Fall used to be my favorite time of year. I guess it still is but each occasion is a sad reminder of Austin not being here to enjoy the moment.
There are so many memories with him tied to this time of year...
I remember his first Halloween. He was only three months old and too little to go out. Instead I dressed him in a cute Mickey Mouse one-piece and we greeted the Trick-or-Treaters as they came to our door. We had many guests that year because everyone wanted to see "Smiley" in costume. He was a cutie.
When he was too young to enjoy decorating pumpkins, I would do elaborate carvings. He didn't know what he was looking at, but Austin enjoyed sitting outside and watching the flickering glow of the candle shine through the pumpkin scenes.
The next year, we started the tradition of attending the annual apple festival. Austin's favorites were grilled corn on the cob and the big swing ride. I have such a sweet picture of him gnawing on a corn cob and even though I'm not sure which album it is in, the details are vivid in my mind. He would ride the swing ride over and over, so many times that I feared he would get sick, especially when his belly was full of corn, cotton candy, and caramel!
As he grew older, I enjoyed going on field trips with him and his preschool groups. He loved picking out his own pumpkins, running through the corn maze, and taking hayrides. And I loved coming up with cute costumes for school fall festivals and Halloween.
I don't remember every costume but I do remember him winning first prize for Dracula. We did this costume when he was five. His hair was already jet black so we just slicked it back and added a widow's peak. He didn't enjoy sitting still while I painted his face white, but it was all made better once we got to add fangs and blood.
We also did a "Chucky" costume once for a haunted house the fire department ran one year. I created the costume and did the face painting, which lasted a couple of hours. That wasn't great fun for him; however, in the end, nobody recognized him. Austin had a fun time that year scaring people as they walked by. He opted not to continue the costume for Halloween though, as it meant sitting through another make-up session that year!
Once he was old enough to handle a knife, he enjoyed carving pumpkins too. We had many great family nights, gathered at the kitchen table, floors covered in newspaper to catch the mess. Unlike his younger brother, Austin enjoyed sticking his hands inside the goopy pumpkin and pulling out the guts. (Actually, Austin would get a kick out of the fact that it made Noah sick each year and would taunt him with the insides!) In the end, he would have a masterpiece though. I have timeline pictures of Austin and his pumpkin every year.
The past several years another tradition was attending our church's Hallowed Fun Night. Both boys always enjoyed the booths of fun and our favorite stop was the big bonfire, where we'd roast hot dogs and make s'mores. As much as they'd run around with their friends that night, it was the one activity we gathered as a family for.
Austin was getting older though and traditions were changing. He didn't go Trick-or-Treating last year with us for the first time. The past couple years he hasn't dressed up but he would walk his brother door-to-door. Since my accident, my knee didn't allow me to trek the hills, so I followed them in the truck. He was always so patient with Noah, always watching out for his safety on the roads and skipping any homes that didn't look right to him.
Last year, he asked if he could skip it and stay at the station instead. I knew the day would come, and I appreciated that he asked politely before doing so, making sure I would be ok. Of course I said he could, and that we'd be fine, but it wasn't the same.
I remember seeing him smiling and laughing though when we made our way back to the station that night. He had such a good time being with his buddies and passing out candy. The rest of his night was spent telling jokes and playing corn hole with the crew. He'd traded in his plastic firefighter costume for a real one. My little guy had grown up.
I imagine he'll will be at the station again this Halloween, at least in spirit, watching over all the kids - especially Noah, and shaking his head on missed shots at corn hole.