Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ghosts of Halloween Past

This Halloween Nathaniel decided to go out as Dr. Who. Lemony did a great job on his costume. Somehow, the character fits him. As I take the day off (yes, really), thanks to a virus that slugged me strongly enough to lay me out all weekend (but might not have had I not worked all week while fighting it), Shane and Lemony are preparing to take Nathaniel and Neela around the block, gathering treats. Donnie and Doah are preparing to hand out candy. As for me, I am lounging about on the couch, supervising. (And gathering strength for a wicked week ahead at work.)

One Halloween brings back reminiscences of past Halloweens. Of course, some were spent abroad and, therefore, not celebrated, but most years we have been in the USA in October. It seems that each year, though, there are fewer knocks on the door. At least, here in San Ignatio, life is safe, and kids can walk the streets and knock on doors with no fear. When we lived in Salt, no one in many of the neighborhoods went out because children were hurt and/or candy was deliberately contaminated. The police started a tradition of bobbing for apples and other games at the police stations. Those games were always a part of my childhood Halloweens and induce a sense of nostalgia when I saw children and now see my grandchildren playing them. It is good that Halloween has not gone the way of May Day. Even my old childhood neighborhood no longer celebrates May Day.

Costumes blur into costumes. I never bought any for the kids; I always made them -- mice, turnips, clowns. There were original ideas, as well as the tried and true.

Perhaps the most vivid memory of Halloween, though, comes from my own childhood. I had grown old enough as a pre-teen to stay home to help with the handing out of the treats. While there were future confirming events and situations, that night was when I first learned that we were poor. We quickly ran out of treats. My father then started handing out real food, feeling bad that we had nothing to offer: crackers, even hot dogs. I wondered what we would eat the rest of the week. Then, finally, he sighed and said that we had nothing left to give except our talents. He went to the closet where he kept his violin. When the next group of children chorused, "trick or treat," he countered, "here's my trick," and he would play them a song. How embarrassing! However, the next day, everyone commented on how fun it was to get a trick instead of a treat and how they did not know my father could play the violin so well. (Somewhat after that, I asked my father to teach me to play the violin, but I never learned to play more than a few notes; Noelle played the violine in the elementary school orchestra for a couple of years, however. I guess talent skips generations sometimes.)

I learned a lot more from that Halloween night beyond the simple fact that we were poor. I learned that no matter how little you have, you do have something to give. I learned how to give beyond what is convenient to pass along and to give from one's very essence. And I learned that an intangible gift is every bit as good as a tangible one.

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