Surviving a Childless–and COVID–Halloween

Halloween is a non-event when you live alone with no children around. Or it can be. Amid the Facebook barrage of babies and kids in Halloween costumes, Annie the dog and I will live a normal day. Because Halloween is on Sunday this year, I’ll go to church. I’ll walk the dog. I’ll do laundry. I’ll meet with my poetry group. After dark, I will sit in my living room watching something on Netflix. I’m not even going to bother to turn on the porch light. Nobody comes trick-or-treating out here in the woods. It’s too dark and too dangerous, with no sidewalks and wild animals lurking among the trees. In normal years, the few families with kids take them elsewhere to trick-or-treat.

Thanks to COVID, a lot won’t be going anywhere. Some will attend “trunk or treat” drive-through events or gather at local churches. But kids will still be wearing costumes and still expecting candy, even if it all comes from their parents. My neighbors have their Halloween graveyard display set up, many have pumpkins on their porches, and I’ve got orange lights in my window. But we’re not expecting little kids to come knocking on our doors.

Years ago, I asked him about Halloween when he was a kid growing up on a ranch in California back in the 1920s and ‘30s. Did he go trick-or-treating? No, he said. He never did. The houses were spread too far. There were no street lights. Did he have a costume? Nope. The most that happened at his house was that his father might carve a pumpkin. Jack-o-Lantern, he called it. I suspect his mother used the insides to make pies. You couldn’t just throw out food during the Depression.

It was different when my brother and I were growing up. We couldn’t wait to put on our costumes and go up and down the street filling our bags with candy while Mom handed out candy at our house. We knew almost everyone in the houses and all the kids on the street. It was like a big party. I can still taste the green suckers and the Three Musketeers bars.

Times have changed. Now we have COVID. Now people worry about giving kids too much sugar. Now people worry about needles in apples and drugs in cookies. They worry about someone hurting their children. And some of us are alone.

In his last few years, my dad sat in his living room watching TV with the lights off as Halloween went on without him. It was too difficult for him to get up and answer the door. His own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren lived far away, so he would never see them in their costumes. Unlike most people, he didn’t own a computer or a smart phone to view photos on social media. Mostly he worried about hooligans damaging his lawn or his house.

I was visiting my father in California on his last Halloween at home. I bought candy, put it in a bowl by the door and handed it out to the kids who came. Dad got a kick out of their costumes.

But my father died two years ago, the house was sold and subsequently torn down, and I’m alone in Oregon. Halloween is a hard holiday. I enjoy the fun of costumes, kids, and candy. But not being a mother or grandmother, I’m not part of that world. That’s a mom world, you know?

I could put on my mask and join in somewhere. A friend who is the same age and also widowed posted a Facebook photo of herself in costume with her tiny piano students, also in costume. They all seemed so happy. She has a grown son, but he doesn’t live around here. She didn’t let that stop her from having a happy Halloween. Like everything else, Halloween is what you make of it. Without kids, I guess we have to try harder.

But no, I’m not putting a costume on my dog.

How is Halloween for you this year? Any plans? Any kids around? Does it make you feel your childlessness more than usual?

CNN–and everybody else–has ideas for a COVID-safe Halloween. Kind of takes the fun out of it when you have to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer if you happen to touch something or someone, doesn’t it? Here’s the link to the CNN story on the subject.

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Childless? You are not alone

NM wrote last week:

I just found your blog tonight for the first time because my grief blindsided me this evening. I was having a pretty good day then saw something on TV and out of nowhere BAM! I was looking online for anything that would let me know this will someday pass, that I will eventually ‘get over it’. I spent a long time reading your posts and the many precious yet painful responses. I had no idea this was such a widespread issue for so many, women and men alike.

Lara wrote earlier this month:

I love the honesty of this post; I love to read somebody else say what I am feeling; I am grateful to not feel like I am a bitter self centered b!+@# for what I am feeling/thinking simply by seeing someone understands it.

Candy wrote:

I have good days and not so good days… Today is a not so good day…. 😦

Thanks for letting me share here…. there is no one on the planet that I share this crap with.

And Dawnsey wrote:

From the depths of my heart, “THANK YOU” for starting this blog. Just being able to tell my story, without those who actually know me knowing my story, has helped relieve some pressure I’ve been holding inside.

This was all in October. I’m not sharing these quotes to give myself a pat on the back. It’s to show that we all think we’re alone in our childless dramas. These quotes are from women, but I get them from men, too. We feel like we can’t talk openly about it with our partners, parents or friends because they all jump on us with their own agendas. “I love you, but . . . ” “When are you going to give me grandchildren?” “Oh, just adopt.” “You’re lucky you aren’t tied down by kids.” Right? Or we’re afraid to mess up our relationships by being honest about how we feel. I know. I used to do my crying in the garage or the car, anyplace my husband wouldn’t hear me. I have never told my dad about my book or this blog.

I’m always coming across something that smacks me in the head with the realization that I’m different, that I didn’t have kids, don’t have grandkids, don’t have anybody to take care of me if I get Alzheimer’s like my husband did, will never have someone call to say, “Hi Mom, how are you?” And this week is Halloween, which has become such a child-oriented holiday. We get to endure the commercials, TV shows, parties and endless chatter about kids’ costumes. Yes, we can dress up, we can give out–or eat–lots of candy, but it’s not the same. And the rest of the world doesn’t get it.

But we do. And that’s why I keep this blog going. You can talk about your stuff here, and we get it. You can be anonymous. Nobody has to know who you are. Just say it. I love it when you respond to each other. We begin to feel like a community.

You are definitely not alone. The U.S. Census reported earlier this year that 47.6 percent of women aged 15 to 44 were without children in 2014. Around 18.5 percent of women 35 to 39 didn’t have children. They explained this by a trend toward delaying childbirth until fertility becomes iffy, conflicts between work and family, and more Americans choosing not to have children. The official report says nothing about the main reason we’re seeing here at Childless by Marriage, which is partners who are unable or unwilling to have children with you, often because they already had them with somebody else. I suppose that’s not on the census questionnaire, but it’s a big issue here.

I started today’s blog with nothing to say, and now I feel like there’s so much more, but this is enough to chew on for now. Keep those comments coming, read what other folks are writing in their comments, and know that you are not alone. You might be the only one in your family or among the people you hang out with, but there are lots of others going through the same thing. Including me. Thank you for being here.