It was November 1.
Hal-le-lujah, sing it with me. In Phoenix, November 1 is generally met with a sigh of relief. Adios 100 degree temperatures, hello down comforters. But on this past November 1st, in addition to being excited about the cooler weather, I was up and moving because it meant Halloween was behind us by a solid six hours. It meant that I could take down the 1,001 pieces of paper Halloween decorations my son had made and installed on every square inch of our home.
My son had traced and cut-out witches, designed paper ghosts with crumpled-paper-ball-heads tied off with string, drawn construction paper goblins and grim reapers. We had blocky Frankensteins and vampires with white chalk teeth taped to the ceiling with blue painter’s tape, tied to the chandeliers with orange-striped bakers string, and dangling from door frames. The decorations were everywhere, people, everywhere. The microwave, the couch, the silverware drawer had all been “decorated” with paper spookiness. Are you feeling me here? I was a cleanliness is next to godliness gal living in an explosion of paper hell.
But November 1! Be gone, paper! Be gone, blue tape! I grabbed the Halloween box, put away the “real” decorations, and went to town on ridding my home of all the paper.
As I was smashing a pile of paper spooky trees into the recycling bin, my son came out. He saw me clearing out Halloween, and with a solid dose of despair, yelled, “MOM! What are you doing??”
“Jax, it’s November 1. It’s time to take down Halloween.”
“But I really like those decorations.”
“Me too, buddy. They’re great,” I said with the honesty of a politician, “but Halloween is over, kiddo.”
I was congratulating myself on allowing the paper takeover to hold my house hostage for as long as it did. Look at me, sacrificing for my kid.
Rip, tear, swoosh as I took down more and more paper and piled it, not at all carefully, on the countertop.
“Mom, this is making me so sad.”
I was busy rediscovering my oven, which had been covered in haunted mansions, when he started crying. Okayyyyyy, I thought. Here we go. Once again congratulating myself on my patience, I said, “Buddy, we can make more next year. They’re just paper.”
They’re just paper.
As those words came out, I realized what I was doing. I didn’t need to hear what my son said next, but I did.
“Mom, I worked really, really hard on those.”
My hands full of the blue-taped paper explosion I was so downright gleeful about cleaning up, I looked at my son – really looked at him – for the first time that morning. He was clasping one of the spooky trees that he had dug out of the kitchen recycling bin. His body was small, his eyes downward. I remembered how long he sat at the kitchen counter, tracing and cutting and coloring, googling “how to draw” tutorials, and shouting, “Mom! Look, I drew a skeleton!” I wasn’t just cleaning up Halloween. I was untaping all of his hard work, his effort, his art – and I was throwing it away.
Well, lookie here, the Halloween monster wasn’t made of paper after all.
I messed up, but I did my best to make it right. I apologized. We took down the decorations together, carefully, reverently, and saved about twenty pieces of art, one of each design, and put them in a ziploc that was added to the Halloween box. I know I’ll see that ziploc next year and remember Monster Mom, but I have hope that Jax sees it and only feels the excitement of seeing his decorations. My kid’s good like that.
In the meantime, it is November 17th and Jax has already started on Christmas decorations. I won’t say a word, but I’m thinking about hiding the tape.
Rebecca Masterson is a writer, speaker, and an advocate for children. For more from Rebecca, follow her on Instagram.