Friday, October 31, 2008

Day three hundred and four ... Trick or ...

So, there's been a change of plans.

I was going to have the follow up on my silly analogous stump speeches.

Until I turned to my left and remembered this was hanging on my bookcase:

I simply could not ignore the importance of this photo in relation to the day which today is.

The year is probably 1975. I'm look like I'm four going on five, which is a phrase I used a lot, albeit with different numbers, until I got to about ten, then I was just whatever age I was. The wonderful lady with the big smile is my mother, and the dog's name is Bonnie.

We had Bonnie for as long as I can remember up until the mid 1980's. Bonnie accompanied my mother, nine months pregnant with yours truly, on her solo cross country drive to my Aunt Lynda's place in California in 1970. But that's a story for another day.

This picture represents a lot to me.

It is important in that I can see  how happy we both were, a fact which was true for most of our time together. 

I can see my baby teeth, which I can place a dollar value on, literally. One silver dollar a piece, payable to me, under my pillow, at the end of a long battle with each stubborn but profitable tooth that began with a wobble, evolved into an obsession, and ended with a triumphant yank, followed by a short cry, followed by immediate sanitation of both tooth and former residence, then the ensuing proper placement of said potential revenue, the completion of maturity period, and finally concluding in a restless sleep attempting to not startle the Tooth Fairy (what did she get out of the deal), and ultimately becoming exchanged for a toy or a book that I would most likely find at one of the many church bazaars I would attend as a young boy with my family.  

In the background, on the table, is a ceramic baseball and mitt that my grandfather, no doubt, bought for me. I liked baseball more than most sports and he certainly encouraged my interest in it. That knick knack is around the house here somewhere and I'll be excited when it finally surfaces.

And there's my kick-ass skeleton costume.

The costume is important in that it has nothing at all to do with Star Wars. Because as strange as it is to imagine, this photo was taken in a time before the Greatest Movie Ever Made came out. After that, it was nothing but Darth Vader or Chewbacca or Boba Fett or something else related to it that I and countless other children around the world aspired to not only resemble, but somehow transform themselves into, because ... well, I don't really know why ... we just did. We were kids.

There's my mom's cool fuschia top with the big collar and her dangle earrings that she loved. She was hip, yes she was.

There's the pumpkin which we, no doubt, carved together, saving the seeds on a paper to dry out and eventually roast in the oven. Pumpkin innards were, and are, a very strange substance. They go well with the holiday as they seem to be yucky and somewhat of a consistency whic I used to think monsters were filled with. But they also have a pulpy texture that tell me that it is definitely edible, regardless of if there is a monster aftertaste.

All of these things I love about this picture, as it depicts the pure joy and innocence that occurs, not only in conjunction with the age I am at--before public schools got a hold of me--but also the period in time--the height of the Seventies--before parents feared the possibility that the treats were sabotaged by evil, demented savages. A time when parents would let their children traipse through the neighborhood unsupervised and free. It was also special in that Halloween is the last holiday before the weather turns lamentably frigid, and trips to relatives who you may or may not particularly like figures into the mix. It's all about you, your bitchin' costume, a bag, a smile, a pitch, a promenade, and a whole boatload of candy to devour.

This was Halloween in 1975.

Parts of it, I'm sure, still hold true today, but I seem to recall things got a bit out of hand as I got older.

I do, however, remember some of the costumes which I adored not only making, but competing in. 

I made a robot costume out of boxes covered in tin foil (classic). I believe it was that costume that won me a cash prize at an out of town costume contest. My mother brought me, and I remember winning $25. That was huge. That was unprecedented. That was almost a whole mouth full of baby teeth.

Halloween eventually became the night my family feared vandalism. We would sit out on our porch and watch for would-be hooligans who were hell bent on destroying the young pine tree we planted outside out yard after my grandmother died; it was the only tree on Bedford St. We had to put emergency patches on it year after year after the bastards from the projects took their knives to its bark. 

It's long gone now. The people who bought 1073 Bedford St. thought it was more important to cut down the tree, pave over the yard, and have some prestigious off street parking. Priorities don't always come first.

In the years that followed I remember enjoying the annual event of going to see the Phantom of the Opera in Providence with my aunt. We'd get dressed up and take the ride together, show off our bad selves, watch the movie (the famous, silent, version, complete with organ accompaniment), and then go out for Chinese food. It was awesome, but I grew out of that as I grew into a young man who was too cool to be hanging out with his family on Halloween. 

I never did anything too outrageous like the punks on my street. That said, I did throw my share of eggs with my friends from High School. I remember filling my pockets with jumbo whites and crouching down before lobbing a quick volley at god knows who's house. As they splattered and the lights went on I remember getting up and running for my life. Then I remember hearing the unmistakable sound jumbo white eggs, one by one, cracking in my pockets, concluding with the inexplicable reaction of thrusting my hands inside said pockets which exited seconds later, covered and dripping with albumen.

Those crazy kids.

This Halloween is a significant one for me. One of the last interactions I had with my aunt before she died was her giving me my Halloween costume for this year. She said she had been saving it all year for me (the "post season" discount tag providing proof). She was supremely excited that she remembered to give it to me before I went to D.C. with the Young at Heart Chorus in September. She told me, that day, to go into the end room and, without peeking, bring what was hung up on a hanger. She had me close my eyes, and with her voice crackling with high-pitched excitement she said, "Okay, Alex. You can look, now."

And there it was ...

My knave costume.
I couldn't really tell then, and I still can't really tell why she thought it fit me so perfectly. But I'm not asking too many questions.

A knave, in the dictionary, is described as "an unscrupulous, or crafty person."

I suppose I can, and have, fit either one of those descriptions.

If you look further into the meaning of the word you will see knave defined as a journeyman. And if you look up the meaning of that, you will see it described as "a trader or crafter who has completed his apprenticeship."

Was she trying to tell me something?

I mean, she was always trying to tell me something. But ... you know what I mean.

Knave is also the name of a British adult magazine, but I don't think that has anything to do with it.

But I'm going to go out tonight, and I'm going to wear this somewhat baffling costume. It will be a tribute to my aunt who loved the idea of dressing up, almost as much as staying home in her pajamas. 

But she was full of contrasts like that.

She was vehemently indifferent to children, but she loved me like no other.

She valued chocolate over any other form of sustenance, but she always watched her weight.

And she never gave up on me, regardless of if it seemed like she had had enough. 

And as I've mentioned before how I see and feel spirits all around me, watching and hoping, I would say tonight is the night that they can come out and blend in with the scenery. But probably they'll just stay where it's comfortable and keep an eye on the proverbial pine tree. 

That is to say, they'll be close behind, every step of the way.


Happy Halloween everyone.

Be safe and thanks for reading.


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