One of my dear friends introduced my family to ranching life in Merritt, British Columbia. We’d head to the Chutter Ranch to ride horses, participate where we could, and adopt the stance of what we called “The Country Mouse”. The farm boss, Traugott, took my riding skills to new levels during times where we were riding for a purpose, like separating calves from mamas. He’d yell “yahhh!” and I’d hold on for dear life as the horse did the very familiar I work. When my sister and her family bought a ranch in Texas this past year, our family was stoked! We made a bee line from Vancouver and Taiwan (where my daughter is working), for the GameFive Ranch last Christmas. While we were there, my sister bought me, not the sale boots that I was gravitating towards, but the most beautiful “real working” red cowboy boots that I loved. I was ready to don my cowboy persona for Hallowe’en.
Hallowe’en has been met in our school community with a fair amount of trepidation. In our school community, Hallowe’en has been BIG. Huge participation in wearing costumes. Amazing costumes. A massive parade of the amazing Hallowe’en costumes with copious quantities of parents showing up to watch. Lots of contributions of treats in the classroom. Pumpkins delivered to the grass field for all students to claim. Hot chocolate. Lots of fun.
This year, as administrator of the school and designate “safety police officer,” I initially felt that most of my effort was going into scaling back what we have done in previous years. No parade. No parents in the building. No treats from parents. Prepackaged, commercial treats only from teachers. Tonga. My concern as an educator was how we could maintain the fun of this season of imagination. Fortunately, my teachers had that covered. Did you know that some teachers have entire outfits made of Hallowe’en fabric? Others are willing to sweat profusely to maintain the integrity of the costume – Beit Eeyore or a clown? Activities throughout the day were integrated with the Hallowe’en theme and novelty. Our kids were well taken care of and their imaginations were being nurtured.
The added bonus was the Livingstone Garden. Last weekend my husband and I were biking through UBC neighbourhoods, and noticing that Hallowe’en decorating was still quite amazing this year. I stopped to take picture after picture. Graveyards. Harry Potter themed worlds. Huge blow-ups of pumpkins and ghosts… People willing to play. Although it was a last-minute announcement, I invited the school community to join in with decorating the garden. One group of students came through with a scarecrow. One group helped to make the black fringe to blow in the wind. One class came through with spooky ghosts. My trusty dollar store helped out with the rest of the decorations. The decay of the fall garden added ambiance.
On Hallowe’en, armed with dollar store candy, monster erasers, sticky frogs, my Hallowe’en playlist, and my tongs, I headed to the garden at four intervals. With my black, BCPVPA mask, I looked more like Jesse James, famous train robber. However, with my daughter’s Calgary Stampede, cowboy hat and the current expectation of masks, I was not too scary. Class after class entered the garden. I could easily change the playlist from fun to spooky on my phone depending on the group. Some kids would even dance with me.
I made a decision to buy both treats and decorations. As a result, I did not buy chocolate bars for every student in the school. I bought little packages of ghosts, bones, and pumpkins. Chewy, sugared eyeballs. Chewy fruit candies. Caramels. And I pulled monster erasers and sticky frog toys from the cupboard for kids who don’t eat candy. I was waiting for complaints that the treats were small. Never happened. It transported me to the penny candy store that use to be by Tatlow Park. As kids, my cousins and I would take coveted change from our grandpa and uncles, to the candy store ,and carefully select our purchases. It was fascinating to watch our students. Some kids knew exactly what they wanted and decisively made their choice. Some kids were overwhelmed with the choice and just took what the person ahead of them selected. Others could not make a decision at all, and I needed to make it for them to move the line along. And in most cases, it was followed with a Thank-you or Happy Hallowe’en. Gratitude. Good feelings. Joy. So much fun.
Another fun element was the inclusion of our preschoolers at Spare Time Treehouse, the little ones playing on the public playground with their parents, and kids en route to Tupper Secondary School. There was the element of delight in being included in the fun. In some cases, disappointment that they were not wearing their full costume. There was a feeling of community and a sense of victory in maintaining the spirit of fun in midst of it all! Anything is possible, even during times of COVID.