“We couldn’t read My Haunted House in school because there is a girl who doesn’t celebrate Halloween in our class.”
Jeffrey had excitedly taken one of our holiday reads to school to share with his class, but this child was now deflated.
Without thinking, I immediately responded.
“I was that girl.”
This quieted my boy, and I could see the wheels spinning in his head. My children know that I grew up in the Jehovah’s Witness faith. They know that I did not celebrate holidays as a child. But whenever reminded of this, they are like ones stricken…struggling to understand.
“Did you not…was your class not allowed to have a party because of you?”
He was trying to figure out what he wanted to know. I could sense it was about more than a party.
“No, they always had a party. Even dressed up to go to school. The teachers sent my brothers and sister and I to the library while the others ate their treats and played games.”
This produced more silence. Then:
“I’m sorry, mommy.”
He wrapped his little arms around me and buried his face in my chest, truly grieving for the young me.
“It’s okay, honey. We actually had fun in the library. There was no one there to supervise us (can you imagine?), so we made up our own games.”
I remembered a time when a very large boa constrictor was visiting our school for Halloween. We, as the exiled ones, had the privilege of spending the afternoon with the slimy guy. We even got to see him eat a mouse.
That was one of my most memorable experiences as a child. Holed up in the library with my older brother and sister (younger brother must not have been in school yet…that would have placed me in the first grade), standing around that terrarium in awe.
I don’t have a lot of memories from my childhood. I have only recently realized the role our faith played in this lack. There were no birthday cakes, no late night Christmas church services, no large family gatherings for Thanksgiving.
Our family held no traditions.
When I look back, there is a smattering of special memories. But it is difficult to put a time on these mind-movies because they took place in reference to little.
Perhaps that is why I enjoy the celebrations so much now. I have tried to create rich traditions for my children. I rejoice in their joy at tiny milestones, knowing one day they will say, “Remember when?”
One piece of advice I would give to all new parents is to develop special family traditions. It brings the family closer now, and always. Traditions create a glue for our memories.