While I was busy
After they were all in bed, I listened to the rain beating down on the house and I, too, wondered about God's plan. I've always trusted that He has a plan, but I've never been good at the need-to-know basis of it all. I always feel like I should be on the list of those who need to know. I'm nosy, I'm bossy, I'm a scheduler. I don't do The Unexpected very well. I suspect that's the primary reason I acquiesced to Rob's request for the gender of our unborn children to remain a secret until birth. It is all a grand lesson in restraint and uncertainty for me. But it sucks sometimes. In that spirit, I tried to shrug off the drama of the evening and remain very que sera sera about the whole thing. Lots of leftover candy and the Masterpiece Theater version of Jane Eyre didn't hurt the effort.
The next morning came and it was still pouring. The sky was leaden and as I looked out on the deck, sheets of water were cascading over the lip of the picnic table. Things did not look promising. The children, however, woke up very chipper. It seemed that they had almost forgotten about the previous night. Almost. I overheard Francie hyping up the possibility of trick-or-treating that evening and I knew that hope was springing eternal, as always. I pulled Francie aside and I gave it to her straight. I told her that if the weather was still bad, we were not going anywhere. I would let them dress up in their costumes and then I would let them parade around the house and I would throw the leftover candy into their buckets. I also told her that I was counting on her to have the stiff upper lip this time. If she could keep it together, so would Fiver and Sally. I wasn't trying to minimize her feelings, but I did try to put things in perspective for her. She nodded, but didn't say a word.
It continued to rain all through the morning and into the early afternoon. The kids played cards with my mom, while I paid bills and made up a grocery list, certain that I would be shopping in the rain after the kids were in bed. I was just finishing my list when I noticed that I didn't hear anything. I looked out the window and saw that although the sky was still gray, the rain had stopped. Huge puddles were everywhere and the lawn was covered in a thatch of sodden leaves, but no new rain was falling. Could this be a break?
I was still reluctant to drive into a different town for trick-or-treating, but I didn't say anything to the children. I was hoping that they could be placated with the in-house costume party. I started piling up the sections of the newspaper for recycling when I saw a little corner ad for something called "Boo at the Zoo." It was a fall festival at the local game preserve, and children were welcome to dress in their costumes and come around to see the animals, play games, and trick-or-treat with the zookeepers. It was being held all weekend, and it was open until four. It was already two and I made a quick call to the zoo to make sure they were still hosting it despite the foul weather. They were. My heart beat a little faster.
After years of living with my children, I knew that it would be best not to say anything to them. My mother rounded them up while I surreptitiously threw their costumes in the back of the van. The sky was still menacing, but I was taking any chance I could.
As we made the scenic drive towards the zoo, my mother pointed out that the sky seemed to be clearing. The sun was streaming through holes in the blanketing gray clouds until it finally over powered the clouds altogether. By the time we reached the gates of the zoo, it was sunny. The leaves were glistening and a gentle breeze was blowing across the valley. Idyllic would be the best word for the whole scene.
The children were beside themselves with excitement. Francie and Fiver kept yelling that they were finally going to wear their costumes, so Sally just squawked along with them. We got to the zoo with an hour to spare, which was more than enough time for us. Fiver usually has a solid half hour of focused behavior in him before he starts to become overwhelmed by all the extra stimuli.
Once inside the front gate, we saw tables set up all along the main path. Tables full of candy. Free candy. And the volunteers were giving away handfuls to each child. I think my children thought we had just passed through the Pearly Gates; I don't know if their eyes could get any wider. The Phoenix and The Battery trotted up to each table, and, to my surprise, started singing for their candy. Think of these lyrics set to the tune of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg:
We are here to trick or treat, trick or treat, trick or treat. We are
here to trick or treat, O Happy Halloween!
They got rave reviews from the staff of the zoo, so that naturally compelled them to sing much louder at each successive table. It was cute the first seventy jillion times, but then the charm started to wear off. By the time the afternoon was over, I was humming the tune myself and I haven't stopped.
The children moved on to pumpkin painting, the ring toss, bowling with mini-pumpkins, and all kinds of other fun stuff that their mother never lets them do. Then, as we toured the rest of the zoo, we fed the ducks and camels, waved at the kangaroos and big-horn sheep, marveled at the size of the Golden eagle's nest, and even caught a glimpse of the elusive Arctic wolves. Just as Fiver started to become scattered and started to stim, we realized we were at the end of the tour.
As we walked out to the car, I was mulling over the fact that we seldom have such perfect timing in anything we try to do, when my mother turned to the children and said, See what God had planned for you? You thought that your Halloween was ruined, and look how much better this was than going around to houses in the pouring rain!
The children nodded solemnly before bursting out with a heated discussion over whether this was the best Halloween of their lives or if one was coming that would be better. It was unanimously agreed by Francie and Fiver that we would come back and tour the zoo next year, and there was even a little speculation about possible costume ideas. Their happy chatter continued all the way home, and it was a van full of light hearts that pulled into our driveway.
For my part, I couldn't believe that I had had so little faith in God's plan again. I had resigned myself to the disappointment and the exhaustion without considering that there might be a different outcome in store for us. I'm not saying that things always work out perfectly, and they rarely work out the way I think they should. There are always disappointments, there is always exhaustion and sadness, there is always the constant flux of life. Above it all, though, there is a greater design, a more perfect plan. We may not always see it, we may never in this life know why some things happen, but The Plan is there and it's working just the same.