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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Bentley

The 19th First - This Is Halloween

Yesterday was the first Halloween without Joni. Our tradition has been to go to the neighborhood clubhouse where a local church hosts a trunk or treat. The whole family goes after dinner then we head back home, light the pumpkins, turn the lights on, and Joni would stay home to hand out candy. To no one’s surprise, she kept count of the number of kids and the kinds of costumes she saw and gave a report. We always found it interesting to see the trends and what was popular. Meanwhile, I would go out with the kids around the neighborhood.

This year we couldn’t do that. Sure, Belle could have stayed at the house handing out candy, but she didn’t want to be there alone. And who could blame her? It’s not her house or neighborhood, plus she wants to feel involved in the holiday. So what did we do? We maintained as much of the tradition as possible...and added something new!

The family went trunk or treating before dinner this time (only because the soup I was reheating took longer than I expected) and Christiana stayed home to hand out candy while we were out, which she really loves doing. We came back home and the four kids went out together while Belle and I stayed home to hand out candy. (Or make out, according to Kylun.) The great thing is that the two oldest volunteered to do this early on in the month when the question of how we would do Halloween came up. I was incredibly blessed! They volunteered like they had already been thinking about it and were excited about doing it. It was so cool! Meanwhile, Belle and I stayed home and handed out candy. (Yes, we really handed out candy.)

So we maintained the core of the traditions with some minor alterations. But there were a couple things that were different this year:

  1. The two youngest wanted to first trick or treat with their siblings as planned but also wanted to go trick or treating with their friends so they made plans to do so after they went out for a bit together.

  2. I had no problem with #1 and even gave Eva a fairly late curfew (10pm) given that it was a school night, which we probably wouldn’t have done in the past.

  3. We bought 3 boxes of FULL-SIZE candy bars. I wanted to be “that house” this year. Everyone loves it when you get a full-size candy bar instead of the “fun size” candy bar. (And why is smaller called “fun size”. I don’t have fun when my food is smaller! BIGGER is fun-sized! Anyway...)

Reasons Behind the Changes

Item the first: the two youngest are getting old enough that they’re going to want to spend time with friends. As long as this is balanced with spending time with family, I see no harm in it. Spending time with friends is valuable and an important part of emotional and social development. I know their friends and knew what the plan was ahead of time, so I felt comfortable and let them go.

Item the second: Eva has proven herself to be responsible and reliable. So when she asked “Daddy, what time do I need to be home”, my response was “Depends. How tired do you want to be tomorrow?” She knows the impact of less sleep and self-regulates well - she wants to do well in school so knows what would be too big of a setback. “I don’t mind being tired,” she replied. So I set the curfew as 10pm - at least an hour later than we probably would have done under different-but-similar circumstances. The look of joy (and mild surprise) on her face was delightful.

Item the third: I wanted to be a blessing to the neighborhood and bring delight to the kids visiting us. I wanted word to get out that “there’s a house giving out full-size candy bars”. And it was an utter joy to see and hear the kids’ excitement at being offered the choice of three different candy bars. It might have been an even great joy to hear their parents’ surprise and excitement over the treat as well.

“Mom, look!” as she holds up a big candy bar. “What?? That’s awesome!” exclaims mom.

I closed the door with a giant grin every time. In years past we would have been too concerned with the cost of doing full-size bars. We had the ability to delight 98 children with full-size bars. Sadly, not that many came to the door. But still! And yes, it probably cost 3 to 4 times what it would have cost to grab a mixed bag of your typical Halloween candy, but I like to think the joy of both the giver and the recipient was at least 3 to 4 times greater.

My Conclusions

As I’ve mentioned before, prior to Joni’s passing, I expressed fear over how I would change without her influence and presence in my life. As my dad said: “You will change. But that change could be really good.” So far, he’s been right. I’m frequently enjoying the person I am becoming. And it’s not because of the absence of Joni’s presence or influence, it’s because of how embedded she is in who I am and how we moved through life together. I know she would be excited and happy over how we navigated through the holiday and the changes we made.

But beyond that, I know she would be excited over the changes in my own heart: not being beholden to our traditions and the way we’ve always done things; making decisions based on “why not?” and living life to the fullest; bringing joy and having a positive impact to our neighborhood and our family.

I’m making some decisions faster and without as much second-guessing. I’m willing to learn from where those decisions were hasty or based on incorrect information and make changes where necessary. I’m a little more carefree and spontaneous. And yes, part of that is because I don’t have to worry about how Joni’s cancer will restrain us. (And yes, that feels a little weird/inappropriate to say.)

Of course I miss/missed Joni being a part of the holiday, but I believe she would be honored by what we did and thrilled at how we did it.

Thanks for reading.


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