Fall Traditions, Old and New

By Aimee Tafreshi

In August, my family made a cross-country move from a beautiful, pristine island in the northeast corner of Florida to the wide open, dusty spaces of West Texas. We arrived just in time for the beginning of the new school year and hurriedly ordered school uniforms and supplies as our first order of business. Still living in a corporate rental with most of our worldly belongings in storage, we took a triage approach to life, prioritizing the creation of a sense of normalcy while in housing limbo.

When we arrived in Midland, my husband relished the zero humidity heat. He is one of those people who will proclaim that 114 degrees isn’t so bad without the added moisture in the air. While I am inclined to agree, I felt slightly nostalgic for the muggy dampness of the usual southeastern and Central Texas summer and complained that the sun felt more intense here, amplified by the lack of trees.

When we face transitions in life, the world goes on with business as usual; the sun still rises and sets, and the seasons change. It was with some excited anticipation that I awaited the first cold spell in Midland and realized that none of our five children had appropriate winter gear, or even as much as a windbreaker. During our hasty exit from Florida, there was not enough room on the U-Haul for our winter clothes, so they were relegated to storage. Sadly, I didn’t even pack a pair of fall boots, which for any woman who cares much about footwear, is a major fashion dilemma. We might be able to wear socks with flip flops during a “Florida winter,” but here in Midland’s more desert-like climate, it actually gets cold.

As I counted down the days until the temperature would dip into the 30s, I convinced my more fiscally conservative spouse that a shopping trip for fall attire was in order. An upside to living in a larger city is better access to shopping. There isn’t a Nordstrom, but there is a Dillard’s, Old Navy and Banana Republic (Outlet). On Amelia Island, I had to drive over an hour to visit a mall. As I presently walked into various retail stores, I felt overwhelmed by the choices and sheer abundance of clothes. I promptly got over that feeling and put a big dent in my budget at Carter’s and Gymboree so my kids wouldn’t freeze in the unfettered winds of West Texas.

As the cooler temps arrived, I began to feel happiness again. Fall is my favorite time of the year, and it’s not because Starbucks was now offering pumpkin spiced lattes. I love the feel of the breeze on my arms before it’s too cold to wear a t-shirt. Autumn also happily coincides with football season, the perfect excuse to veg out all day Saturday with Game Day and the best match-ups. (Who are we kidding?—we have 5 kids!—but we watch what we can. We’ve managed to turn one into a football fanatic and are working on the others.) My husband and I have taken turns at the local fields watching our 8-year-old son experience his own “Friday Night Lights” during his flag football games. I love just sitting and watching, pausing from life to take a breath and let someone else do the running around.

We’ve also explored the local family-run farm—they seem to have these all over America judging from my friends’ Facebook feeds—where the kids cheer on piglets as they race, play tug of war and roll down the field in a big barrel. There’s something refreshing and freeing about letting your kids run loose on a big tract of land with old-fashioned entertainment, no charger required. We have visited this agricultural wonder three times now and have enjoyed different experiences each visit. My favorite new memory is probably seeing my kindergartner fly down a metal slide sitting on a burlap sack with a look of half terror and half exhilaration on his face. (I had to explain what “burlap” is.) I loved that I could set my 15-month-old twins down and not worry about lack of child proofing or them getting into trouble. Hay, dirt and grass are good for the soul.

This past week was a great example of new traditions paired with some old ones. The week didn’t start off with the highest expectations. I found out my husband would be away on business for the week of Halloween. For some people, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But for me, Halloween is one of my top three holidays. The image in my head of the whole fam dressed up as The Incredibles instantly went poof. (We would have been in good company with the fifty percent of American families who dressed up as this brood of superheroes.)

Not one to be deterred, I gamely took the kids to a pop-up Halloween store where they picked out non-coordinating costumes including a character from Harry Potter (I couldn’t tell you her name if I tried) and Dracula (I sadly noted that a duplicate vampire costume collected dust in storage). My oldest son and I originally had big plans for him to dress as a “Zombie businessman,” one of those original ideas that sounds easy until you realize it will take one to two trips to thrift stores, the effort of deconstructing the second-hand clothes into zombie threads and the artful application of make-up (or face paint, as I tell my boys) to achieve the desired ghoulish effect. I love nothing more than playing with face paint, but two lurking toddlers would likely thwart my artistic efforts. So we dialed it in and decided for my second grader to channel Dallas Cowboys’ player Dak Prescott, a costume choice that would require minimal time and effort. I silently thanked my son for choosing this slacker option. A more ambitious mom would have at least zombie-fied the quarterback.

With not enough time (or the desire to spend one hundred more dollars), I forwent the Etsy option for the twins and found some cute Bert and Ernie costumes on Amazon. When the day arrived, I realized that I absolutely couldn’t go as myself, as scary as that would be, so I headed to Party City at 8 a.m. and found a budget-friendly witch costume in the young at heart but, let’s face it, middle-aged, soccer mom section. And of course, I needed an authentic looking broom stick (every mom should own one—how did I not have one?), witchy head piece, ‘90s style Goth black choker and classy spider web tights to complete the look. We were finally ready to make our Halloween debut in Midland.

Unfortunately, the perfect mix of summer sunshine and autumnal breeze dancing around earlier in the week made way for its ugly cousin: cold, rainy and dreary. It was Mother Nature’s cruel Halloween parlor trick. When we headed out the door, the thermometer showed 48 degrees, and we lacked layers, outerwear, and most importantly, common sense. After all the work that poured into costuming multiple kiddos, taking bad photos and the resulting EF5 devastation in our too-small temporary home, there was no turning back. As we rounded the block, the babies were too cold to cry, reduced to a look of shock. My timid Dracula deadpanned to an adult, “I want to eat you,” a slight deviation from our rehearsed “I want to suck your blood,” spoken with a vampire accent.

My exuberant sons also attempted to beat the crap out of a jolly adult dressed up as an inflatable T-Rex. I finally had to ruin the Halloween magic and yell, “Stop beating him up! There’s a real human inside that costume!!!” The final dramatic moment occurred when we witnessed an English Bulldog gallop free from his owner and proceed to pee and poop all over the pebbles (we have rocks, not grass, in these parts). The stout fellow then turned his attention toward us, charging me and Dak Prescott, who screamed, “He’s going to attack us now!” I prepared to shield the babies in their stroller, and the pup ran full speed toward me and jumped up on my dress in a flash, aiming his slobbery jaws toward my lips. I simultaneously wondered if there were poopy paw prints all over my new witchy get-up and how I could dognap this slobbery blob of pure love and happiness. Alas, he sprinted back to his amused owner.

After trick-or-treating on two streets, we returned home with frozen limbs and overflowing buckets of candy, just what we needed on a school night. The babies were never happier to be in their cribs, their pale chubby arms felt like cool ice packs, and I hoped they would thaw out overnight. Despite the Arctic blast, the older sons were ecstatic—I think my daughter was too; she was frozen like Audrey from Christmas Vacation and could only nod and grunt.

As I began to clean up the scary mess that was Halloween, I breathed a sigh of relief that another holiday was in the books. Now I could look forward to Thanksgiving, where my dear mother would do most of the cooking and cleaning, thank the Lord. (Sorry Mom!)

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