By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Carole Townsend

(Not So) Common Sense
Holidays always look perfect in the rear view mirror
By Carole Townsend

Well, it’s Halloween week. In my mind, this week kicks off the most glorious time of every year, the parade of holidays coming our way.

Yes, I know that the word “Halloween” has become one of those politically incorrect, offensive terms, and that it’s been renamed “Fall Harvest” or something bland and oatmeal like that. At the risk of offending some, I think that’s just plain ridiculous. I understand why some believe that the use of the word “Halloween” conjures up references to evil, or to religion, or to both, but come on now. We have to draw the line somewhere.

My memories of Halloween as a kid include images of those cheap, stiff, scratchy costumes bought at a department store, complete with plastic masks that had to be the most dangerous things our parents ever put on us. They never fit right, and we couldn’t see out of them, except for a sliver of vision just wide enough to find the next house with the lights on. 

Somehow, we managed to get home all by ourselves (back then, parents didn’t have to escort their kids for fear of danger). We managed to bring home a sack full of candy, a kid’s utopian dream. Our parents continued the fond memory-making by requiring that we dump out our candy in the living room floor so that they could check for signs of danger, like good chocolate and their favorites, PayDay candy bars. Oddly, those were always the pieces that were dangerously “unwrapped” and therefore, suspect.

We’d stay up as late as our parents would allow, taking off those sweaty, dangerous plastic masks but still wearing our costumes and stuffing so much candy in or mouths that we would all eventually get tummy aches. At that point, we’d hide our stash under our bed or wherever we thought it might be safe from predators (our parents, siblings and pets). 

Fast forward to the late 80s, early 90s, when our kids were little. Oh, I’d make their costumes myself, of course. Nothing hanging in the Wal-Mart aisle would do for my little darlings. When my son was five years old, I spent weeks making him a lion costume. It was adorable, with a hand-tied mane made of yarn and a cute, perky tail made of a coat hanger covered with brown felt; the tip even had yarn tassels, very life-like. He hated it. It was unusually hot that year on October 31. My son cried and whined all throughout the neighborhood, so people of course thought he was supposed to be the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz. He was mortified, and very hot and sweaty. 

That same year, our youngest daughter was three years old. I had made her a pumpkin costume, and to fill it out, it had to be stuffed with newspaper. She shrieked and complained for blocks, not because she was hot, but because the costume made her look fat. I should have realized then that we had a handful with that one. Fat? At age three?

We cut our trick-or-treating short when a kind old lady handed all the children at her door (mine were the only ones crying – the other kids had cool store-bought costumes) cupcakes. My son blurted out that we’d have to throw them away because they might be poisoned, and my shrieking pumpkin threw the cupcake, icing side down, on the woman’s driveway. Now it was my turn to be mortified.

Still, as many moms do I suppose, I have let those holiday mishaps blur in the rear view mirror. I revise history, and the only memories I have of our family holidays are good ones, tinged with that Norman Rockwell nostalgia that can make my heart ache a bit if I let it.

Now, our children are all grown up. One of our daughters has a child of her own, and this will be the first year that Halloween might mean something to her. She’s not quite two yet, but she will understand that dressing up in a costume is awesome, and she will understand that she will get candy by going door-to-door with Mom and Dad and saying “tick or teet” to whomever answers the door.  I love it.

Our children now have friends who are married with children. I see them, and I have to think about it for a minute; these are the same kids that came to sleepovers and birthday parties at our house when they were six and eight, then twelve and sixteen. When did this happen? When did they all grow up? I see pictures of their kids on Facebook, and many, I see in real life. I get to hold them and play with them, and to be honest, my heart aches a little. I sometimes miss our children being that little. I miss the innocence and sweetness and purity of small children. 

Oh I love the ages our children are now, too. I love the young adults they have become. But still, I think about the Halloweens, the Thanksgivings, the Christmas Eves. I have mentally erased the chaos that undoubtedly colored every single holiday we ever celebrated. I think about what I’d do differently if I got the chance, if ours were little again, and I get a little melancholy.

Wait, what am I thinking? That’s what grandchildren are for. 

Happy HALLOWEEN. It’s OK. Nothing evil going on over here. No chicken sacrifices or worshipping the dark side. Just wishing everyone a fun, safe, sugar-filled Saturday.

Don’t miss Carole and other Georgia authors at the Milton Literary Festival, November 13-14. Enjoy author panels, hear speakers, participate in workshops and enter to win the chance to have dinner Friday night with four fabulous local authors! Visit https://www.cityofmiltonga.us/events/348/milton-literary-festival/ for details!

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.