Old photos flashed up on my phone today; photographs from Halloween three years ago.
On August 20th 2018 we left our home and set off to start a new life nearer to my family. Preparation for the move had been horrendous. It took 190 days exactly to find and secure two school places for my children due to the delightful combination of local authority ineptitude, misinformation and blatant discrimination from schools. Our house wouldn't sell, we were leaving our friends behind and knew no one, other than my sister, locally. So we moved into my sister's garage that she had converted into a tiny dwelling, and set about trying to build a new life with new routines.
When the photos flashed up today it was a shock. My little girl looked so small. We had been in the tiny home for two months and it suddenly dawned on her that living in the middle of nowhere meant that there were no neighbours to trick or treat. She was devastated. However, she had underestimated my sister.
On the morning of Halloween, a giant bag of fancy dress arrived, as if by magic, outside our door. Several costumes fitted her. Then, genius struck. If she were to go and trick or treat her aunt in the house at the other end of the garden in one outfit, she could nip back and get changed into another and go again. And then again. Her aunt would never know it was her each time. Just imagine the number of sweets she could snaffle...
I think we trudged back and forth six times, dressed as Batman, Spiderman, a crocodile, two witches and Mr Incredible. The crocodile face was worn as a hat, with her full face showing, 'I CANNOT BELIEVE she doesn't know it is me. I've really fooled her. She will never know...' Every time she knocked at the door she was greeted by a terrifying crone with a bowl of sweets that featured a hand that shot out to touch hers when she reached for something. Every single time the witch greeted the small visitor as a new person, commenting on how busy the evening was and that she hadn't had so many people knocking on her door in years. It was the best Halloween my little girl had ever had.
Tonight is a different story. She has been bouncing off the walls all day. She did a reccy of the area around our house earlier in the car, had a new witch outfit ready and everything was looking good. But it is cold and raining and her outfit has long sleeves. Sensory issues mean that she can't cope with wearing long sleeves under long sleeves so a coat is out of the question. She has had a meltdown, ripping off her outfit and throwing her bucket across the room. But it is ok. She may have left the house with bare feet in sliders, in a jumper and leggings and with a slightly dented bucket but she knows she can come back and get changed if she wants to. She is going to freeze but that will be what it takes to get her to put more clothes on, even if that means swapping the jumper for a short sleeved T-shirt to wear under her coat. I hope to goodness she will put on her wellies.
This could seem like a backward step but it is just a blip. The fact is that she has still managed to pull herself out of a nightmare and do what she wanted to do - to go out trick or treating. Who cares what she wears. The strength and resilience that she has shown tonight is not to be underestimated.
She has come so far. It took a year to rebuild her confidence in school but in the two that followed she absolutely flourished, even choosing to go in early three mornings a week to do an extra lesson. Life is not easy for her, school is not easy for her, and she is plagued by thoughts and memories that would topple an adult, let alone a child. But on she goes, more often than not with a laugh and she just keeps on trying. She is utterly brilliant.