There's a place right around the third level of hell that is commonly referred to as "Party City on Halloween Eve." This scary place is home to every giant cartoon balloon, sad/smutty lady costume, and wide-brimmed straw cowboy hat known to man.
And I have seen it, with my own two eyes. I have been there, and I have lived to write about it.
I put off everything. Literally. I am the worst procrastinator. When it comes to school parties (birthday parties, Christmas parties, moving parties), I leave everything till the last minute. I stop at the grocery store on my way to the school (10 minutes late, natch), grab the store-made cupcakes nearest the entrance, and make a mad dash for the express checkout lane. Then I mosy in to the gathering (bris, baptism, wedding) with the goods and wipe the sweat from my brow.
I will never do that again, I think. Next time, it will be different.
But it's not ever different. Especially this time, especially on Halloween. I don't sew costumes, I don't make anything. I wait for the shops to put holiday items on clearance and then I force my children down the aisles, "Sorry, kiddos, this is all that's left. Bummer!" We grab a synthetic pumpkin or two, a two-sizes-too-big Darth Vader costume, and we're all set.
Except now things don't go on clearance until after the holidays (ugh, Obama!), and all of the sudden it's Halloween Eve, and three Targets and one KMart later, I find myself at Party City. Up until I enter their streamer laden sliding doors, I feel like the worst mother ever. Of course every kid wants to be Iron Man. Of course my kid is growing, growing, gone. Of course he changed his mind a coupla times. Of course everything's full price, everything's sold out, and I'm speedwalking through three different counties during rush hour.
And then, I arrive at Party City. Suddenly, I feel a bit better, a bit lighter, a bit... ok, a lot more scared. Packed to the brim with bickering parents and pointing younguns. Instead of costumes, there's a line-up of pictures on the wall. A who's who of cartoon consumerism. Name brand only, lady. Which Avenger, Star Wars character, Disney Princess would you like?
Um, uh, I think... 138? Yeah, 138, in a youth medium, um, please.
"138! Medium!" She yells into her headset. "Sorry, ma'am [I'm sorry, what did you say?! Ma'am?!?!], but that's sold out."
Ok, 136... the one with muscles, in a youth medium. Yeah, Ok, 136.
I have now upped my game from $20 to $30 for one costume for the eldest, and if it is sold out, then God help me, I won't be able to go home.
"136! Medium! Ok, we got one. Follow the green feet back."
So I follow the green feet, and I wait in the back with the tweens and their Scream masks. I lay my hands on the beautiful 136 and I take my winnings and my pride and walk, head held high, to the checkout line which wraps itself 'round the store.
One hour later and I am home. Ah well, this is how it goes for the messy mom, the procrastinator, the unskilled keeper of the home. Every year, every time, just in time.
He is waiting by the door, "Well, well?! Did you get it?!" And as I lay the prize in his long, thin arms, I think, I will never do that again.
Next time, it will be different.
So this is it. The 31st day. Thank you for joining me here. I'm still a mess, but at least I'm not hiding it anymore. And at least we can lean into it together. And at least we've made some headway, cleared out the clutter a bit, tidied up so there's room to grow. At least, I hope so.