It’s always around this time of year I start pining. Pining for seasons in reverse and landscapes which are different and holidays not celebrated here and I launch head-first into a general ungrateful feeling of ‘all those other people live so much better than me’. I see my American friends with their falling maple leaves and their Thanksgiving dinners and their cozy fireplaces and their white snow so vividly that I don’t see any of my own good anymore. Hallmark holidays do a number on me, and I resent the stinking, humid heat that seeps into my yearning for cold Christmases and October pumpkin patches and, well, just being able to say the word “Fall”.
My brother’s girlfriend gets my misery completely and we lament together. “Let’s invent our own Thanksgiving”, she says, and while I’m usually on board the Create Your Own Happiness bandwagon, let’s be honest, it’s not the same. Baking a roast turkey while the sweat pours from our foreheads? Going to Woolies to buy an overpriced carving pumpkin instead of visiting rows and rows of bright orange pumpkins beaming up from their patches at us like heaven? Plans for hot chocolate and fireplaces? Cozy twinkle lights as the snow falls? Just stop it now before I cry. I know, I know – first world problems – but what can I say? Comparison is a nasty witch. So I do my best to shake it off and reply, “Yep. Thanksgiving. Let’s do it. Who should we invite?” Joel looks at us like he actually has shooting pain up his neck and says, “You’re not American, okay? Just stop talking.”
And we laugh.
But we’re not going to invite him or Liam. It will just be me and Sophia with our big old turkey and our big old sweat patches and our fake pine trees and our pretend snow smeared on the windows, watching as it slowly slides off from the humidity.
Celebrate what you have. Create what you don’t. The best recipe for happiness this side of America.
And so, with that in mind, we’ve been lifting our Halloween game and infusing family tradition into our days. “Is that for Halloween?” my girl asks excitedly. “Can we try our costumes on again?” And just like that, I see the efforts I go to are noticed, appreciated, needed. She knows what summer things are and what winter things are (because let’s face it, there are really only two seasons down here). She knows what happens on calendar holidays and she looks forward to them with gusto. And Halloween? She knows to be excited. She knows her annual pumpkin carving party is coming and she knows how her street comes alive with trick-or-treaters and she knows about the things we do to mark this time: pumpkin bread baking and decorating the house and picking out costumes weeks in advance, buying lollies for the trick-or-treaters and sitting side-by-side putting together the tiny little details of her pumpkin party that make us both so happy.
We don’t have fall and snow-covered pine trees and pumpkin patches, but I’ll be damned if I don’t create them myself, so that one day when my kids are adults, sitting around my dining table at Christmas, they can say to each other, “Remember when mum used to make us sit on hay bales in October?”, “Remember when she cut out snowflakes and told us it was snowing?”. These childhood memories, they bind a family, and they bind the children within it.
Our greatest hope is that the stories of good and fun and tradition take greater place in my children’s memory banks than the not-so-good. Because, as parents, the efforts we go to are crucial in writing our family stories – the legacy we are part of, the unit we belong to — efforts which say “this is us and this is what we do”.
Besides, you have not lived until you have witnessed Potty the Scarecrow losing his pants.
“Pull your PANTS up Potty!,” she shrieks in between laughter.
“POTTY…..PULL YOUR PANTS UP!” And I would have shushed her to protect our neighbourhood from calling the police but honestly, I couldn’t bear to stop the raucous. Billy pretty much lost his mind with laughter.
Some tradition making these past few days…
It’s “Spooky” time after bath each night.
The big lights go off, the candles and Halloween lights come on and my two babies curl up in towels on the couch next to me and I make up pretend spooky stories for them. They go something like Ella and Billy are in the dark woods blah blah they find a magical flying owl blah blah and they ride on its back to a hidden cave blahdy blah and the cave is full of CHOCOLATE! And they eat all the chocolate up without their Mummy watching and live happily ever after. Cue giggling.
It’s the best.
Joel only groaned a bit when I asked him to make me this for the kids’ pumpkin party.
The kids love it and we play in it most days. A woman from our neighborhood out walking her dog asked if she could buy a pumpkin and Ella told her she was all out, sorry, but I do have some ice cream. “Be careful”, I told the woman. “I just bought one off her and she charged me sixty bucks for it.” “Goodness me!” the woman replied, “It must be very good then!” and I snuck a look at my girl, giving off her signature shy beam, delighted we were joining in her world of play. My heart burst a little bit, like always.
Party details I so love…
Little country party favour bags…
Make the best of what you have? I’m on it.
While we sweat in our fake pumpkin patches. And eat ice-blocks to cool down.
“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” Laura Ingalls Wilder.