The October Ocker

October 22, 2023 —
Happy birthday to my youngest! Five years ago today, her mother and I walked into the hospital not knowing if we were having a boy or a girl. We had prepared a girl’s name in advance (and I assume a boy’s, although I forget what it was), so when the baby appeared, I got to introduce it to her mom. “It’s Olive,” I told her, like we’d known this baby all our lives. And then we gave her the middle name Autumn, which we had originally wanted to give to our eldest as a middle name, but she overshot her November due date by a day. She got Noelle.


For the next couple of days after her birth, I wandered the hospital, taking photos of Halloween decorations and pretending I was dodging Michael Myers in Halloween II, while Olive slept with the exhaustion of being alive and her mother slept with the exhaustion of making something alive. I felt alive. I mean, we officially had a big family. The kids outnumbered the adults. We had made our own tiny community and ensured we would have someone living with us until at least 2036. She was the finishing touch on the fine art that was our family.

She was only three years old when the bomb dropped and decimated us. That this family was irrevocably damaged and she would never know the original version of it. Or that maybe the whole thing had been a sham from the start.


“She’ll never know what it’s like to be the Ockers,” my oldest told me during one of our commiserations about the state of things. And it’s sad. I’ve seen the benefits of strange trips and passions-worn-on-the-sleeves and weird adventures and a book life on the older two. How they’ve grown up curious and interesting and tender people. And the only thing I really ever taught them is that the world is weird. Of course, in the past year, their mother taught them far more about the world than I ever would or could.

As to Olive, she embraces her Halloween birthday, always asking for bat- or pumpkin-shaped cakes and Halloween balloons. She loves The Nightmare Before Christmas and sings “This is Halloween” at random moments as she wanders the house or lies in bed. She told me she wanted a remote-controlled bat for a present, but that doesn’t exist in our reality yet, so I bought her a remote-controlled snake. She’s having two birthday celebrations this year.


Of course, that Halloween love is still tinged by the fact that she’s young and hates anything scary. The other two girls were like that at her age, too, but at some point became as obsessed as I. These days, because of bifurcated parenting, it’s difficult to get one-on-one time with each daughter, so we end up being a democracy/tyranny of the majority and doing what the older two want, which is invariably spooky stuff. “Why do you like scary stuff?” Olive plaintively asks me sometimes, like we only do so to torment her. But also because everything is scary for her now.

For almost all of us.