Mamarama: Ghouls, Girls and Gaga

Sometimes there are moments as a parent where you say to yourself, “Yes!! THIS is what it’s all about – great job, self!” and there are other moments when you find yourself saying, “Oh no, what were you thinking, self.”

I had both of those in one short week.

The “mothering mistake” occurred with fully good intentions, mind you, like they always do. My girls have always been super into Halloween festivities and love a good healthy scare now and then. Every year we’ve traveled up to Cortland Manor to take in the Great Jack-o-lantern Blaze (which is an extraordinary event—and not scary at all) and this year we had a great time at the historic Haunted Terminal in Liberty State Park (which was fun scary).

But for the truly serious Halloween Horrors, one has to search far and wide. In these urban parts we don’t have the opportunity to roam around corn mazes, much less a corn maze populated by teenagers sporting bloody hockey masks. So, you need to really travel to get yourself to something that’s a rite of passage in other parts of this country: The Haunted Corn Maze.

After doing my research I found a highly recommended maze in the far reaches of New Jersey, all the way west on Route 78. We arrived for the earliest time slot, 7 pm, but it was already dark out on this moonless night. I had inquired ahead of time about the age-appropriate level for this maze but no one got back to me (busy season.) I knew my older daughter and her best bud (ages 11 and 12) could handle it, but the two little ones (my youngest and her best bud), both 9, were possibly too young. I convinced the best bud’s dad to come along and felt satisfied that I had some back-up support.

Just an hour outside of Jersey City and everything changes. The air smells different, the stars are brighter, people wear camouflage (not as a fashion statement) and the corn is abundant. The farm was decked out for Halloween – pumpkins everywhere, a haunted hay ride, an outdoor movie showing some Dracula film…

We headed into the maze as a small group: two adults, four children. And it was dark… extremely dark. Turning a corner and peering into the shadows I said to the dad friend, “Do you see that? Is that a… a thing… coming toward us?” It was silent, black against the blackness of the corn aisle… lurching unevenly like the walking dead. My heart was in my throat… I couldn’t move… the kids were waiting for the adults to simply begin moving again, when, “ARGGGGGHHHHH!” a creature pops us behind us out of the corn stalks. “I HAVEN’T EVEN SCARED YOU YET,” he bellows and we all lost it in a unifying scream and mutual collapse.

The older girls yelled at the little ones to be quiet; I tried to mollify, the other dad tried to calm… it was too late. We had immediately and permanently petrified the younger girls and I had no choice but to exit the maze with them. We hadn’t gone more than 30 feet, but we had to abandon the mission. My daughter was sobbing and I had some major soothing to do. “Come on, let’s go get a hot cider and sit by the fire,” I offered. Within a few minutes, the girls were laughing about it and convincing another little boy NOT to go in either.

We waited for over an hour for the other three to emerge; we heard screams and chainsaws coming from within, and I confess I was nervous that they were hopelessly lost despite their adult chaperone. In our downtime, some of the ghouls on break came over to toy with the kiddies. This was easier to tolerate since they are less frightening out in the open – i.e. not lurking behind a shadowy corn stalk. The raging fire warmed our toes and finally everyone was calm and happy again.

One little boy (the one who opted out of the maze) told us that the other night his mom took him on a haunted hay ride. One of the characters jumped ONTO the truck and put a chainsaw to his feet – and that just completely undid him. Before I passed judgment on his mom’s culpability in terrorizing her child I had to consider my own child’s reaction to a similar fright.

In any case, the older girls absolutely loved the maze and enjoyed heckling the zombies once they got accustomed to being surprised by their presence. All in all, it was a “whew… got out of that one relatively unscathed” moment.

Taking the experience back a week brings us to the complete opposite moment, when one is at peace with the parenting demons…

A good friend of mine sits on the board of a very worthwhile organization called Little Kids Rock. This nonprofit program brings music instruction to public school students who have been left behind due to budget cuts and has an honorary board that includes Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, BB King, Slash and Stevie Van Zandt.

So when he invited me and the girls to attend the Little Kids Rock annual awards ceremony (honoring the late Clarence Clemons) and hinted that Lady Gaga might do a song, we were beyond excited.

The afternoon of the event, the kids got dressed in “Rock & Roll Casual” per the invite (high-tops, skinny jeans and shimmery shirts) and we headed to the Edison Ballroom, opposite the Barrymore Theater in Times Square. There was a short red carpet, our names were on the list at the door and suddenly we were in. The girls gaped at the elegant ballroom – tons of people milled about and a sweet photographer popped her flash as soon as she saw how cute the kids looked.

Finally we took our seats in the ballroom; the girls’ jaws were unhinged at their proximity to Lady Gaga. She was just a few tables away from us and looked so completely fabulous in a long cape, gloves and elaborate headpiece that included a hamsa hanging off the back.

The evening continued with kids from the program performing rock numbers and some solo guitar pieces… Billy Squier joined in and sounded great; the kids recorded all of it on their iTouch devices. My girls picked over their steak dinners but consumed lots of dinner rolls with butter. Eventually the event came to a close and my daughter’s invited guest, Ruby, looked at me with puppy-dog eyes: “Can’t we just go over and say hello to her?”

“I’m not sure, I think we’re not supposed to ‘bother’ her.”

“Pleeeeease,” she pleaded. Our host informed us that we were not to interact with the celebs present and they would be surrounded by “security.”

But Lady Gaga loves kids, I thought. Surely, a couple of adorable youngsters are not going to set off security alerts. Reading my thoughts, the intrepid girls were not to be deterred. They casually wandered over to the stage area and as things were winding down, folks were exiting, and good-byes were being said, they took that moment to simply smile and wave at Gaga.

And she saw them. Or her dad did and gave her a little nudge to notice the eager kids who stood in awe of her.

I got nervous thinking they had pushed the boundaries so I attempted to round them up. “Come on girlies, we do have to leave now… it’s late.”

But before they could protest further, Lady Gaga came through the crowd and approached the girls at the stage.

Ruby stood, wide-eyed and gushed, “I love your music….we love you!” Gaga folded her arms around her and planted a gentle kiss on her cheek. Evie was next, saying, “I love your songs so much…” and she too got a hug and kiss… and then Bebe, who remained quietly humbled.

Photos were snapped and Gaga expressed her affection for the kids, telling them to hold onto their dreams and asked if they were musicians. “I just got a TRUMPET!” Ruby blurted out. And finally, they said goodbye to their idol.

On the way out, they told every single volunteer that Lady Gaga had kissed them and they literally floated down 47th Street toward our car. Heading home, the girls were more excited and delighted than I can ever remember. They screamed, they shouted, they sang, they said things like, “Oh see that guy over there on his cell phone… HE didn’t get kissed by Lady Gaga! That dog over there… she didn’t meet Lady Gaga! That billboard with the giraffe… it didn’t get hugged by Lady Gaga!” And so on. I found “Born This Way” on one of my dance CDs and blasted it all the way to the Holland Tunnel… feeling smug and content that THIS was a good parenting day, after all.

Jayne Freeman

is the host of the long-time public access show Mamarama as seen locally on Comcast Cable (channel 51) and on YouTube. In addition to her parenting program she is a certified childbirth educator and regularly writes about the parental experience.