COCKTAILS AND BUTT-SITTING

I’m writing this post as I sit in an Urgent Care Clinic in Brooklyn, the day before we head home, waiting for a doctor to see the Boy Child.

It’s actually our second visit to an Urgent Care Clinic in as many days, so as well as doing the US tour of rest stop bathrooms, particularly those within ten minutes of our point of departure, we seem to be specialising in US walk-in medical facilities too.

Both kids have needed medical attention this trip. Nothing major, just major enough that we’ve been afraid to stick them on a 24-hour international flight without arming ourselves with all the knowledge and medication.

That said, these visits have been brief detours in the overall frivolity that has been this trip. Really just a blip on the radar of holiday fun.

One of my dearest friends made me laugh the other day when she messaged and said we looked like we were having an epic holiday. “When I travel, I literally sit on my ass all day and drink cocktails,” she wrote.

It got me to thinking – this particular brand of holiday, the long haul travel, the constant sightseeing, the driving of unfamiliar roads and sides of roads, the multiple – shared – hotel rooms, the packing and repacking, the washing, the mere presence of our offspring – none of it makes for a particularly restful holiday.

And it didn’t come easy in the first place either. There’s epic planning, hours of research, the cost, of course, and then the subsequent, perhaps inevitable heartache over the reasonableness of the cost.

I’m absolutely not complaining. I love travelling, as a departure from lying by a pool or on the beach.

We’re lucky enough to have family on the Sunshine Coast where we visit regularly and so we get our fill of idyllic beach time (plus more than a few cocktails) there. I think this is why we haven’t felt the need to do the the beachy/resort thing in a little while now.

But.

As I sit here trying to explain to person after person that I don’t have medical insurance, nor do I have a preferred pharmacy, nor a local residential address and actually, we do birth dates backwards to you guys, I find myself wondering whether we might have erred in pushing ourselves (and the kids) so hard this holiday.

We have a huge few months of life and work ahead of us, what if cocktails and butt-sitting was exactly what we needed?

Nah.

The thought is gone almost as soon as it arrived.

This trip has been incredible and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And to share it with my family…. There are barely words.

Even if the kids don’t remember it in any real detail, hopefully they’ll remember a few abstract notions.

If not where we went specifically, then maybe what it’s like to emerge from the darkness of a subway station to the streets of the Manhattan for the first time, the overwhelming, slightly terrifying chaos of somewhere new and different.

If not what we saw on Broadway, then maybe the thrill of the lights dimming and the first few notes of an overture.

If not the specifics of Amish life, then maybe the fact that there are whole communities, countries around the world, living a fundamentally different experience to their own.

If not the names of each of the Niagara Falls, then hopefully the incredulity of their mum and dad signing them up for a boat trip where they got totally soaked, fully-clothed, on a mild Canadian autumn day.

If not the regional specialities tried and tasted, then hopefully the surprise and joy in the understanding that mum and dad take a holiday from meal rules too.

Which is fine for a while, but eventually evolves into dinner discussions about which home cooked meal we’d like to eat first when we get home.

Which then evolves into a conversation about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’s protagonist, Ichabod Crane, and how perhaps if the headless horseman would have piffed mum’s pumpkin risotto at him in that dark, instead of a whole Jack O’ Lantern, then maybe he wouldn’t have been so scared.

Or maybe they’ll just recall how mum and dad were there, for the most part, all day, every day, and every night, and we how we did it all together.

Often annoying the crap out of each other but mainly just enjoying living, learning, loving and being together, without distraction.

If I’m honest, that would be enough.*

*Yes, this is a Hamilton reference. As ever – not sorry.

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THE TRUE HORROR OF HALLOWEEN

I’ve written about Halloween before. If you missed it, it’s here.

But if you’re already so riveted by this incredible piece of literature and can’t be arsed navigating away, I can summarise:

I can take it or leave Halloween. But I just wish that we as Aussies would pick a side.

So we’re doing this? Great. I have a section of scrapbooked Woolies magazine recipes and ideas for five years worth of whole-family-themed costumes ready to go. Bring it.

Or is it ex-nay on the alloween-hay? Great. Hurray for the fight against childhood obesity.

The thing is, the upward pressure is definitely there from those under 5 feet tall.

But when push comes to 31 October shove, lobbing up to your neighbour’s doorstep and demanding confectionary is easier said than done, given our current antipodean indifference.

And until this year, this is what I’ve always tried to explain to our children/use as an out: not everyone in Australia celebrates Halloween.

So when we decided to take a trip to the States this year, the kids cottoned on pretty fast.

Are we going to be in America for Halloween?

Yes.

And everyone in American celebrates Halloween?!

…Yes.

SO CAN WE GET DRESSED UP AND GO TRICK OR TREATING IN AMERICA ON HALLOWEEN?!?!?!?!?

….oh my, what have I done…yes…?

What I didn’t count on, though, was that Halloween in the US as an Aussie interloper is fraught with as much doubt as it is at home.

We planned to be in Sleepy Hollow, NY, for the big night because it was in the path of our general homeward trajectory and also because what’s spookier than a Headless Horseman?

So once we were en route and the kids’ feverish anticipation for trick or treating threatened to boil over, I thought I’d better do some research.

And the results, fittingly, were horrifying.

If Halloween falls on a weekday, some towns actually do their Halloween festivities on the Saturday prior, which we’d missed.

What’s more, apparently there’s a nation-wide push to move Halloween from 31 October to the last Saturday in October. #therealissues

Also, there are timing guidelines from town-to-town so that householders aren’t expected to sit by their doors with a bowl of lollies until all hours of the morning – and – those general timing guidelines are designed to be cross-referenced with the weather forecast of the evening for maximum rain avoiding.

Then, Google led me down a path of demographic trick or treating justification, for example: if we simply wandered out of our hotel and started knocking on doors, it’d be a while before we reached anything other than a petrol station, Dominos or a car yard.

But apparently the town two towns over has a population in which 1 in 4 residents is under the age of fourteen, so surely a hotbed of neighbourhood trick or treating activity?!

Or not? I’m so lost.

And then, the straw that just about broke the haunted camel’s back, the Google search yielded a guide to known sex offender’s homes in your area, to keep your kids safe on Halloween.

Nooooope. I’m out. Too hard basket.

And yet… the kids were so excited. And they’d put up with a whole holiday completely devoid of any theme park action. We’d even stopped at a Walmart to pick out costumes – Cinderella and a Minecraft Creeper.

How could I let them down?

And this is the real horror of Halloween – meeting your kids’ lofty expectations. It was hands down the most stressful part of our trip to date.

In the end, it wasn’t a white knight (or headless horseman) that came galloping to the rescue, it was Hoff.

Apparently (in a fit of genius) he searched “trick or treating near me” and up popped a local mall, whose retailers were getting into the spirit by handing out lollies to all and sundry.

So we headed to the (gigantic) mall, marveled at all the brilliant costumes, and happily enjoyed the trick or treating experience whilst safe, dry and secure in the knowledge that we were perfectly welcome until 8pm, or until the lollies ran out.

And fortunately, night two in Sleepy Hollow was dedicated to the Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze, should trick or treating turn out to be a major fizzer.

Simply put, it was 7,000 carved pumpkins, on the grounds of a nearby historical manor (the Van Cortlandt Manor), arranged into all manner of whimsy, from a fully functioning skeleton horse carousel, to the pumpkin Statue of Liberty.

It was glorious.

As I stood and watched a maniacal jack (o’lantern) in a box, spring from it’s box (made entirely of carved pumpkins), it reminded me of the true spirit of Halloween – the frivolous spooking of ourselves for no other reason than to raise the heart rate and have a bit of a giggle. With a sprinkling of harvest folklore and imagery thrown in for good measure.

And further, everywhere we’ve been in the last couple of days, there’s been people – shop assistants, hotel staff, medical receptionists (long story) – falling over themselves to ply the kids with lollies and engage in a conversation about their Halloween experiences, which the kids have loved and has been truly touching on the whole, I must say.

So Australia, when you’re ready to take a vote – I’m in. Let’s do this. Vote 1 Halloween. I’m ready.