After you lose a child, no holiday is ever the same again. I try to be strong and continue traditions and push through for the sake of my other family members, but the loss is always there–the elephant in the room. Halloween is no exception. I am haunted by memories of Halloween past.
I’ll never forget Emily’s first Halloween in 1997. She was just seven months and I dressed her up as a pumpkin; not very original, I know, but it was so much fun for me. One of my favorite photos of her is from when she was about three and she picked out a little pink fairy costume. She was caught up in the moment of being that magical creature when I snapped this picture.
At the age of 9, she was into frogs, I mean really into frogs! She had stuffed frogs and I even painted frogs in her bathroom. She made her own costume that year. She was “Super Frog!” Emily never outgrew her childlike love for the fantasy of Halloween. At 13, I was worried the “Little Red Riding Hood” costume she picked out was too provocative and insisted she wore leggings and a t-shirt with it.
Every year we went to Zoo Boo, a spooky trick-or-treat event at our local Zoo and we usually had a Halloween party for the kids at our house. Emily loved planning everything for that party, from transforming our basement into a haunted house, to the games we played. We blindfolded the kids and peeled grapes for “eyeballs” and used cooked spaghetti for “brains.” She helped me dip Nutter Butter cookies into white chocolate to make ghosts. The trick-or-treating in our neighborhood looked like a Normal Rockwell painting, with parents following their children from house to house as the sun began to set. It wasn’t lost on me at the time how lucky I was to experience it all.
Our Halloween party tradition continued through Emily’s freshman year when she had her first teenage boy-girl party. We spent all day getting ready and making treats. I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t ready for my little girl to grow up so fast. My husband and I alternated bringing new chip bowls and pizzas down the basement every 30 minutes. Despite our best efforts to watch over them, I later learned that one of Emily’s friends experienced her first kiss at that party.
These Halloween memories remind me of how involved I was in Emily’s life and how excited she was for every holiday. She loved every single tradition. Her childhood was filled with experiences like these. As an empty nester, my Halloweens are now pretty quiet. I still decorate the front door and hand out candy, but the days of planning kid parties and taking them trick-or-treating are over. The only thing that remains is the magical presence of Emily in my heart this Halloween.
Faith, Hope & Courage,