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Lori Fazari is a programming editor at The Globe and Mail.
My kids still talk about the day we didn’t go to Miami.
We had a vacation booked for the end of March (glad I bought that cancellation insurance!) but had been telling the kids for weeks that we might not be able to fly anywhere. “Because of the virus,” the four-year-old took to saying, except in her voice it came out vi-uh-rus, stretched out to three syllables like our newly stretched-out lives at home.
The night before our trip, instead of staying up late to frantically finish stuffing the suitcases, I stayed up late printing and posting signs all over the house. If we couldn’t go on the vacation, we could do our best imagining going on the vacation.
When everyone woke up, there was a menu on the wall by the dining room table, a spa sign and bubble bath in the bathroom, art supplies to paint beach scenes, a scavenger hunt for travel items and, on the coffee table, devices, headphones and packs of cookies. In my politest flight attendant voice I told them to get on the couch and choose their onboard entertainment and snacks for their “flight.”
Maybe it was the early-morning sugar and TV show allowance, or the fancy dress-up dinner that night, but the whole experience was one of our lockdown highlights. And now, as we face a Halloween without its hallowed traditions, I’m applying that same mindset – issue early warnings, divert attention and distract.
We’d been talking about staying home for Halloween weeks before the Ontario government asked residents in COVID-19 hot spots not to go out trick-or-treating. I know it’s safer being outside and wearing a mask, and I know we all want – need – to just give our kids a fun night, but I also understand that cases are going up, particularly in denser neighbourhoods like ours, and it’s safest to stay home.
There are only two guarantees we could offer – there will still be costumes and there will still be candy. While out shopping one day I spotted outdoor Halloween decorations on sale and it was settled: haunted house in the backyard.
We’ll start the day with a pumpkin-carving competition then spend the evening outside – weather permitting – doing a scavenger hunt for candy. Last Halloween we promised they could stay up late this year (a promise they still remind me of, yet they can’t remember what they did at school all day?), so when it’s time to go inside, we’ll cozy up in our jammies and watch a movie.
In the meantime, every day after school they ask if there are any more decorations to put out, as I slowly unveil gravestones and skulls and cobwebs. And I’ve scoured Pinterest for spooky DIY ideas (people, cut out eye shapes in paper towel tubes, stuff glow sticks inside and place them in the bushes!).
I hate thinking about all that our kids have missed out on this year – school, playdates, sports, parties, just being with people other than us 24/7 – because it sends me into a tailspin of helplessness at the unfairness of it all. I worry about what it will do to their psyche that seeing even familiar faces approaching on the sidewalk incites an instinct to give them a wide berth, that reaching out to hold a crying friend’s hand on the first day of school leads to admonishments, that their lives have closed in. Everyone says kids are resilient, but at what long-term price?
It’s a common concern, I’m sure, but instead of focusing on what we’ve lost, I’m trying to create new opportunities. That means our Oct. 31 will look different than we imagined it, but so has the rest of this year. I’d prefer our kids see us make the best of a bad situation than dwell on what we can’t do.
We’re extremely fortunate that we’ve been healthy this whole time, that we had an emergency fund to cover the loss in income for the months my husband couldn’t work, that we have family close by we can still visit from a distance outside. Halloween is just one more event we’ll talk about when we reflect on this strange time.
But I don’t want them remembering it as the year they couldn’t go out trick-or-treating "because of the virus.” I want them to talk for months, even years, afterward about the time we creeped out the backyard and played spooky music and let them eat all the candy they found hiding in the bushes amid the glowing eyes.
What else we’re thinking about:
I read a lot of news for work, but one of my respites of late is The Globe’s First Person columns submitted by readers. I used to edit the column, and I’m convinced that years spent reading about Canadians' joyful, heart-wrenching and everyday moments made me a more empathetic person. Amid a steady diet of news on outbreaks and wildfires and protests, it’s reassuring to read other people also find grocery shopping exhausting these days, or that we’re not all going to become a better, slimmer, more fulfilled version of ourselves in the pandemic – but at least the kids got an unprecedented summer of freedom.
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