Halloween, another year

A bird is cawing aggressively outside my window. My tubby cat is next to me on my favorite couch, on his back, legs splayed, purring. I have just sunk into these cushions for a couple hours of stillness and work.

Yesterday, as the Mueller news spilled forth, I grabbed our pole saw from the garage and took to our trees with nervous energy to burn. My arms are fatigued today, in a good way, but all the limbs that scraped across our house in Sunday night's rainstorm are now piled in the driveway, and Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty, and I slept soundly last night for the first time in too long.

Today is Halloween, Oliver's favorite day of the year. He is dressing up as Sputnik -"not the probe" he told his friends- and as I packed his costume last night, I smiled. Sputnik is his favorite character from one of our favorite books ever: Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth. You all should read it regardless of your age. Oliver convinced my mom to, and she has found it utterly delightful and dear.

It is not a spoiler to tell you that some see Sputnik as a dog while others see him as a man clad in kilt, sporran, aviator hat, and goggles. It is the latter version that Oliver will be in today's school Halloween parade and tonight for trick-or-treating. He is supremely excited, and I have to say that we pulled the costume together in grand fashion. 

Jack is going as the Joker. "The scary Joker from The Dark Knight," Mom, "not the one from the Michael Keaton Batman." You got it, buddy! So as to look extra authentic, he has been growing his hair out for weeks now so that we can dye it instead of his wearing a wig. 

"I don't know how you women deal with all this hair, Mom. It's driving me CRAZY!" I do understand. This is the reason for ponytails.

This morning, Facebook sent me photos from Halloween four years ago. Both boys were Captain America. That choice always struck me as funny as neither is terribly keen on any of the Marvel superheroes, a fact that'd have told you as readily then as now. Maybe the shields were too appealing to turn down. I don't know. But they were darling.

 four years ago.

four years ago.

And I'm flabbergasted by how much bigger they look today. And how much older they are and act. What four years in the life of a child often is. 

A few weeks ago, Jack lost a molar. I'd forgotten to tooth fairy that night so the next night, after Tom and I got home from a dinner party, I attempted to sneak in and replace tooth with two dollars (interest, you know). 

Jack was still awake so I sent him to the bathroom to re-brush his teeth as he'd clearly been snacking on Cheerios. How that child sleeps with Cheerios, in dust, crumbled, and full forms, in his bed is beyond me, but whatever. Anyway, as I was fumbling with the bills and the tooth bag and Jack's pillows, he walked back in, and I was sure he'd busted me, and I'd not finished the job, and so I said, "Sweetie, I have some news. I am the tooth fairy."

He started crying, and then I teared up, and we got into bed together. Jack was eleven in July. It is infinitely dear to me that he still believes in Santa and was 50% on the Tooth Fairy and wants to cuddle on a daily basis. 

"Mom, I was pretty sure you and Dad were the tooth fairies, but it's just sad, you know?"

"Absolutely, honey. It is so sad."

"But, I swear I caught Dad tooth fairying one night."

"Well, you may have. The thing is, sweetie," (and here I decided to appeal to his rational science side which is almost all of him) "it does seem a little odd to pay you for a physiological function. Like, your baby teeth are going to fall out. That's normal and optimal. So essentially, we've been paying you for a bodily process.”

At this point Jack laughed. Hard. "Mom, do you still have all my baby teeth?"

"Of course, honey. Do you want to see them?"

And so we went to my closet and opened my jewelry box and lifted the tray and took out the small clear blue plastic Container Store box in which were nestled all of his teeth. Some were cracked, some were slightly bloodied despite all the rinsing I'd done, some were sharp, others more blunt. We looked at each one, and as he fingered old incisors, he slipped one arm around my waist, and said, "Do you believe in Santa, Mom?"

"I 100% believe in Santa, honey. Do you?"

"Yes," he replied. And I kissed the top of his head and then walked him back to bed. Oliver refuses to give his teeth to the tooth fairy (Jack once said, "Oliver, don't you want the money?" to which Ol replied, "It's not all about the money, Jack." and I am still dying laughing over that and also, YES!) so frankly, I don't know what he believes. But Jack won't say a word, and again I look from above and think, my gosh, my babies have turned into such mature young men. 

I'm not sure Oliver would have worn a kilt in the school parade even two years ago. The likeness to a skirt would have probably made him balk, worried about what peers may have said or, more concerning, thought. I am so proud of his growing confidence in himself. He is so much like me, and his confidence, like mine, is and will continue to be hard-earned. 

I think this is one reason I've tried to embrace Halloween. It's never been a holiday I much love, but it is important to Ol. It is important for his self-expression, for exploring ideas and identities, for trying things on both literally and figuratively. It's also about the candy and the fun and about "scaring people," but all that is just the tip of the iceberg.

He said to me earlier this month, "Mama, I know you don't love Halloween but you work so hard to make it so much fun for me. Thank you."

As I so often am with Ol, I was floored by the depth of his thought and awareness. (And I was profoundly touched). I know adults who don't reflect and perspective-take like my eight-and-a-half-year-old does. 

For those who will go trick-or-treating tonight, be safe and have fun. I am still hoping that at some point I get to stay home and hand out candy, but this year is not that time. Instead, I'll be walking with Joker, Sputnik, Bane, and whatever Ol's friend is dressing up as, and feeling as if the world will be alright if always we have such teams around us.

Happy Halloween!

Week in Review

This past Wednesday was the annual Washington Area Women's Foundation Leadership Luncheon. You might remember my post about it last year. I was so inspired that despite my complete lack of comfort with soliciting money, I enthusiastically agreed to join the Host Committee for this year's event. 

The tone of this year's Luncheon was one firmly rooted in female empowerment and strength. After a week of Me Toos swirling around, it was tremendously meaningful to sit with more than a thousand women (and a few men) and celebrate our vast ability, resilience, and connectedness. I am proud that the host committee this year raised more than $860,000 for the Women's Foundation. This record amount is crucial for our wholly donor-supported organization, and I am grateful to all who lift us up. 

On Friday night, a dear friend and I headed downtown to see Tom Hanks in conversation with Ann Patchett. A curious combination, perhaps, until you find that Hanks has just published a book of short stories, Uncommon Type

 Gorgeous night, exciting event.

Gorgeous night, exciting event.

He is an avid collector of vintage typewriters (he owns more than 200) and the machine has a role, from mention to major character, in each of the seventeen stories in the book. 

Meanwhile, in addition to being a prolific writer, Patchett, as you might know, owns the independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville. She was sent an advanced copy of Hanks' book. Initially rolling her eyes over "another actor who wants to publish a book," she found that once she started reading, she couldn't stop. She noted with relief that Hanks' writing is totally unaffected in a way that feels increasingly rare these days. 

It was a delightful conversation, although my friend and I both wondered if Hanks is always so kinetic and "on" or if he was in show-mode for this event. It was at times almost exhausting to watch and listen to him. I liked Patchett a lot. Although I don't much care for her fiction, her nonfiction is brilliant and I absolutely adore it. I hoped not to have a Kingsolver experience (remember when I went to hear her speak and found her public presence not terribly appealing; sad), and I didn't.

Washington has so much to offer. Despite American politics feeling like the most depressing and toxic and devouring dumpster fire ever, this city is extraordinarily rich in so many other ways, and I feel lucky I can take regular advantage of our cultural and social justice offerings.

It has also been a week (weeks, actually) of pretty and delicious food which for me never fails to serve as balm and joy. 

 pumpkin ravioli with sage brown butter and parmesan

pumpkin ravioli with sage brown butter and parmesan

 incredibly juicy, tangy Concord grapes from a local farmers market

incredibly juicy, tangy Concord grapes from a local farmers market

 tomatoes from that market heading towards roasted tomato jam (an outstanding Amanda Hesser recipe)

tomatoes from that market heading towards roasted tomato jam (an outstanding Amanda Hesser recipe)

 after nearly two hours in the oven, the jam is ready to put up.

after nearly two hours in the oven, the jam is ready to put up.

In other news, Stumptown has changed its packaging, and I'm smitten with the handsome take on a humble coffee bag. If you love coffee and grind your own beans for your morning espresso, please try Hairbender. Mamma mia. It's a worthy splurge.


And Nutmeg continues to keep watch, this time with the help of a bony friend. Oliver, who loves Halloween more than even his birthday and Christmas, is in full decorative spirit and costume planning right now. The countdown to the 31st is on! Ol told me last week, "Mamma, I know you don't love Halloween, but you always work to make it so much fun for me. Thank you." What a gift he is, and such an old soul. Tom and I are dressing up this year, and Ol is delighted. I told him that his enthusiasm is infectious, and thanks for making my life more fun.