Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Day 1: Post-Halloween Wrap-up

Welcome to another edition of National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo), a take-off on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Instead of committing to a daily word count, I commit to publishing something here on Reticulated Writer every day this month. I've participated every November since 2011, when I won $150 in a random drawing from the sponsor, Blogher.  Nothing like a hefty payoff to keep a poor girl coming back for more.

Tonight, a post-Halloween report. Do you remember when Halloween was just one night? Or maybe there was one party, but most years just the trick-or-treating and a costume parade at school the day of Beggar's Night. Now Halloween extends the entire month of October, and I don't know about you, but I couldn't even get to all the parties, much as I wanted to. Between Coraline's back-to-back social schedule -- and since when does a 5-year-old need a social calendar of her own? -- and mine, which frankly took the backseat this year, we have either eaten or will eat as much sugar as all of Australia will in a year. It's obscene.

I digress. Here, in no particular order, are some observations on Halloween 2016 past.

1. Coraline's bus picks her up every morning a block away by Dave's house. Dave is a Halloween fanatic. He's in the process of rehabbing a big old Victorian house that he bought fully furnished, including a small Baldwin grand piano. I covet the piano. He has a life-size ghostly dummy that he rotates around the upstairs windows all year round. I still do a double take sometimes, and I've lived here almost 3 years now.

This year Dave went all out decorating his entire house for Halloween. He made a doll graveyard, with lots of doll parts half buried and sticking out, lit up with blood-red lights. He had giant ghouls flapping from the porch, and big spider webs with a resident spider, hands reaching out from under the porch, a pirate with wooden kegs lit up red on one of the smaller porch roofs, a big creepy doll that opened and shut a pair of scissors in a kitchen window ..... lots more. 

Every morning before dawn we walk down the street and stand on the porch of Dave's house to wait for the bus. In the dark sick glow of Dave's green lights, we sing little Halloween songs to keep up our courage. We take Crow with us, although who knows if Dave's ghouls are afraid of a 90-pound poodle. Probably not.

Coraline is the only kid on the bus who gets on at a haunted bus stop. As far as I know, nobody has messed with her yet. Not even the crazy 3rd-grader who has to sit in the front seat across from her, the one who threatens to snap the kindergartners' necks, and who brings long sharp screws on the bus to use as weapons. Not even that kid messes with her, the girl who gets on at the haunted bus stop. 

2. The first event on Coraline's calendar was the school Harvest Festival, which was a Halloween party in disguise. We didn't know it, so Coraline didn't wear a costume. Other kids did though. Like the boy who was right in front of us in line who was wearing regular street clothes with one of those black fabric masks that's the shape of a paper bag. I guess he could see through the fabric.

The first time I heard him say it, I thought I'd heard wrong. I didn't know what he was supposed to be, but surely not .... what he said. The second time though he yelled it more than said it and I had to believe he really said, "I'm a black man. Look at me! I'm a black man." I looked him, at his pale arms sticking out of his short-sleeved shirt. Nope. Not ever going to happen.

And then I watched his friend, who someday will be a black man, but he didn't seem bothered by his friend's costume. Neither did the 2 mothers who were standing beside a stroller alternately visiting and screaming at several younger kids who were running around smacking each other with swords. I think the kid probably belonged to one of them ....

From what I could tell, nobody in the line found anything unusual about this white kid running around in his black hood yelling, "I'm a black man. Hey! I'm a black man."

I don't know what else to say about that. Once again, I don't fit in. SOML.

I'm the one who looks like a skeleton -- from the neck up.

3. We have a Dia de los Muertos parade and party here the end of October. I marched in the parade a couple of years ago, but we just walked up the street a few blocks this year to watch it. We didn't get to go inside and see the altars and art because we had Crow with us, so we walked back the next Thursday when they had the exhibit open. We've got some new neighbors with kids. One close enough to Coraline's age that they're thrilled to play together. Another who is old enough to babysit. They walked with us.

The altars are both inspiring and sobering. One was photos of everybody who was killed in the Pulse shootings along with a short blurb about them. Tear-making. Others honored late family members. And one was for a teenage boy who had committed suicide this past year.

And it turned out the older neighbor girl had known him from an organization she belongs to. She was stunned to see a large altar to him there. We talked about him. What he was like, and how his death was such a shock.

And I got kind of a shiver thinking that it was simply serendipity that she had come along with us, and that we'd set up a playdate for the younger girls that day, and that I'd seen a notice on Facebook that they were going to hold the exhibit open a few days. I don't believe that things really happen for a reason, but sometimes it seems the pieces fall into place just like they should.

4. Friday Coraline had 3 parties, one right after the other. The middle one was for Girl Scouts. I made a big bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese, even knowing if anybody else had been making it, it probably would have been Kraft dinner from a box. I was also the only adult who dressed up in a costume. When I was a GS leader we .... well, it doesn't matter. I'm not the leader and it's a different population. I don't know any of the moms really, and they're all a different generation. Not that I mind that, but we have some other differences too. Harder to explain differences. But here's an example.

We were hanging around outside while the troop played on the playground. Somehow the topic of name-calling came up, and one mom told a story about how she "laid a girl out" who had called her a cunt. A "c" she called it. I wasn't impressed. It seemed like a poor reason for violence to me. But she kept trying to impress us. She elaborated, and it turned out she'd been in the military in a barracks when it happened and she .... get ready for this .... did it right in front of the sergeant. And he didn't do anything! She postured a lot as she told the tale.

I still wasn't impressed. I kinda wanted to drop that I was an officer's wife for 20 years, but I had no desire to either impress or piss her off. I wandered off without congratulating her.

Later while we were eating, I was standing near her helping the girls get their food. She said in a loud voice, "Who made this mac and cheese?" She didn't say it with a smile.

"I did," I said. "Why?"

"It's not very good," she said.

"Really?" I wasn't smiling. Also, I guess I didn't mention my face was made up like I was one of the risen dead. I didn't look friendly to start with.

"I don't know why," she said. "I guess maybe you didn't get the cheese on all the macaroni or something." She took another bite and made a face.

I looked down on her for a second, and then I just walked away to the other side of the cafeteria. She is a cunt.

(Other people told me how much they liked my mac and cheese. The GS leader licked the bowl clean. My mac and cheese was just fine.)

5. Coraline wasn't allowed to wear a costume to school Monday, which was Beggar's Night around here. Only kids who got perfect attendance in October got to wear costumes. She missed one day of school because she went on a trip to Washington DC with her other grandparents. Let's see if we can decide which is more educational: trip to DC? or sitting at a table doing worksheets all day? 

She came home in tears, because the principal handed out passes in the lunchroom to the kids who were allowed to wear costumes. And then, of course, there were those who couldn't.

Somehow I don't think kids are going to learn a valuable lesson from being punished like that. Or maybe I should say they're not going to be more eager to come to school, perfect attendance awards or not. More on the punitive nature of school in a later post.

6. I'm pretty disgusted by the amount of candy Coraline hauled home from all these Halloween parties. Pounds of it. Probably at least 15 pounds if we'd weighed it. She gave half a pillowcaseful to my daughter Elvira to hand out to other trick-or-treaters because Elvira had run out and there was a parade coming by their house the entire 2 hours. Some were kids. Some were grown-ass adults, and I mean there was even a small group of men in their 50's who came by begging for candy.

I will admit, I judge. I judge when so many adults are carrying an extra pillowcase for themselves, obviously trying to haul in as many tons of candy as they can. I certainly don't mind teenagers, but adults? Parents? They can't just steal their kids' candy in the middle of the night like the rest of us have done since time began? A junkie even came by with his hand out, and then asked me if I had a bag he could have. I guess he'd just stumbled down the street and realized he could get some free candy.

Greedy grownup beggars. I don't get it.

But Halloween is over. I've got a big stash of pumpkins to cook up for pies and muffins and pancakes. I always buy too many, but I do love them so.

And now I can look forward to Thanksgiving, which is the best holiday. No religion. No presents to buy. No jingoism, because we don't do the pilgrim thing here. And if you do, maybe you should read the section on the pilgrims in Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. There's a link in the title. Just don't read it with a tummy full of turkey and mashed potatoes. Those pilgrims were some grim and ruthless invaders. We don't celebrate them.

But we do celebrate the harvest, and we count our blessings, which are many, because even though there are cunts and greedy beggars in the world, there are also haunted bus stops and altars to honor and remember those who have died difficult deaths, and friends new and old. These and more we remember in November.


  1. Hi, stopping by from NaBloPoMo. I laughed several times reading your post. Great storytelling and dark humor. :)

    1. Thanks, Kristina. And thanks for dropping in. Good luck with NaBloPoMo this year!

  2. We were SO glad you and Coraline were able to make it to our gathering, too, this year! I was worried the kids would be upset that we didn't have any candy at ours -- outside of the Rice Krispies treat Pokeballs, at least -- but I didn't hear even one complaint, which I think is kind of an upending of an entire American belief system... Anyway, thank you for sharing all of these observations, from the appalling to the inspiring. Really looking forward to the rest of the month of posts!

    1. I can assure you nobody missed the candy at your party. The Pokemon Rice Krispie balls were a huge hit, as was the homemade apple pie. And several of the kids were so engrossed in whatever that omnivorish thing was in the garage, they could barely take time to eat their delicious dinner. It was a wonderful party!

  3. Ugh, I hate mommy competitors. I bet your mac was awesome.

    1. Yeah, I'm not sure what her problem was. Just a cunt, I guess. LOL

  4. I'll bet your mac & cheese was just fine. If it hadn't been for the backstory, I'd have said the other mother was a bit rude, but at least she said it to your face and didn't whisper-whisper-whisper-mac-n-cheese-sucks-whisper to the OTHER moms OSTENSIBLY (right) behind your back and (almost) out of earshot, like so many would have.

    Oh, ladies, why are we often enemies instead of allies? WHY?

    Sounds like a fun bus stop. I could just picture Coraline and couldn't help but think that bus stop needed a child dressed up like Wednesday Addams to freak out all the other kids. Like...maybe every day, not just Halloween. But that's just me... I'd have totally done it.

    Your average 5 year old, anywhere, could put my social calendar to shame, and the older I get, the more I appreciate having little or nothing on mine. :)

    1. I'm not sure she meant for the person who made the mac and cheese to hear her ask who made it. Although why she needed to say anything anyway, who knows. She could just as easily praised the chicken nuggets or something.

      That is a real photo of Coraline and the house up there. I'll have to remember your idea about dressing like Wednesday Addams next year. She'd love that. Her cat's name is Wednesday Caddams.

      Thanks for stopping by, Holly! :-)