "blue tarp" camping in the mountains. I can't sit around a bonfire with my family and watch the bats come out after sundown. We can't drive an hour to go tubing in the mountains in the winter. My kids aren't going to find live frogs in their plastic eggs at Easter and we won't be able to go stomping through the mud at the tree farm to cut down our tree at Christmas. And no matter how clear a day it is in Texas, the mountain will never come out.

So I sit here and I get depressed about all that I've left behind and I want to cry and wail about the unfairness of it all.

And then I see my husband with his 3 brothers. I see him with his sister, his dad and his best friends. I see them laughing until they cry. I see the family jumping in without a moment's hesitation to support MC and his family. I see their joy at having us so close and having the whole family together again. I see my husband connecting with old friends, having the social interaction that he never quite had when we lived in WA. I see my husband enjoying the weather and not grumbling about always having to work in the rain.

And then I remember the last 13 years of us living in WA. 13 years that I got to spend with MY friends and MY family. 13 years that I was connected and involved and living close to those who love me. And I realize that for 13 years my husband lived without those connections. For 13 years he accepted our every-other-year visits to see his family and friends as status quo and never complained. He contented himself with the occasional phone call or FB chat in lieu of late night Acquire marathons. He endured the rain, my family, distance from lifelong friends, and the lack of sun because WA was where I wanted to be.

My husband is my best friend. I love him more than anything. But I'm coming to realize that I've been very selfish. All these feelings of loss and sadness and "life is so unfair"-ness are all things my husband has probably felt throughout the years. Why do I think that I have a right to have everything my way while he is left out? What makes my wants and desires a higher priority than his?

Is TX my favorite place to be? Not by a long shot. Would I rather be back in WA where some of our business goals that we've worked on for years are finally coming to fruition now that we've moved away? Absolutely. But this is the decision we've made. Together. It's time for me to give up a little bit and let my husband get to enjoy life on the other side of the fence. We can make a good life here--and we will. The kids are already settling in and enjoying themselves. MC is reconnecting with friends he hasn't seen in awhile and getting to spend time with his brothers on a regular basis. My family is happy. I'm making the decision that I will be, too.

Our kids will grow up with the great memories of living in TX and spending time with their family here. When they are older, they will come back and drive through town and reminisce about all the fun things they did while living here. They will grow up knowing that home is where you make it. It's where you plant your roots and invest your heart, even if it's not your first or even second choice. Home is not a place that is handed to you, it's a place that you build with your own sweat and tears and smiles and laughter. It's the place that you think you can't wait to leave but run back to every chance you get. That is home. And that is what I am making for my family--no matter which state we live in.