Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Love Halloween

Technically, I’m only 54. In three days I’ll be 55, and while I’m fairly optimistic about being around to celebrate the dubious honor of turning double nickels, I’m positively giddy with excitement that Halloween is tomorrow. Seriously!

It all started when I was a little girl living in Chicago. When the days turned chilly on their way to being outlandishly cold, the leaves turned crayola shades of gold-tinged brown and yellowed butter, and the days fell into nights starting in the late afternoons, my friends and I knew Halloween was just around the corner. While everyone else obsessed about costumes, I combed through my mother’s collection of used grocery bags or tattered pillow cases for the perfect receptacle to hold all the popcorn balls, bubble gum, tootsie rolls, and other candy treasures I planned to collect. I didn’t care what I wore Halloween night; I only cared that, except for the one box of chocolates we bought MoM every Mother’s Day, and the loot I was allowed to collect on Halloween, there was never any candy in our house.

DaD would occasionally try to circumvent MoM’s authority and bring home some sweet bit of contraband he bought at one of the big box stores he sold electronics to. But, it never lasted past the day it arrived, and I had to share it with sweet-toothed starved brothers and a father! To be fair, MoM did buy exactly one 6 bottle carton of Diet Rite Cola every week or so. . . .I just never remember drinking any of it, but by the time she went back to the grocery store the following week, the bottles were mysteriously empty and patiently sitting in the cardboard carrier to be returned for small change credits. Hmmmmmm.

But back to Halloween. In my childhood neighborhoods, both Chicago and Phoenix, there were only two important strategies regarding Trick-or-Treating–how long could you stay out, and who in the neighborhood was handing out the full-size Hershey bars this year? Once the sidewalks started emptying, it was time to head home, dump our booty in guarded piles, and start serious trade negotiations with Older Brother and easy persuasion with Younger Brother (who was 5 years younger). Amassing popcorn balls from Younger Brother was easy since his front teeth hadn’t grown in yet. Being a chocoholic meant trading a lot of Butterfingers and Malted Milk Balls for the chocolate bars I coveted.

Before the Halloween sugar buzz wears completely off, it’s my birthday! It’s a veritable love fest all day, as friends, teachers, acquaintances, and even strangers congratulate you once they know it’s your birthday. I feel special all day, and can’t wait for my birthday party even though everyone I grew up with had the identical party! A white tablecloth drapes over the dining room table with a big round birthday cake in the center, topped with miniature figurines and candles. Nearby is the Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey poster, taped to the wall. (I really sucked at that game–no depth perception here whatsoever.) Before the last child leaves, we will have played “Duck, Duck, Goose” and it’s taken me years to realize there’s no way to win the game.

Instead of planning my trick-or-treat route now, I roast the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkins that Daughter #1 comes over to carve. She’s 25, but I love that she still treasures the tradition and races to the door to admire the little and not-so-little trick-or-treaters and hand out candy. (There’s not much Halloween in her condo complex.) I’m proud to say that our house is always considered a “quality” candy house by the neighborhood ghosts and goblins. I’m celebrating my birthday this year by going to the Phoenix Suns’ opening season home game against the Lakers–Go Suns! The office has scheduled a special staff meeting the morning of my birthday. Again, hmmmmmm. And Daughters #1 and #2 have been corresponding long distance in order to put together their birthday wishes. Not to be outdone, Husband and I already bought my birthday present together–hey, it fits and I love it!

Thinking about it, I don’t know why MoM let us hang on to our personal stash of Halloween candy until the last few pieces were stale and forgotten, but I like to think it’s part of that Halloween-Birthday mystique I remember and still treasure today.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I've Got A Secret

Actually, I've got a whole book of secrets. Tonight, Daughter #1 and I went to hear Frank Warren talk about his new book, "A Lifetime of Secrets" and his not-to-be-missed web blog, PostSecret . Frank spoke to the humanity involved in the creation of, the keeping of, and the release of secrets. As he shared previously unpublished postcards of secrets, the crowd of about 200 alternately "oooh'd", "aaah'd", laughed, or looked pensive. Because the secrets on his website and books mirror the secrets we carry in our own lives.

I don't want to compete with Frank and collect secrets (he does it so well and with such commitment), but I started wondering about the impact that secrets have on us. Daughter #2 couldn't keep a secret longer than 5 seconds if her life depended on it. Secrets literally fall out of her mouth. When she was about 5 years old, I made the mistake of telling her that she and her sister were giving Daddy an expensive shirt for his birthday. Later that day, we gathered as Husband piled up his birthday loot and grabbed the girls' present first.

"Oooh, I wonder what this could be?"


Actually, what she said was more like "A SCHWERT, DADDY! IT'S A SCHWERT!" because her front teeth were missing. She's 21 now, and still can't keep a secret, often asking us, "Can I just tell you what it is because it's burning a hole in my pocket?!".

Daughter #1 deals with secrets differently. She snoops. I have to admit, she's pretty good at it, and over the years, it's become a family challenge to try to keep a secret from her. (This should drive her crazy when she reads this post. . .do we or don't we have a secret she doesn't know about?)

In the twilight time of my Dad's Alzheimer's, before his speech failed but after his memory had been severely impacted, he shared many secrets with me. For that, I am profoundly grateful, and I think about those conversations from time to time since his death.

MoM, on the other hand, will lately tell me something matter-of-factly to which I respond, "What?! You never told me that!" She doesn't consider these tidbits secrets, but since she rarely shared anything personal with me for most of my life, I'm calling them as I see them. . .secrets.

I've heard secrets today and I've held secrets today. I didn't share any secrets today. . .maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Did You Miss Me?

I took a month off to breathe and heal. A few too many stresses, lack of sleep, aches and pains, and lupus can really kick your b**t. So here's a bullet point recap of what you've missed this last month. . .

* MoM finally got her hearing aids back from repair, and I called her saying, "It must be nice to be able to hear again on the phone." She replied, "WHAT? I didn't catch that." (Sigh)

* 3,000 miles away, Daughter #2 got off to a rocky start this collegiate year (the first of two "senior" years) stressing out about classes, professors, health issues. . .you name it, she stressed out about it. She averaged 10-15 cell phone calls a day until Husband told her he had printed out the admission application for our state university. Things are improving.

* Husband was excited that his beloved Diamondbacks made it into the playoffs. They just lost their second playoff game in a row. Husband is depressed.

* Daughter #1, well known for being an excellent snoop, discovered my blog after borrowing my computer. Husband still doesn't know about it, and when he occasionally asks what I'm doing as I type away on my laptop, I answer, "Just typing" and he goes back to watching his ball games.

* The Bells Palsy is much, much better. I'm told you can't tell I had it, but I still have some internal symptoms. At least I don't look like Quasimodo anymore.