My mother turned ninety-three in February.  We took her to my sister’s house and threw her a little party.  Just a few family members.  And a platter of fried crappie.  She was delighted.  Sister made her a strawberry cake that tasted every bit as delicious as it looked.  When we sang “Happy Birthday”, Mom ended it with to me!

It was one of those days you commit to memory because it was so perfect and rare.  A fine late-winter day with some sunshine and no rain.  A bit chilly, but nothing so bad that we felt Mom should have to stay inside.  Three of my sister’s family of four, my brother and his wife, me, and Mom.  Enough to make a party but not so many as to overcrowd the room.  We all stood around in my sister’s new kitchen and celebrated the fact that she was there, in her beautiful new space, and cooking again.  Another rare event lately.
For years, pretty much since the day she moved into this house, my sister’s kitchen was the jumping off point for most of our family celebrations and gatherings.  We met there for holidays and after family reunions.  The day we buried my dad, the family car picked all of us up from Sister’s driveway.  This home is as much the heart of our gathering as my sister is the heart of our family.  She has worked, very hard, to make sure we had someone and somewhere.  But all of that changed three years ago when she moved in with Mom.

We moved our mother into a neat little apartment in December of the same year we lost our dad.  They had sold their home on Lake Whitney and were waiting for the contract paperwork to be done when Daddy had his final heart attack.  His death delayed things for quite some time, but the buyers were patient and let Mom have all the time she needed.  She bought new furniture and made this place her own with all of her flowers and knick knacks.  It was the first brand new home she’d ever had.  She was tickled pink.
In her building were several other widow-women and she made fast friends of most of them.  We started calling them “The Biddies”.  They played Chickenfoot and cards and spent pleasant afternoons sitting in chairs on the walkway, shooting the breeze.

Over the years, Mom had a number of issues that set her back some.  She’d fallen as a teen and injured her back.  She fell again on a patch of ice as a pregnant wife helping care for livestock while her dairyman husband was on his route.  Those issues were only exacerbated by five full-term pregnancies.  It all took a toll and, shortly after moving into the apartment, she ended up in hospital having major back surgery.  Finally, she would be pain-free and able to enjoy her new “single” life.  She might even have a chance to travel a bit as she’d always wanted to do.
Mom suffered a stroke sometime between the end of surgery and the time she should have been getting into her post-surgery hospital room.  Things took a tough turn.  Instead of therapy to rehabilitate her back after surgery, she had therapy to learn to speak and move again.  She came home with a back brace.  And was in no better shape really than before surgery.  Except that now her options were all used up.  This would be as good as it got.
Eventually she ditched the brace.  It was a molded plastic form that chewed into her armpits and upper thighs when she sat.  It never fit as it should have.  And probably would never have done what it was meant to anyway.  The result of opting out of the back brace was the development of a hard list to port for the rest of her days and eventually learning to walk bent at the shoulders.  But her sense of humor remained mostly intact and she was game for adventure anytime we asked.

Throughout her late seventies and well into her eighties, Mom lived alone.  She did her own cooking and cleaning.  She slept as much or as little as she pleased.  She spent time with The Biddies or alone, depending on her mood and their availability.
As time would have it, her friends began to leave her.  Some moved away.  Some passed away.  New women moved in, but Mom wasn’t keen on passing time with any of them.  She preferred to watch television and snack on the sofa.  If she’d have started playing solitaire, she’d have been the mirror image of her own mother at the same period in Bea’s life.

Then, in her mid-eighties, Mom suddenly failed.  She didn’t want to get out of bed.  She didn’t want to eat.  She had no energy and little willpower.  A stay in hospital revealed she had multiple blood clots in her left leg.  And dementia.  Her doctor advised that she not live alone again.  She was still mobile.  She had a fairly sound mind, on her lucid days, which most were at this point.  She could still shower alone and put herself to bed.  But someone needed to be available for those times when she wasn’t able, or couldn’t remember how, to do for herself.

My oldest sister came to live with mom and for three years they cohabited the little two-bedroom apartment without too much strife.  Over time, Mom lost more and more mobility.  Over time her mind began to lose it’s grip.  And yet, in the course of those three years, she really didn’t fail as quickly as we’d all expected.
Eventually, the toll of being caregiver began to get the better of Older Sister and we gave her an option to move on.  She had been without her family while living in Texas and missed them terribly.  She’d been without much freedom as well, and Older Sister was born with a streak of wanderlust that’s as wide as the Mississippi.  It was time to go.

Enter Middle Sister.

We’d tossed around a number of ideas and none of them played out.  Thanks to the efforts of Older Sister, Mom had a stipend from the Veteran’s Administration due her as the widow of a Vet.  That had provided for an aide to come in to help with bathing and to sit with Mom for short periods.  The aides were limited.  None of them could be there for eight hours, which would have been the best-case scenario.
Middle Sister opted to start staying over and eventually moved in.

We had no idea.  And, even we had, I’m not sure it would have gone differently.

Middle Sister was already doing most of the cooking for both her family and mom.  It wasn’t much to continue that.  And, at the time, she really preferred Mom’s kitchen for the space.  She hated the electric range.  But she learned to adjust.

For the last three years, Mom and Sister have been apartment mates.  It has worked out well for Mom.  Sister is an extraordinary cook and a compassionate caregiver.  Mom has the best care we could ask for.

Middle Sister, on the other hand, hasn’t had it as well.  Her home and family are walking distance from where she sleeps at night.  From the back patio, she can almost see her front yard.  Any crisis, and there have been plenty, has to be dealt with while also attending a woman who can only walk short distances and can’t get into the car without a boost.  And is on oxygen twenty-four/seven.
Thankfully, my sister’s family is close and equally as compassionate as she is.  Her children, both adults now and living their own lives, make themselves available at a moment’s notice.  They have never shied away from the gritty side of caregiving.  Regardless of the need, both will arrive with willing hands and, very often, useful suggestions.  It is the one thing that I know has kept my sister from losing her mind.

Just after Mom’s little birthday party, she fell ill.  She’d had a round of antibiotics that lasted for weeks and took a tremendous toll on her system.  Thanks to a bout with rectal cancer years ago, Mom is incontinent.  She’s had a permanent catheter for quite some time as well and that leads to chronic urinary tract infections.  Put it all together and you have a germ breeding ground of epic proportions.  No sooner does one infection clear up than another hits.  It’s been this way for over a year.  This time, it was multiple bacterial infections as well as the typical UTI.  Mom was hallucinating by the time the ambulance picked her up.

That was a little over a month ago.  She was in hospital less than a week and came home on another round of antibiotics.  She has rallied, but not fully recovered.  She isn’t going to fully recover this time.

Mom is aware her days are coming to an end.  She talks about it, mostly with Sister.  She is comfortable with whatever is coming.  She’s been giving her things away.  She is ready.  She’s ninety-three.  That’s a lot of years to ask of a body and brain.  She’s made the best of them – not always in the best way, but she lived her life as she wanted and she has no regrets.  Except not getting to travel.  She would have liked a bit more sight-seeing.

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I’ve tried multiple times to write about my mom’s most recent illness.  Nothing I put down can properly convey the range of emotions that came with watching her struggle.  She turned 93 a week before this ailment hit her.  One day she was sitting at the table, singing the birthday song with all of us.  A week later she was almost incoherent, struggling to fight multiple infections and so weak she could barely move.  We watched her navigate the fog of hallucinations, carrying on conversations with people not in the room and seeing things that just weren’t there.  We tried to keep her on an even keel, helpless really, to do more than just be with her until whatever was coming arrived.

At the same time, we were fighting off our own ailments.  Allergies and flu and a nasty stomach bug.  Fatigue.  Sleeplessness.  Anxiety.  And yes, even anger.  The road to the end of a life is entirely unpredictable.  Unreliable.  And, if it is long enough, entirely unpleasant.  Dying with dignity is oftentimes the meanest joke.  There is no dignity.

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The bulk of our mother’s care falls on the shoulders of my middle sister and her family.  It isn’t lost on me that the reason my niece and nephew are so close to their mother is because she would be lost without their help.  Funny how fate sometimes works that out.  Funny, in the most cruel sort of way.  My sister’s family is the epitome of what “family” means.  They all pitch in.  They all show up.  They all put aside the things they think are important because they all understand that nothing is so important it won’t keep for a day.  Or a week.  Or maybe even a lifetime.  In a family with over forty members, it falls to three of them to make sure Mom is taken care of.  They are the family.  Warts and all.

Mom rallied eventually.  She is much like her own mother, strong and able to withstand most of what life decides to throw at her.  She comes from longevity, as unfortunate as that can oftentimes be.  Her body has turned on her now and again.  But, for the most part, her mind remains sharp and clear.  She is losing ground.  But at a snail’s pace.

Still, this last trip to hospital has shown us where the road is leading.  Mom has decided for an advance directive.  No heroic efforts will be made to revive her, should she have heart failure or some other life-threatening event.  She does not want to be put on life-support where a decision to then take her off of life-support would have to be made.  It is where we are all heading.  None of us gets out of this alive.
My wish for her is the same as most of us wish for her.  That she lie down one night to sleep and just not wake up again.  Peaceful.  Calm.  No beepers or buzzers or IVs in her arm.  Until then, we’ll do what we can and try to make the best of the time that’s left.

Norma Lou Vincent c1940s

When we moved out here to Remote, I knew there would be days and days of work.  I expected to be busy.  I expected to be tired.  I expected to have a never-ending list of chores and projects and just the day-to-day stuff that has to be done.

What I didn’t expect, but apparently should have, was having almost zero help when I needed it most.

Every morning, I ask, “What’s on the list to do today?” and, if the answer is anything that doesn’t require my help, I move on to those things on my list, regardless of whether I need help with them or not.
Most of my list is simple stuff – laundry, making dog food, cleaning the coop – but sometimes it’s heavy stuff.  I’ve noticed that most of the heavy chores around here come with a tool or machine to ease the burden on the chore-doer.  But, aside from a rake, shovel, and wagon, all of my chores are done with my hands, legs, and back.  Again, when it’s simple stuff that’s not a problem.
However, it would be nice to have help.

Yesterday I spent almost the entire day in the kitchen.  Ten pounds of meat cooked for dog food.  Three pounds of ground beef, three huge chicken breasts, and four chicken thighs turned into a lasagna and chicken pot pie for the humans.  Probably six sinks full of dishes.  I started around 10:00 am and, except for trips to the bathroom and to move laundry from machine to machine or fold and hang it, I didn’t stop until almost 10:00pm. During that time, my family watched TV and spent time outdoors.  They sat down together at dinnertime and enjoyed my efforts.  They brought me their dishes to wash.  And, once they realized I was pissed, they gathered the trash and took it out to the road and put the chickens up for the night.  And finished off a load of laundry from the dryer.

Just after 10:00pm, I sat down to eat my own dinner.  Alone.  Then sat down and promptly fell asleep in front of the tv, too tired to care that I needed a shower.

I’m over it now.  But it stung.  A lot.

It made me consider what I do for other people and what I do for me.

I turned sixty on my last birthday.  Aside from texts and phone calls, the day passed with little fanfare.  My husband was having surgery and it just wasn’t a good time for celebrating sixty years of living.  And now we’ve gone well-beyond the need to celebrate it at all.  So…

Recently, my sister went through much the same sort of revelation.  She decided, after years and years of planning, paying, and working to make holiday get togethers special for our family, that she was done.  I think it probably upset a few people.  I hope it did.

And so, I’m done.  I’m tired of making sure that all the days are special and easy for all the people.  I’m tired of cooking meals so that others can sit down and enjoy the effort, then move on to the sofa and snooze while I keep right on working.  I’m tired of putting my list at the end of everyone else’s list.

At the end of the Christmas clean-up, I cleared away nine months worth of homeless stuff from the work tables in my cave.  I plan to spend some days there.
My journals haven’t been updated in months.  I plan to sit down and catch them up.
My blogs have been sporadically visited and are in need of a spruce up.
And, most of all, my camera has been shelved for months in favor of my phone.  Even my attempt to catch the last Super Moon.  The results were horrid and embarrassing.  Remote is surrounded by countryside, most of which I have yet to explore.

If you can’t find me, don’t call.  I’m planning to leave the phone on silent.

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When the holidays rolled around last year and caught me by complete surprise, I pretty much resigned myself to having a less than eventful Thanksgiving away from the bulk of my family, and an equally mediocre Christmas.  We were partially moved in.  Unpacked boxes were stacked in my bedroom floor.  The pantry was stuffed with things I couldn’t find a home for elsewhere.  I had to keep running out and buying stuff as we got closer and closer to the holidays and I realized I’d either given something away or left it behind.  I have no idea what we ate at Thanksgiving.  I don’t remember cooking dinner.  I do recall trying to decorate for Christmas and realizing that I really wasn’t all that jazzed about the idea.
The afternoon of Christmas Eve, I drove to our old house and spent several hours loading my van with the bits and pieces of my woman cave.  Then drove the hour back to Remote, alone.  Try as I might, I had zero Christmas spirit to draw from that night.
And I never did find it.

Honestly, I don’t remember our Thanksgiving at all.  And I only remember our Christmas because the tension in the room was so thick you could chew it.

An hour southeast of here, my sister was going through somewhat the same ordeal, but different, for many reasons.  Sister is living with our mom so that we don’t have to move her to a nursing home to die.  It’s what she did for our dad.  And what she wanted to do, at least initially, for our mom.
But the toll of watching someone disappear before your very eyes is something you never really consider when you say, “I’ll take care of ____________”, and you’re kidding yourself if you think it won’t get to you.

Our older sister was the first to try and she was pretty terrible at it.  She’s not naturally a nurturing person, so that was a missing factor coming out of the gate.  She’s not really very patient.  She has lived a mostly nomadic life with an upheaval and move every couple of years.  Watching her trying to live with an old woman she no longer knew and had little in common with was a struggle.  Watching Mom slowly regressing was worse.  They brought out the worst in each other.  It was sad.  And often angry.
When we suggested it was time to make a change, my sister balked.  But it didn’t last long.  She knew an open door when she saw it and she took it as fast as she could.  As we knew she would.

And, honestly, as I would have as well, had I been the one in her place.

And now my middle sister is living with Mom.  Less than five miles from her real home where her husband and kids still live.  Where her dog and his cat stretch out on her bed at night, looking for feet to warm.  Where the tv runs non-stop and the bathroom gets cleaned only when she’s there to do it.  Where her flowers explode all around her house every spring and summer.  Where the coffee is strong and always hot.
Where the missing piece is the one piece that holds it all together.  Except she’s holding it all together less than five miles away.

I know this is not how any of us planned it to go.  Not Mom.  Not Sister, certainly.  Not me.  I wake up in the mornings and wonder if my sister is awake.  Of course she is.  I don’t think she even sleeps anymore.  She’s like an old vampire who lives on the Equator.  Sometimes we text messages to each other.  Funny pictures of our sleep disturbed hair and smushy faces.  Commentary on Mom’s ailments and what the doc suggests be done.  Sometimes, although not nearly often enough, I go out and stay with Mom and send Sister home.  She says it doesn’t matter, but I know it does.  I realized much too late that it mattered to my older sister as well.  And always, the guilt of not being present enough hangs like a noose around my neck.

Last year, what I remember most about the holidays is the soul-deep depression that descended on my sister and shoved her into such a dark place I wasn’t sure she would be able to come back out.  I’ve been there.  I’ve seen other people go there.  But I’d never before, in all the years we’ve been each others shadow, seen my sister there.  It was scary.  It was heartbreaking.  It filled me with such anger because, even as I watched her slipping away, she continued to say, “I’m fine.  It’s fine.  We’re all fine.”

None of our family puts much effort into spending real time with Mom.  Older Sister lives in the Northwest now with her daughter.  Her tour of duty is up and she has no plans to re-enlist.  Our brothers are around, but only the older one bothers to make the drive up on the odd day to pop in and bring lunch.  Younger brother works still but his days off are spent on other things.  Other people.  My mom has a houseful of grandkids and great-grandkids.  I don’t think any of them even bother to call.  Except my sister’s kids.  My niece spends as many weekends with Mom as possible so her mother can go home and forget that there’s a bird on the feeder and I’m out of water and I want you to open that closet and let me see what’s in there and who’s going to care about all of my stuff when I’m gone?  My nephew is available at the drop of a hat to sit with Mom or fix the weatherstripping on the door or lift a heavy flowerpot or any number of other odd tasks that might need to be done.  Or to just come and sip coffee and maybe sing a song.

My sister and I were always the planners of family gatherings.  Mostly because we loved to be together and wanted everyone else to love it too.  We are best when we are together.  I clean.  She cooks.  I try.  She refuses to let me fail.  I cry and she laughs at me.  We’ve been close most of our lives and I don’t think I can live without her although I’m pretty sure she’d be fine without me.
Just before Thanksgiving, Sister told me she didn’t much care if anybody showed up for dinner at Mom’s this year.  Nobody bothered last year and they got along just fine.  It was quiet and just her family and Mom.  And they all liked it that way.  We would miss being together, again.  My husband would just be getting out of hospital after surgery.  He couldn’t travel any better than Mom can.

Sister and I talked about the holidays in general and agreed that we are both satisfied to not be the planners anymore.  We’re ready to hand our wooden spoons and dish cloths over to someone else.  Sadly, there won’t be any takers.  The rest of our family, while more than happy to show up with a side dish and white elephant gift, never gives much thought to putting something together themselves.  We’ve been invited a few times over the years to each brother’s home.  But we normally let them slide and just plan get togethers at Mom’s.  It means Mom can stay at home where she’s comfortable and not be subjected to the weather.
So, we’re as much a part of the problem as anyone else.  And we both admit that.

And now we’re done.

I will spend a few days with Mom and let my sister go home to her family and her house. And I’ll bring some Christmas cheer as well.  We’ll eat and be merry and chase depression across the state lines if we have to.  We’ll play Chickenfoot and drink coffee and make fun of each other.  We’ll tell stories we’ve heard before about Christmas and why it’s our favorite time of year.  And we won’t wonder where the rest of the family might be.

I’m sure they’ll be having a good time too.

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This was our second Thanksgiving at Remote, although I can almost discount last year since we’d barely moved in and it wasn’t much of a day.  I felt harried and hurried and the stress had a life of its own.
This year was marginally better.  Not as much stress, but twice the cooking.  My choice.  With Mike so recently home after surgery, I wanted to make sure he had a nice holiday.  I asked him what he wanted to eat, then did my best to make sure he got it.

Three days to cook it all.  Three minutes to eat it!  That’s how it always goes and it’s the thing about cooking that I most dislike.

We were four for dinner.  Sheli, Justin, Mike and I.  It was a quiet day and the weather more beautiful than I can remember for late November.

I had quite a lot of time to reflect this Thanksgiving.  On years passed and holidays under much greater stress.  Trying to have all of us under one roof.  Trying to cram all of us into Mom’s tiny apartment.  Trying to find a time that suited everyone’s schedule.  Trying to schedule time.  Trying to cook all the favorites and getting to bed long after my body had stopped responding and started moving via autopilot.
Waking up with a headache from lack of sleep and doing last minute housework.  Hitting the shower at 11:00 knowing the crowd was due at noon.

And greeting everyone as they filed in with their one dish (or stack of take home containers) and empty stomachs.

I think that’s the part I resented most.  Year after year of hosting duties.  Year after year of trying to make sure the house was clean and neat, the food tasty and hot, the atmosphere pleasant and joyful.  So that people I never see unless one of us dies can pile through the door and eat their fill and then sleep through the clean up with football blasting on the tv.

Yep.  There’s the raw nerve.  I’ve known it was there for some time.  Good to have it exposed finally.

So, this year, when nobody had thought ahead to what might happen if half of the people responsible for their annual turkey dinner moved an hour north and the other half had her hands full taking care of our mother, I had a great meal with those few people who actually put in some sort of effort to think of me the other 364 days of the year.
Sister, the other half of the Family Gathering Committee, did the same thing.  And I’m absolutely certain neither of us feels the least bit guilty for not hosting a huge family Thanksgiving!

It felt so good, in fact, that I’m thinking of doing exactly the same thing for Christmas!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.  I hope you had a great day.

When the twin spotlights of my universe were centered on the eight hours I spent earning a wage and the ten hours I spent raising kids, keeping house, and being wifely, I’m pretty sure I never gave a thought to the time when I wouldn’t wake up totally exhausted.  In fact, I am certain that my understanding was that such a state existed only for those who still believed in flying reindeer and rabbits that shit candy.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I recall people saying I was far too young to be married.  They said the same thing a couple of years later when I brought the first baby home.  They were, of course, wrong.  There is a reason that Mother Nature equips women with the ability to bear offspring long before they’ve actually enjoyed their lives.  And it is because the moment you allow yourself to be exposed to the prospect of motherhood, your body goes into hyper mode that even the best amphetamines on the street can’t duplicate.  Your brain begins to secrete a gel-like substance that encases all areas of logic and reality and entombs them.  You’ll get those back, as soon as menopause begins.

Without logic and reality, you believe you can do everything.  And do it well.  You are convinced that the millions of women who’ve married before you simply chose the wrong life partner.  You have no understanding that “I do” is, quite often, followed by “Oh, HELL no!” and a version of the moonwalk you didn’t know you had in you.

Without logic and reality, you fail to make the connection between the snotty, red-faced toddler screaming in the center of the dairy section at your local market and your soon-to-be inhabited womb.  Instead, you envision your perfectly behaved angel-child sitting, quietly reading (at age two) in her perfectly clean and beautifully decorated bedroom.  Her movie-star-handsome father waltzes in the door with an armload of perfectly formed flowers and a gift certificate for your full spa day.  The gourmet meal you whipped up last minute engulfs the room with an aroma that all but carries the three of you to the stunningly set table where candles glow and music softly plays.  The phone rings and it’s your boss congratulating you on wining the first ever year-long paid vacation the company has ever awarded.  Your tears of joy hardly make a wet spot on your naturally sun-kissed cheek.

Over time, of course, these visions fail to manifest.  Without logic and reality, you simply believe that you aren’t working hard enough.  You’re not doing it right.  You’ve somehow missed the memo.
You look around and see other women failing miserably at marriage and motherhood and swear, “As God is my witness…”, you’ll never be that.  You work longer hours.  You eat salads for a month in hopes of shedding the inner tube of extra weight you found in the waistband of your favorite skirt.  You pick kids up from school and deposit them in three different locations within minutes of each other and they’re all on time. You try new recipes.  You cut your hair.  You read three books a night to each of your kids.  You spend every Sunday cleaning every surface, washing every garment.  You learn to start the mower and weed whacker.  You volunteer for PTA… no, wait…  even in your wildest fantasy are you not so stupid as to volunteer for PTA.

You fall asleep on the sofa and burn the lasagna.

And then one day, you look around and you’re alone.  The house is empty.  The bedrooms, where once music blared and the lights stayed on all night, are empty and dark.  There’s no laundry to do.  You check the hamper twice, just to be sure.  You notice the sink is empty and the cupboards are full.  Outside you hear the faint buzz of the weed-whacker and smell fresh mown grass.  Even the dog bowl is clean and in its rightful place.

You think, “Ah…  this is what it must be like…” and turn to pour a second cup of coffee.

Then you see the legal pad on the table:
Milk
Laundry soap
Eye drops
Russells for feed and pine shavings
Oil change – new wiper blades
Drop the dog off by 7:30
Scripts at CVS

Logic tells you to go take more B12.  Reality says you’ve got an hour to get into the city for your appointment.  Exhaustion says retirement ain’t for sissies.

I was recently sucked into a conversation wherein someone I didn’t know “mansplained” cultural appropriation to me.  I willingly entered the conversation.  And I was as honest in my replies as I could be.  It turns out that I honestly feel that wearing a Halloween costume that resembles the clothing and jewelry worn by the primary character in an animated movie is as far removed from cultural appropriation as singing songs in a language you didn’t grow up speaking.  To me, the idea is simply ludicrous.
I admit that, prior to this event, I had never heard of cultural appropriation.  I had to look it up.  In layman’s terms it means adopting, as your own, an element of a culture that isn’t yours.  And the key operative word here, to my mind, is “element”.  An essential part  or aspect of something that is essential or characteristic.  So, a headdress or hat or turban, a piece of clothing, a necklace or bracelet or earrings, tattoos or scarring or piercings.  Those sorts of things could be elements of culture, provided they are actually real.  At least to my mind.

So, what then of the things not worn on the body?  Totems or masks used to adorn a living room wall or hotel lobby.  Carvings and reproduction artifacts sold in gift shops.
What about observances of cultural ceremony?  Don’t we have a host of holidays and religious observances on our American calendars now that weren’t heard of outside of their own culture prior to the great era of Political Correctness?
And what about those things which other cultures have presented to yours as “gifts” meant for sharing?  Blessings?  Songs?
What about pot shards found in archeological digs?
What about the photographs taken of sacred sites?

In the discussion between me and the man in the mansplaining, I was assured that merely refusing to subject a five-year-old to the idea of cultural appropriation was akin to full blown disrespect of another culture.  Especially if said child should be planning to wear a costume depicting an animated movie character.  Forget that the costume isn’t actually a traditional garment.

And I feel that is where we’re all missing the most important point.

For years I attended Celtic festivals and games from Texas to the East Coast.  One of the most recognizable elements of traditional Celtic dress is the kilt.  It is a multi-use garment that allows freedom of movement for anyone finding themselves in battle (it’s original and more traditional use).  It can be used for a coat.  A bed.  A tent.  A raincoat.  A blanket.  Or just the covering for your lower half.
Yet any festival, no matter where you attend it, will be populated by men, women, and children wearing kilts.  And you needn’t do a blood test to know who is actually wearing an element of their culture.  There’s a way in which someone accustomed to wearing a kilt moves that just lets you know it isn’t a sometime sort of thing.
Somehow nobody’s freaking out about all the inappropriate kilt wearers.  Nobody.

I mentioned this to the mansplainer, but it was just another chance for him to deflect my point and remind me that I am still being disrespectful.

Which then brings me back to Halloween and that costume.

Halloween, in and of itself, is a cultural appropriation.  Halloween is the bastard child of the Celtic festival Samhain, celebrated on November first, during which ancient Celts wore costumes and danced around bonfires to ward off ghosts.  The time of year in which Samhain occurs coincides with the belief that the veil or space between the living and the dead is thinnest.  The festival is meant to chase the dead back to the grave.  Eventually Pope Gregory III decided that chasing the dead was a poor pastime and declared November first to be a day to celebrate saints.  All Saints Day used some, but not all, of the ancient rituals.  The eve of All Saints Day became known as All Hallows Eve.  Which then became Hallowe’en.  Eventually tricks and treats became a thing to have and share.  Throw in a good harvest of the winter vegetables, pumpkins and turnips and such, and you have our current holiday of cheap costumes, streets paved in pumpkin guts and school children with day-long upset stomachs.

How this has ever been misconstrued as cultural appropriation is beyond me.  Do we even know what the original Celts wore for their ghost chasing dances?  I’m pretty sure whatever they wore, it wasn’t a cheap poly fabric stamped to look like bark cloth.

If a child decided to wear an actual pandana skirt and tapa, there would be a problem.  If the costume in question were an actual taualuga costume but the child wasn’t a Samoan dancer, there’d be a problem.  But if the kid is just a kid wanting to imitate a character in an animated movie that was depicted as brave and strong and determined, I honestly can’t see where there’s a problem.