On a beautiful Saturday morning three weeks before Halloween, I decided to wash my wife’s van. Mattie was returning from a business trip that night, so I thought it would be a nice welcome-home surprise. Jessie, my 10-year-old daughter, likes to help wash cars and anything, or anyone, else the hose will reach.
When Jessie helps wash the family vehicles, she prefers rinsing over scrubbing. As I vacuumed the van’s interior, Jessie watered the watermelon plants, air and grass. Since she likes to be in charge of the water hose, the new nozzle added to the excitement. Of course, Jessie had to try all the settings, clicking from one to the next by twisting the plastic nozzle head to achieve a spray, jet, or various other configurations of water flow. Jessie is a lot like her mom. Mattie’s younger brother bestowed upon her the title “Dictator of the Bathroom,” when they were growing up together in a one-bathroom house. Jessie is apparently striving to be “Dictator of the Water Hose.”
During a snack break, I asked if Jessie would like to decorate for Halloween before her mom got home. She enthusiastically responded, “Yay! May I do it all myself?”
I retrieved the box marked “Halloween” from the garage, then left my experienced decorator in charge while I finished the car. Back outside, I enjoyed my freedom to squirt the hose whenever I wanted.
About 30 minutes later, I walked into Halloween. Jessie had taped a foam ghost to my computer. She hung spider webs from the light above my desk. Two stuffed animals, a white ghost and a black cat peeked out from under the comforter in the master bedroom. If they didn’t scare Mattie, the spider attached to the toilet tank would.
When I walked into the living room, I found Jessie at the coffee table, crayon in hand. She had printed Halloween-themed coloring pages from the computer, as she felt the walls needed a little more color.
Jessie and I picked up Mattie a few hours later. I thought we’d surprise her with the clean car and Halloween decorations. Jessie had a different plan. She greeted her mom with a hug and promptly gave her a detailed report.
We had a nice evening, which included Jessie dressing Sadie, our dog, in her Halloween costume. Jessie decided to be a cat and dress Sadie as a mouse. Sadie didn’t mind the gray T-shirt, but I can’t say she enjoyed the gray sock pulled over her tail.
Mattie, tired from her trip, went to bed early. I allowed Jessie to stay up past her bedtime to watch a little college football. My two favorite teams lost, one on a last-second field goal. As I crawled into bed, disappointed over the loss, I landed on something. I reached behind me and pulled a ghost and black cat out from under my back. My frown changed to a smile.
I smiled again a few weeks later when a cat, a mouse and a 6’5” block of moldy cheese greeted trick-or-treaters on our front porch. The cat, who had painted my face and selected my cheese-colored shirt, wore a big grin, too. As for the mouse, she was the cat’s best friend.
Jessie already has this year’s costumes planned. Recently, Mattie purchased a swimsuit and removed the foam pads from the top. Jessie held each pad to my chest and said, “This year, we’re going to be cheerleaders.”
Here’s my response, Jessie, in the form of a cheer. “Give me an N. Give me an O. Give me a W-A-Y. What’s that spell? NO WAY!”
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of a monthly column titled “moMENts.” Follow Hempfing at facebook.com/patricklhempfing and twitter.com/patrickhempfing.