You never know it’s the ‘last time’ until it’s too late

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* Editor’s note: Debra is taking the week off. For your reading enjoyment, this column was originally published in 2000.

I’m having one of those rites of passage moments in life, when you realize things have changed and will never, ever be the same again.

DebraDeAngeloW

This occurs when you make the unhappy discovery that your kids have outgrown something long before you have. How I wish for just one more time that I could place my kids on Santa’s lap or order a Happy Meal or wrap a Barbie doll and place it under the tree. All just memories now. My kids have no interest in those things anymore.

If only children could issue a warning so parents would know when the “last time” is taking place and cherish every moment. But life doesn’t work that way. You never know the “last time” has happened until you are going about things as you always have and your children inform you that “that’s for babies.” Halloween is a prime example.

My shock came this week when I started planning this year’s trick-or-treating route with my daughter and she looked at me as if I was speaking Japanese.

“I’m not going trick-or-treating with you,” she declared with that unmistakeable pre-teen disgust in her voice.

She informed me that she was entirely too mature for such childish activities, and intended to stay home and pass out candy. And even if she did decide to walk around the neighborhood and pick up a few Snickers bars or Tootsie Rolls, it would be with her friends and not her ridiculous, embarrassing mother.

“Could I just follow along, like 10 feet behind?”

“No,” she snapped.

“If I don’t talk to you and I pretend I don’t know you?”

“No! Get over it! You’re not going.”

Just like that, she shut me down. Kicked me to the curb like a rotting, fruit-fly infested jack-o’-lantern, just as her brother had done several years before. I’d always expected such behavior from the boy. But not my daughter. She was supposed to stay my baby forever.

All of a sudden, I remembered the “last time” we went trick-or-treating. She was all dolled up as a beauty queen, in a black and white puffy prom dress from the thrift store. And years earlier, there was that “last time” I’d trailed along after the boy as he limped from house to house as a disgusting bleeding ghoul. Oh, he was so cute with all that blood dripping from his blackened eyes. If only I’d known those would be the last times, I’d have insisted that we trick-or-treated once more around the block, just for the memories.

The end of trick-or-treating hit me hard. I started thinking back to all those other Halloweens, and the costumes I’d made despite my limited domestic skills — the clowns, the witches, the ghosts and princesses. My masterpiece, however, was my son’s very first Halloween costume, when he was an infant.

Dressed in plain blue pajamas, with fuzzy white socks and a fluffy white bonnet, no one was able to figure out what he was. I was quite pleased with my own cleverness when I’d inform people that he was a Q-Tip.

Then there was that sweet little lamb outfit I sewed for my daughter, complete with a little bell on a yellow ribbon around her neck. I remember her disgust, however, when she stomped in after wearing the costume to preschool and informed me that everyone thought she was a bunny. Well, I tried. At least it wasn’t a complete failure. At least they didn’t think she was an oyster.

No more trick-or-treating. It’s the death of Halloween, as far as I’m concerned. No more Halloween eve frenzy of rushing to get home after work, attempting to get dinner into the kids’ stomachs when they were desperate to hit the Halloween trail, no more last-minute touchups on costumes frayed and crumpled after having been worn to school all day.

No more sprinting along after my kids as they dashed from house to house, no more Halloween loot dumped out onto the living room floor after a hard night’s work, no more sneaking a Butterfinger or two from their stash when they weren’t looking. All gone. All stashed away in memory, along with Santa and Barbie and Ronald McDonald.

Last times. So bittersweet, so inevitable. It’s true, you never know you’ve experienced your “last time” with your kids until it’s too late. So, maybe the best we can do is to enjoy our time with our little ones and treat every time with them like it’s the last. You never know — it just might be.

So, this year on Halloween, take that extra trip around the block with your little ones. Years from now, you’ll never remember that your feet ached. You’ll only remember those squeals of “Trick or Treat,” trailing away through the mist of your memories.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com

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