The first Halloween my daughter could walk was the last Halloween that I could. She took to the neighbourhood for trick-or-treating as a mermaid—accompanied by her brothers: the fisherman and the scuba diver. My mom crocheted her mermaid’s tail out of a bright green yarn and I looped tulle through the bottom of it, giving it a tutu effect. She wore a matching hand-made toque and a purple long-sleeved shirt—because, Canada—with knitted flowers in place of seashells.
Relatively new to walking, but brimming with determination to keep up to her brothers, her balance had yet to catch up to her speed. I offered her my fingers to hold and she took one in each of her little hands. I spread my legs awkwardly—one on each side of her—giving her space for every wobbly step. It was the way I often walked with her—and with her brothers before her, and my nieces and nephews before them.
I gripped her tighter as we navigated stairs up to the front doors of strangers. When the doors opened I was right beside her to whisper in her ear, “Say trick-or-treat” and remained close enough to see her scrunch up her face in a cheesy smile and hear her say “treat.” I stood between all three of the kids as they showed me their newest treasure and said what all parents say a million times on Halloween night, “What do you say?” A chorus of thank-yous rang out as the boys ran down the stairs and I held my daughter’s hands again to take the steps, one-by-one.
When her determination was no longer enough to keep her legs going, I scooped her up from the ground and carried her on my hip. It was the way I often carried her—and her brothers before her, and my nieces and nephews before them.
We stood at the end of the next driveway and watched the boys go to the door on their own. She put her head on my shoulder as we followed to the next house, and the next. We followed until my arms began to ache under her weight and I looked at Ian, “Switch? I’ll take the candy, you take the baby.”
It was all automatic—all done without realizing the ways these simple acts of motherhood were deeply engrained in my identity. All done with zero understanding that something so simple could be snatched away—and how painful it would be when it was.
Because a year later I would not hold her hand up the stairs or scoop her up and onto my hip. I wouldn’t stand beside her at the door or see her face light up when—in her big two-year-old voice—she managed all three words “trick-or-treat”. A year later, I would understand the fragility of our being and know intimately the pain of things taken away. But I would still be there.
She was dressed as Minnie Mouse and her brothers followed theme as Mickey and Goofy. She had a pink and white polka dotted dress over black tights and a long black shirt—because, Canada. I coloured in a black circle on her nose and she wore her mouse ears with a pink bow to match her dress.
No longer wobbly in her walk, she kept up to the boys at every turn. She climbed each staircase next to her brothers, holding her big cousin’s hand. The kids ran down to show me their newest Halloween treasure and I asked a million times, “Did you say thank-you?” When her little legs would no longer carry her, Ian scooped her up and onto his hip. She put her head on his shoulder and, when his arms ached under her weight, she sat on my lap, resting her back against my chest.
When something changes, you compare it to what you knew—often thinking what you had was infinitely superior to what you have. Recognizing and feeling the loss of those missing moments is important. But so is finding the joy and magic in the moments that are replacing them.
I’ve been immersed in these thoughts lately—thoughts of the last of things and the first of things. The changes. The pain. The lessons which I now think are infinite. The comparisons which quiet with each passing year. As I wrote this I realized this Halloween will be my fifth one on wheels. She will be Bo Peep.