Halloween isn't exactly the holiest holiday of the year. All the things that come with it are mainly for amusement. Ninety-nine percent of the people I know would call it spooky rather than somber. But, besides the costumes and candy, the jack-o-lantern lighting and trick-or-treating, there's something kind of sad about being a divorced parent on Halloween.
Some things are hallmarks of childhood, and this is one of them. For kids, from perfect homes or broken homes, Halloween night is often a highlight of fall. The excitement builds through October, from the big decision of what to dress up as to which friends to trick-or-treat with. My boys change their mind about costumes at least five times and my 7-year old spends hours "shopping" online. They sway me to buy their favorite candy so we'll have good leftovers. I dutifully search for last year's decorations, stock up on Kit Kats and watch the weather forecast to see if they'll be cold. I worry what all the sugar may do to their teeth. Yes, I am just like every other mom. But, this year on Halloween night, they'll celebrate without me.
This is not my year for Halloween; my sons' dad and I alternate years. This is true for almost all holidays. And after almost four years, you'd think I would have toughened up by now. After all, I have survived Jewish holidays and Thanksgiving meals without them. I've rung in the New Year while they were a thousand miles away. I've woken up on some of their birthdays without being able to sing. And I was okay. But, Halloween? To me, it's kind of like the holiday itself: Scary.
Some divorced moms may be relieved to skip schlepping around the neighborhood, but not me. Since I became a parent eleven years ago, I had the trick-or-treating stamina to last for miles. It reminded me of my childhood and happier times. With everyone outside, away from their TV and kitchen tables, real neighborhoods seemed to sprout overnight. I love the sense of excitement on the streets as everyone runs around. I love how the people opening their doors seem nice and friendly, like real neighbors from the old days or the movies.
I love absorbing my boys' feelings of accomplishment and awe when they finally return home and ceremoniously dump their jam-packed bags of candy. The best part is categorizing it and how they ask for my help, putting each kind into a pile and counting them all up. Almond Joys never win. Snickers often do. Then the boys trade and give me some.
The next morning, I steal Whoppers and Milky Ways when they're not looking.
But not this year.
I know far worse scenarios exist -- moms who never see their kids or have lost them, moms who are too sick to celebrate and many more. And I know we can celebrate by doing Halloween activities all month long, not just on the actual day. Does simply being divorced earn one the right to sound off?
Some may think it's silly to be sad about such a harmless holiday. It's not like missing Christmas (though I'm Jewish, but you get my point). But for a mom without her kids on Halloween, the holiday is a ghostly reminder of a family tradition that ceased to be.