My mum always loved this time of year. Because she did, so do I. I have these memories of misty woodland walks through drifts of ruby and amber leaves, jumping into piles of them, kicking them up as if back to their branches, and picnics eaten ravenously in the back seat of my stepfather’s car. We never realise then how treasured those times will come to be, how bright and precious those leaves will seem in our memory.
Knowing better now, and that my mum would have loved to spend this season with Lorelei, I have been trying my best to make the most of it for both of them. Our little pumpkin went to her first Halloween party dressed in orange velour, a colour that looks as surprisingly good on her as it does on me. We’d both had colds and I wasn’t sure if I could bring myself to go. But I thought of my young All Hallows’ Eves, pumpkin carving and hanging the happy witch on her broom in pride of place, and knew I’d kick myself later if I didn’t.
Lori had a wonderful time playing with the little friends she’s come to recognise, ever more social as the weeks fly by. And even though she ended up barely sleeping on Halloween night (teething, again), I felt the thrill of cloistered falls to come in reading her some spooky themed stories before she went to bed.
One thing I find myself worrying about is how I’ll cope with organising fun days with my girl, especially at holiday times. You want to make the memories you know will last long after you’re gone, when they will be the one medium to show that you loved them – and still do, I believe, somewhere. I wonder and fret about how I can give my baby the childhood I’m glad to have had, and try to do one better for everything Mum wished she could have done. Taking my sister and I on more holidays and day trips, spoiling us more. I want to pour my love into Lorelei’s happiest moments so they will spur her on in her saddest, like my mum’s memory does for me. All that is especially wrapped up autumn time, feeling my inner Dathomir witch come alive because, after all, Halloween is also Samhain; the witches’ new year, the time for welcoming home ancestors and letting go of all we wish to lose from dark times passed.
This year, I chose to release my worries, at least a little, by burning a leaf I named ‘anxiety’. And I said hello to my mum as though she was never gone, because she’s always near. She let me know she’ll be around for me and Lori, whether we need her presence or not, and that she’s proud of all I’m already doing as a parent. I don’t need to tell her I’m trying my best. She just knows.
She’s so much like my very own Force ghost, always one with the growth and flow and fall of life around me, and lending me her advice when I need it most. She was never into Star Wars, but I’m sure she’d appreciate that message, especially at this time. Life seems to be wilting, fading and dying, but its joy is still present in the colours, the warmth, the anticipation of family gatherings.
Autumn is the core of what life means. The bare trees still open their arms for new leaves. We move through the cold to seek the light, and find it all the brighter for the darkness, preserving those memories of colour, of gloved hands clasped and joyful shivers at coming back to the warmth of home. These everyday moments already feel precious to me, so I’m sure my daughter will feel the same in years to come. No stressing about grand gestures or extravagant celebrations. I never needed those to know I was loved, and neither will she.