October is a month like none other in my world. It’s the month I got married in, and the month that two of my three boys were born. Add to this Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween (and now the American League playoffs) and you’ve got an action-packed “adventure” every weekend. And by “adventure” I mean an insane, self-inflicted schedule of party planning, cake making and costume creation that usually includes wine, at least one all-nighter and a few intense moments of panic when I think I’m not going to have something ready in time.
And EVERY October, I swear I’m NEVER EVER GOING TO DO THIS AGAIN! Next time, I say to myself, I’m just going to buy the damn cake. Next time, when my kids ask to be an obscure Pokemon or Octonaut character (and we’re talking REALLY obscure) I’m going to tell them they can be any character they sell at the party store. PIKACHU will have to do!
I’m totally envious of those moms that are okay to buy their way out of jams like these. Dinner? No problem, there’s a box in the freezer for that. Cake? Dairy Queen does ’em just fine. Costume? Here’s a sheet!
So why am I like this and why do I do this–especially in October? Well, I should probably also disclose that five years ago this October, my mother died. In fact, she died the day after my middle son’s 2nd birthday.
My mom was a powerful force in my life. She had struggles–financial, relationship-wise with my dad and as a newcomer to Canada. But these struggles never defined her. She was powerful, she was proud and she loved to laugh. Most importantly, she put her kids above everything else.
She made my cakes (though never R2D2, I’ll admit), she made my costumes, always hosted Thanksgiving and managed a full-time job. When I grew up, she made food for my friends (who were always way more impressed than my brothers and I) and offered up dishes for parties and baby showers she wasn’t even attending. Heck, she offered to crochet a cap for my roomate’s dreadlocked brother! And that’s just the way my mom was. She’d literally offer you the shirt of her back if you complimented her on it (apparently she asked my aunt if she wanted the shirt).
Don’t get me wrong, my mom was far from perfect. But her imperfections were what endeared her to people and to me.
That first October as an orphan preparing for Halloween was the real start of my costume-making ritual. I literally spent all night lovingly painting diaper boxes to look like Thomas the Tank Engine and Hiro of the Rails. As I developed creative solutions for every challenge–paper plates for wheels, a dollar store miner’s style headlamp for the train light–I thought a lot about all the costumes, prom dresses and events my mom had spent so much time on. Time, energy and effort, I so hadn’t truly appreciated until that night. I cried, I laughed, I drank wine and I painted. I was so very alone, and yet my mom’s voice, her spirit and her energy were all there with me in the basement at 2 a.m. as I worked on making those train costumes a reality.
And so every year, despite the fact that I’m exhausted and overstretched and so achingly sad because I can’t pick up the phone to complain to her, or tell her the ridiculously cute things her grandchildren said, I’m there pulling an all-nighter. Because I guess I hope someday when I’m not around, my boys will be prepping for a birthday party or for Halloween for their own kids and will take a moment amidst the chaos to chuckle and say to one another, “remember the time that mom pulled an all-nighter to make those Octonaut Vegimal costumes?”