This Halloween my teenagers wanted to go to a pumpkin patch and corn maze, just like we did when they were little. Fall has always been our favorite time of year, especially after living in Connecticut, where the gorgeous autumn foliage combined with the smell of wood smoke and apple cider made it feel like we were living inside a Norman Rockwell painting.
After Connecticut, we moved to Hawaii for six years, where Halloween was more of a shorts and flip-flops event. Any costumes we made had to be lightweight or the kids would swelter. There was one heavily trafficked pumpkin patch on the island, but we waited till three days before Halloween to get our pumpkins from the air-conditioned grocery store so they wouldn’t turn black with mold before the big day.
Now that we have moved to Northern California, the kids couldn’t wait to go back to a real pumpkin patch, so we did. There were fields of autumn flowers, pumpkins, hay bale pyramids, goats to pet, a haunted barn, an apple cider stand, gift shop, and the ever-popular corn maze.
The kids enjoyed it well enough, but realized it wasn’t the same as they remembered. Even if we could go back to Connecticut it wouldn’t be the same, because they are not the same, and it made them kind of sad. My oldest son frequently pines for the “good old days” when life was simpler, when he didn’t have to think about college and his job and moving away from home next year.
It occurred to me that both my boys will probably be away at college next Halloween, but I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good day. Instead we talked about future Halloweens on our future family farm, where they will bring their future kids to visit, or maybe live nearby.
We talked about how “growing up” changes our perception of things; how what used to be magical somehow seems more mundane. A child’s world extends to the edge of his or her family and friends, bounded by a neighborhood or perhaps the edge of town. But as we grow older, our awareness gradually stretches to encompass so much more, good and bad. We might move away, make new friends, learn new things, and experience more heartaches.
On the surface, it seems so sad to leave behind our childhood favorites, but not if we remember to make new favorites. There is still plenty of room for play in the adult world. We may not go trick-or-treating, but it’s still fun to dress up and go to a Renaissance Fair or build a contraption for the Maker Faire. Hayrides may not be as exciting as they once were, but now we can go mountain biking or river rafting. As our perspective changes, so do the opportunities.
Probably the most important thing is to keep family and friends close, no matter how we play. Nostalgia is useful for passing on traditions and stories to the next generation, but we can’t live in it. Instead of being sad that tomorrow will never be the same as today, I prefer to think that tomorrow will be even better.