Tag Archives: Halloween

Halloween Leftovers

As I write this, I am coercing the Sour Apple Laffy Taffy out of my molars with my tongue.  89.1 is on the radio in my kitchen.  My husband has just left for work, and when he left, I was slicing a piece of fiction (inspired by a 1920s plane crash in Brockport) into paragraph-sized morsels with kid-scissors.  I realize I am alone for the first time in nearly a week.

Loser Candy

Compelled to rummage through the candy bowl from Halloween, I stopped my project, and stared down into the bowl: Sour Apple everything.  Whoppers.  Clark Bars.  Runts.  Blech.

A week or two before Halloween, Johnny and I were watching the cartoon Gravity Falls, a Disney series that explores an eerie village through the eyes of a creepy family.  Johnny loves this show.  I was unsure at first, but loved it after seeing this: The Summerween Trickster–a candy monster made out of the bottom-of-the-bowl-rejects that the children of Gravity Falls have termed “Loser candy.”  So I sifted through my own Loser Candy, and succumbed to Sour Apple Laffy Taffy.  It was neon green (and tasted it), unsatisfyingly waxy, nothing like an apple.  Not even sour.  Not tasty enough to warrant the tiredness of my jaw after minutes of chewing.

Cory is not a fan of the show Gravity Falls, and I thought that by telling him about the clever Summerween Trickster, he might change his mind.  But this is the same person who looks at me strange when I watch Coraline with Johnny for the twentieth time.  Or The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Cory looks at me cross-eyed when I say to Johnny, “Hi, Johnny.  I’m your other mother.”

Johnny will say, “You do not have button eyes!”

My students think it strange that I watch such a creepy movie with my child.  But why hide the scary?  Johnny sees monsters all the time in movies and cartoons, but acknowledging that what appears in real life can be scary or threatening, too, like in Coraline, might make him more… prepared?

My cousin bought me The Happiness Project for my thirtieth birthday, so I’m sure some consider it abnormal that I dwell in the dark.  But I see it as pulling at life’s unbound strings, just braiding these fibers together, attempting to understand the fabric.

When brainstorming writing ideas, my students have said, “But I don’t have any conflict in my life.”  I press them with questions until they find something.  When students resist conflict and tension, the feared candy at the bottom of the bowl, I ask them, “Well then, if you understand everything, why write?”

Sometimes I feel like I understand nothing, and that’s when I write the most.

It doesn’t all have to be negative, but most of us don’t dwell on what makes our lives easy–the happy times, because we enjoy them, and take them as memories for a “rainy” day.  We live in the awkward, fearful, combustible moments and stare hard at the uncomfortable moments that play tricks on our minds or come back to haunt us when we think they’ve gone for good.

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Weathering Parenthood When Your Son’s Smarter Than You

Johnny Lightning Hummer: Bumpy Ride

Johnny Lightning Hummer: Bumpy Ride (Photo credit: Phil’s 1stPix)

My mother over-cautioned me about leaving the house today to buy snowsuits for my sons at the mall.  “It’s supposed to get bad,” she said.  “Make sure you buy batteries for your flashlights.”

On the way to the mall, Johnny alternated between asking the world’s questions and bopping along with me to my mix CD, which was playing his anthem, “Don’t Stop” by Foster the People.

“Mom, why is it raining?” he asked.

“Because it has to rain some time,” I said.

“But why does it?” he asked.

“Because nothing would grow, and the oceans would dry up, and we’d have nothing to drink,” I said.

“And we’d be thirsty?” he asked.

“Yes.  Very thirsty,” I said.

I had to admit, this morning, while watching the twenty-four hour news that is as constant in our house as breathing and blinking, in an election year, I fretted over the tsunami in Hawaii, the impending hurricane Sandy barreling towards NYC, and realized why I never watched the movie 2012.  I just wanted it to be the day after Christmas to know we already had made it–regardless of the sad feeling that follows it–the limp, unblinking string lights, the empty stockings, brown snow, balled up wrapping paper, hunger.

The leaves were nearly off the trees, and Johnny had been asking me constantly, “Is it Halloween yet?”  And then I heard him play this game after I told him no, it wasn’t Halloween.  “It is.  It is Halloween,” he said to himself.  “And today, I will be Iron Man.”

I made him a paper chain to count down, but it hasn’t helped.  Except this morning, when he told me, “Mom, I took the day off today,” I thought he was imitating Cory, that he had taken the day off from school, so I said, “Really?  That’s amazing.  How did you get Mrs. Johnson to let you have the day off?”  and he said, “No, Mom.  I reached up as high as I could, and I ripped the paper.  I took the day off.  Halloween is in three days.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling bad for thinking he was just playing, that he didn’t know what he was talking about.   I thought that he’d probably gone beyond that point of mimicry, that now he only said what he knew he meant.  But even I couldn’t say I did that.

At the mall, Johnny stared at the hats on the rack next to me while I picked out his new gloves.  He tried on a furry bear hat that was too small for his head, already as large as an adults.  Larger than mine.  One of my friends told me I should be careful about Johnny, that he would be the type to bully others.  I clenched my teeth at the thought, but it hadn’t left my mind.  At the time, I didn’t know whether to be angry or scared.

In the store, he tried talking to children he obviously didn’t know, and they walked by him.  I thought about last month, when I’d worried he was having a hard time making friends in pre-school, and spent hours awake at night imagining scenarios of him swinging by himself or chasing after kids, running in a line that he thought was just play, but felt sick that maybe the joke was on him, that they were running from him.  But, no.  That wasn’t the case.  He was as social as they came.

I would not be a helicopter parent, I thought.  I knew what that meant, I dealt with them in numbers throughout high school when parents spread rumors about me and my then-boyfriend, or when a college freshman’s mother called the bookstore three times to get the dollar amount of their textbook order, or when parents emailed to discuss students’ grades.

“I am controlling,” I’d said to Cory one night.

“Yes.  You are,” he’d said.

“I am working on it,” I said.  Still, the amount of times at the mall that I said, “Johnny.” and then, “John,” and then, just a minute later, “John Alexander, do not make me put back your Transformers truck,” piled on enough to make me wonder if the parents around me were as annoyed with me as I was.

I bought a book called Mess, a journal in which every page requested that you intentionally made a mess of it.  Page 171 instructed the writer to bury the book, and then, three days later, dig it up.  This was part of my reform.

At the checkout counter, the woman wrapped a frame while Johnny said, “My name is Johnny,” and when she didn’t respond, said, “My name is Johnny,” and then, a few seconds later, “My name is Johnny,” and again, “My name is Johnny,” until I looked at her and said, “He really is not going to stop.”

The woman behind us in line laughed hysterically, and said, “Hi, Johnny,” but he smiled at the woman behind us and turned around to the cashier.

And then he said, “My name is Johnny.”

“Hi, Johnny,” she said.

“See my Transformers truck?” he asked.

I’d promised him we’d go to Burger King if he’d been good.  When we were in line, a man stepped in front of us, and Johnny pulled me forward.

“Mom, when am I going to get my chicken nuggets?”

“Johnny everyone has to wait in line,” I said.

“Yeah?  But why?” he asked.

“So everyone can eat,” I said.

“But I’m so hungry,” he said, and pulled me again.

“Be patient,” I said, loud enough for the man in front of us to hear.

Johnny told me he loved me about twenty to thirty times a day–as many times as he asked me, “Why?” in response to any answer I gave him to anything, as though he needed more and more and more.  I bought him a children’s encyclopedia a couple months ago, but then realized he couldn’t read yet.

The rain still came down, pounding the skylights of the mall’s food court.  “Why is it still raining,” Johnny said.  It wasn’t a question anymore.

“What is your name?” a woman came over to me as I sat next to Johnny.  She was a small elderly lady, and pretty, with blond hair and bright skin.

“Sarah,” I said, looking up at her.

“My name’s Johnny,” Johnny said.

“Well, hi Johnny,” the lady said. “That’s a nice Spiderman hat you’re wearing.”

“It’s just a hat,” Johnny said. “I’m not Spiderman, I’m just a boy.”

The lady asked me to watch her things–a newspaper, a travel mug, an umbrella and a cloth tote bag.

“It’s so crazy in here,” she’d said.

“Oh I know,” I said, gesturing to the birds.  “I still can’t figure out why it’s okay to have birds flying in a food court.”

“And this weather,” she said, almost as if my mom had sent her.  “I’m nervous about it.”

“Well, I don’t think it will be as bad as New York City will get it,” I said.  “Stock up on batteries.”

“Oh, but my husband dropped dead on our bedroom floor two years ago and I get so Oooooh nervous without him,” she said, raising her hands to her mouth.

“Oh,” I said.  I didn’t know what to say, and for once, too busy chomping on his nuggets, Johnny wouldn’t interrupt.

On our way out to the car, after Johnny informed an old man we encountered in the food court that he ate his boogers, I let him splash in some puddles.

“Mom,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“What were you and daddy eating this morning again?”

“Bacon,” I said.

“Where does it come from?” he asked.

“Pigs,” I said.

“Noooo,” he said. “The piggies have to live!”

I went on at length about the food chain, talked about links–birds and mice and insects and cats, things I wasn’t sure about–and wished Mrs.Johnson had told me what to tell him when he insisted we shouldn’t eat animals.  How could I justify that we would have pork chops for dinner?

Then, he changed the subject.  “Is it my birthday?” he asked.

“Not until after Halloween,” I said, thinking about another paper chain, and all the days after, the days he had, one by one, to convince himself he could be whatever it was, Iron Man, the birthday boy, or whatever, at all, he wanted to be on that day.