Last night we met a family we knew in their neighborhood so the kids could all go around and get some candy. Halloween is my favorite holiday and time of year in general. My mother was a huge Stephen King fan growing up and I had an early appreciation for a good scary story. As I grew, I started to write some myself and get them published. There’s a vibe in the air on October 31st, a breeze pushing leaves up and down the street as kids run, laugh, and play. Porches are lit with various decorations and people smile as they hand out candy. There’s an atmosphere to it that always pulled me in as a kid and I still love it today.
As our boys walked the block, I talked to the father of this family. They have four kids to our two, with a baby and younger girl very close in age. We talked about the stress of that time period, about jobs and the coming holidays. We talked about growing up and found we’d had some past experiences in common. I’d attended West Chester University and some of his first jobs back in the day were working security in a few of the bars in the city. He told me story after story of fights and conflicts, laughing at the years that were ones of freedom and possibility, before life hit home.
As we were going to bed that night, I looked at a picture that sits on our dresser. It is of Val and I going to my senior prom, both dressed in black and smiling the easy smiles of youth. We were young, new to the world and our relationship. That was twenty years ago and, it seemed, an entire lifetime.
We often stand at the intersection of past and present. We own our stories, from joy to sorrow and everything in between. We make a choice to what drives us. This dad I was speaking with talked about his job, about preparing for life with four kids eventually moving through school and into the real world. He knows the story about our loss and, in the moment, it lived in the silence, carried away by the sound of kids’ laughter on a darkened suburban street.
Fear is powerful. Whether the anxieties of multiple kids close in age, or mourning a loss, it shapes how we look forward. We can find solace in friendship, in our partners, remembering the past and looking towards a future with different and better things. Hope is hard. Doubt is real. Pain is deep and we must allow ourselves to feel it.
As we stood on the street, I imagined a third child of ours running around with our boys. How would they look? Would they run up to me and hand over a bucket overflowing with candy? Would they laugh and chase their brothers down the block, shadows darting past the soft orange lights from pumpkins on porches?
It wasn’t meant to be, and that is okay. Because maybe someone will read this and get it and that is my hope for you. For the chance to use this to make things better. That is what drives me.