Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on November 05, 2021
First published on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog
Geoff often travels out to Colorado for work over Halloween so when he is actually home, we try to come up with an extra special family costume. Our kids were super excited about the year we were all bald eagles, and Geoff wore the nest, a kiddie pool spray painted brown filled with twigs, leaves, and hay. I cut a hole in the pool so that he could wear the nest and still wheel his chair; however, I did not take into consideration the width (total adaptive costume oversight), and doorways were a real problem. There was the year he was a sitting Darth Vader, and the rest of us were Princess Leia and stormtroopers. Another year it was a family of skeletons, the first one with our service dog Emerson. This year we were elves on shelves and one zombie elf cheerleader.
Now in the sixth grade and almost 12, our son is still devout in his belief in Santa and his elves. Our daughter, a year younger, patted her bed for me to sit down next to her, earlier this summer and “give it to her straight” about Santa. She also promised not to ruin it for her brother, although we kept waiting for her to use it as a weapon during some sibling squabble in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Anyway, he asked us all to be elves on shelves, except the dog, who “wanted” to be a taco. His sister was not on board with the family plan until actual Halloween, when she finally agreed to wear a Santa hat with her zombie costume. Even the pet toad had an elf hat, but we did not take her to trick or treat with us.
We rigged up “a shelf” so that it could appear that we were all elves on shelves, thereby making our son perhaps the happiest kid on Halloween. Geoff doubled as the shelf and an actual elf. We have one tree in our yard left with vibrant yellow leaves, providing a most excellent backdrop for a foliage elf photo. But right smack dab in the middle of me arranging Geoff’s shelf, a portable folding table with tablecloths to disguise as the shelf, our son ran for the trumpet and euphonium for a short jam session with his dad. As much as I wanted to be annoyed at his lack of focus, watching Carver and Geoff attempt jingle bells together was nothing short of remarkable as parenting “first.” Carver is taking trumpet lessons for the first time this year, the instrument Geoff played in the marching band many years ago.
Geoff will tell you that these kinds of horned instruments are far more challenging to play without any abdominal muscles. However, he was able to keep up with jingle bells and his young elf on the shelf without too many issues. Listening to them play together, along with our daughter, who is also newly taking clarinet lessons, I am grateful to their music teachers Thom and Barb, whose teaching in the pandemic may have been harder than anyone. I’m not sure if our kids will be good musicians in the long run, but their excitement and passion right now are palpable, and we never have to remind them to practice— at least not yet. That likely will change too in the coming years, similar to our son’s belief in elves on shelves, Santa, and that his voice will never change during puberty.
Our family will hold onto this Halloween, pure magic, a return to BIG trick or treating in our tiny two towns where people turn out their homes in costumes and decorations, and our police close streets down. We gave our son the option to meet up with friends with a time to rendezvous back at our car, and he asked, “Why would I want to trick or treat away from you guys?” It was sweet, and I want to package that up as I know all too quickly, maybe even next week, that the elves will be lost, along with the amount of time he wants to spend with his parents. Greta likely would have bailed to trick or treat with her fifth-grade friends had we offered that up to her, but she will be in middle school next year, so for now, we are keeping her close. Happy Halloween from our family to yours. A reminder that November is National Caregivers Month so take care of each other.
Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta, who are 11 and 10, respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.