When Drew was 10 1/2 months old, it was time for him to celebrate his very first Halloween. As you do when you only have one child, and it's their "first" anything, we made an occasion out of it. We decided we would travel to Knoxville and have Halloween with our Knoxville family. Looking back, this is hilarious. First of all, I know that neither Weston nor Drew have any memory of this whatsoever. Also, "trick or treating" is kind of a moot point when the kid can only eat a very narrow selection of food!
Anyway, when Mom found out that I was planning to dress Drew up as a puppy (his obsession at that time) she wasted no time in putting together the perfect, complimentary costume-a kitty!! So, Mom came to that Halloween party with ears and a tail and a fur collar, because she.was.awesome! (I would also like to take just a moment to point out how pleased she would be with a) her hair in this picture and b) her eyes in this picture!!)
One of the very best things about Mom was her ability to play. And I don't mean watch kids play encouragingly from the sidelines, I mean get in there and really play. She was the queen of pretend as a child and it carried right on through to being a Mom and a Grammy.
Being children of the '80s, my sisters and I went through quite a Cabbage Patch Kid phase. I was super into baby dolls of all kinds, but I had a special place in my heart for those babies that needed adopting. And I especially loved that they came with a name. (Although, sometimes? Those names? Who in the world decided they would work, right?) Anyway, our obsession with Cabbage Patch Kids led to one of the most epic, fun things Mom ever did. She threw a neighborhood birthday party for all the neighbors and their Cabbage Patch dolls. Like, a for real party with snacks and cupcakes and decorations. This party became the touchstone of all conversations of our childhood. If my mom ever had a moment of questioning her parenting, one of us would inevitably say, "Mom-you threw a Cabbage Patch birthday party!" As if to say, really nothing else matters once you've done that.
Another time she held a neighborhood Olympics for all the kids in the neighborhood. I should point out that our yard was filled with kids consistently for around 10 years. At the neighborhood Olympics she had us competing in various events and even had ribbons for us to wear when we won an event. (As a side note, I should confess that I was not a very good sport that day. I have a very vivid memory of my Mom doing her other job as a parent-reminding me to get over myself!!)
Her fun-loving spirit fully blossomed when the grandkids came on the scene. All of them loved being with her because she was FUN. Not only was she fun, but she took the time to know each one of them so well, she knew exactly how to best play with them. I was a shy, slow to warm-up child and my son is just like me. She knew that about him from the very beginning and interacted with him in a way that felt comfortable and safe to him. That's why he loved her so much.
My favorite memory of Mom with the grandkids, happened at my sister Kristin's house. Mom and the kids had been outside playing while my sisters and I were inside. I'm sure we were snacking/solving the world's problems. When we went outside, Mom came galloping by. And I do mean a full on gallop. As she passed, I laughed and said, "What are you doing?" She replied, looking over her shoulder, "I'm the pink pony!!"
If I'm honest, I have to admit that I do not have the same fun-loving spirit my Mom had. I came out of the womb with my brow furrowed, ready to examine all manner of serious items. Sometimes I find it really hard to sit down and PLAY with my kids. I can cook up an activity or teach them some new topic, but to really be there with them, to enter in in a meaningful way is hard. What I learned from Mom is that being in it with my kids, is how I connect with them. It shows them that I get them. It shows them that what is important to them is important to me. I had the very best teacher, but I'm a really slow learner.
So, in the spirit of Mom, find a kid to pretend with. Unfurl your brow, and gallop until you gallop any more! Long live the pink pony!!