Halloween: Expectations Vs. Reality

I think it is fair to say that when it comes to holidays, I’m more like Clark Griswald from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation than I would like to admit. If you haven’t seen the movie, STOP RIGHT NOW and watch it. It is by far my favorite holiday movie. My family and I quote it casually around the house year-round. Alas, I digress.

So, there’s a scene in the movie where Clark and his wife are in bed, discussing having a huge, fun-filled, old-fashioned, family Christmas. Clark’s wife points out that he builds things up in his head and she worries that he will be disappointed if they don’t turn out the way he expected. I’m afraid I may be guilty of this, especially from the weeks leading up to Halloween through New Year’s Day.

Let’s take last night, Halloween, for example. Beginning in September, visions began popping into my head. I saw my family, sitting by a crackling fireplace, jack-o-lantern flickering away on the mantle, watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. In the vision, we have just returned to our spooky, yet tastefully decorated home after a successful night of trick-or-treating. Pete, Z and I are all dressed in some adorable, Pinterest-worthy family costume theme. Perhaps we are pirates, returning from a night of pillaging the neighborhood and now performing reconnaissance on our pirate’s booty. Perhaps we are a family of superheroes, returning after an action-packed night of rescuing our little community from evil. Perhaps we are something even more creative, something no one has ever thought of before!

I was not prepared for the reality of Halloween 2017.

In those early days of September, while blissfully daydreaming about what I wanted Halloween to look like, I asked my dear little boy what he would like to be for Halloween. “A garbage truck, Mommy!” was the reply I received.

A garbage truck. I felt like someone pulled the plug out of the drain in the bathtub and all of the visions of pirate pillaging and saving Gotham city were sucked away. A garbage truck. My next thought was, how the heck am I supposed to make this happen?! It’s not a common costume – do I need to build one out of a cardboard box, paint it and figure out logistics? Do I need to become an expert on garbage trucks? Do I need to know physics for this?!

After my initial shock and I’ll admit, disdain, I started warming up to the idea. Ok, a garbage truck. I went shopping to see if there was a premade garbage truck costume anywhere. Lo and behold, I actually found one! Thank goodness! I started to feel better, now knowing that I wouldn’t have to break out an old high school textbook to figure this out.

So, my little boy got a garbage truck costume. My next thought was inevitable: “This year, I’m dressing up as garbage for Halloween.” I was happy that this was a costume that Pete and I could each craft for ourselves and for little to no money at all. On the other hand, I was literally garbage. Being the true Southern gal I am, I fashioned an evening gown out of trash bags and Scotch tape. A friend of mine found a picture on Pinterest of a garbage-themed hair fascinator that was constructed using empty chip bags and a headband. My costume came together pretty well, I think. Pete’s did too: his was a little less formally constructed, but hey, he was a bag of garbage! Mission accomplished. We wore the costumes to a Halloween/birthday party for our friend’s baby a week before Halloween.

When October rolled around, our whole household got sick with the crud that was going around preschool. We literally spent three quarters of the month of October sniffling, sneezing, coughing and passing around a fever. Needless to say, spooky yet tasteful Halloween decorations did not happen. We didn’t even buy a big pumpkin to carve, we ended up carving a little bitty pumpkin that we randomly picked up at the store a few weeks ago when I was feeling festive.

Fortunately, the viral cloud lifted right in time. Yesterday morning, Halloween, we all woke up and were feeling like productive members of society once again. After rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I ventured into the bathroom to put my contact lenses in. I had just bought new contact solution the day before and my sweet husband had opened the bottle and it was waiting for me. I dripped a few drops of solution onto my lens and, “OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!”

It felt like someone was poking my eye with a red hot cattle prod soaked in sulfuric acid. Pete came into the bathroom and frantically looked at the bottle. What I had picked up at the store was NOT saline solution. It was contact lens disinfectant that contained 3% hydrogen peroxide! After making this shocking and painful discovery, Pete helped me sit down on the toilet seat while I tried to pry open my burning eye to remove my contact lens. I ripped the lens out and began rinsing my eye with the tiny remnant of saline solution that the new solution was meant to replace. I ran out of saline and had to hold my eye underwater. Long story short, my eye was blood red and swollen and Z was waking up in the other room. I threw my glasses on, set my pain aside and went to get him ready.

At preschool, my son’s class was participating in the Storybook Parade. They were to dress as their favorite storybook character. I found this out earlier in October, after I had purchased the infamous garbage truck costume. So, about a week ago, my mother found a book on Amazon called I Am a Garbage Truck and we ordered it and received it in time. After arriving to preschool in a tornadic frenzy, I stood on the sidelines and with my one good eye, I watched my son, my little garbage truck, march by with his classmates. He smiled and waved at me as he passed. My heart melted.

After the parade, I stopped at the store to get the correct saline solution and then I went home to address what was going on with my eye. I suppose out of all of the days of the year, Halloween would be the most convenient day to have to wear an eyepatch. I called my ophthalmologist and he said to continue rinsing with saline all day and that I should be fine but uncomfortable for the next few days. I was relieved that I wouldn’t need to spend Halloween afternoon scrambling to find the pirate costumes that I had once so fondly imagined!

Halloween night was spent trick-or-treating with dear friends of ours, whose daughter happens to be Z’s best friend, H. We wandered around the neighborhood, collecting candy and encouraging our kids to trick-or-treat with their best manners. After a timid start, Z and H eventually showed no fear as they ran up to each house, said, “Trick-or-treat!” and even thanked people (some of the time!). Not bad for a couple of two-year-olds! Pete and I decided not to dress up because we discovered at the birthday party a week prior that wearing garbage bags is HOT, uncomfortable and it feels a little like wearing a sausage casing.

When we arrived home after trick-or-treating, we ate dinner and let Z have some of his Halloween candy. We did not watch Charlie Brown (we have watched it about a gazillion times already). We did not have a fire in the fireplace (HELLO! We are in Florida!). We even forgot to light the tiny jack-o-lantern we carved the night before. Z turned into a sugar monster, demanding more candy and throwing himself on the floor, kicking and screaming. Pete and I took turns wrestling him into pajamas, brushing his teeth and finally placing him into his bed. Together, we dragged ourselves downstairs, exhausted like Santiago the fisherman from Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, after he wrestled a giant marlin for three days.

As I laid in bed last night, my expectations and the realities of Halloween swirled around in my head and I thought about National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Now, I have probably seen it a hundred times, and yet last night, I thought of something I hadn’t considered about the movie.  I realized if life mirrors every expectation we have about an event, a holiday or even just a week or month, what a boring life it would be! The realities we face along the way become the details that we will always remember. Halloween 2017 was the year we dressed as garbage and I almost lost an eye! These “challenges” are what we will laugh about in years to come. That is what the movie is about. The scenes we remember most include Clark nearly burning the house down on multiple occasions, a dry turkey, and Cousin Eddie’s surprise visit. After coming to this realization last night, I channeled Clark Griswald, sighed, said, “I did it,” rolled over and went to sleep. I look forward to seeing what other realities come my way this holiday season.

Happy Halloween!

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