Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Musings, 06 October 2012

Good morning,

The paper lies idle beside me, no headline worth the effort to turn its pages. A text back and forth from my neighbor shows that I am not the only one awake and deploying electronics this morning. I await a reply from my son as to whether my spouse can discard the old electric street light that my son scavenged years ago and which now resides on an otherwise useful shelf in the basement. It's Dumpster Day in the neighborhood.

I wish there were such a thing as Dumpster Day for my mind. A legion of old, troubling images crowd each other, vying for my attention when I sit down to write. No one wants to hear about you! they scold each other, while I strain to see around them to pleasant memories of rainy days spent building Lego cities on the dining room table. These stale tributes to my burdened psyche scowl at each other, one more determined to prevail than the next. I shake my head and turn from all of them, wandering down more pleasant paths, with comfortable nooks and rocking chairs, besides which photograph albums lie waiting on tables with cups of steaming tea.

Halloween draws near. A cluster of costumed boys in varying sizes fills an entire wing of my mind. Batman, Ninja Turtles, faceless zombies and vampires mingle, all incarnations of my son and the two or three boys from whom he was inseparable in the trick-or-treating years. No princesses for this boy-mom, as I came to be known. Eyeliner streaked on a small cheek mimics dirt and unshaven jowls. They gathered candy in pillow cases and pennies for UNICEF in a colorful canister. We decorated the front porch with cobwebs and candlesticks, pumpkins and witches. We put a significant dent in the goody bowls in three separate neighborhoods, starting and ending at my home. The tired, satisfied heads of my son and his friends nodded over the collection of treats until they fell asleep and I could turn out the lights, set the alarm, and collapse. Where they walked, I trudged behind them, with the flashlight, my car keys, and an extra paper bag, just in case someone needed an emergency candy receptacle.

We don't even give out candy any more at my house. A few years ago, I began to notice that the trick-or-treaters after seven o'clock did not even bother with costumes and stood inches above my height. I started extinguishing the porch light earlier and earlier, to fend off kids who had no connection with my neighborhood, whose parents drove them farther and farther afield, hoping for a bigger and better haul. Now I only buy Halloween candy for the dishes in our office, and if I go out on Halloween, I don't leave the porch light burning, preferring to stumble up the stairs rather than face the destruction that my unanswered door might invite.

A few years ago, before my cynicism drove me to abandon the dispensing of treats, a particularly small ballerina knocked on my door, holding a plastic pumpkin, gazing the three feet up to my face with unbridled awe. Her father stood behind her, down on the steps, letting her venture out by herself but hovering close enough to protect. He looked familiar, like someone I had seen in a different guise, not that of proud papa. As I let his little pink-clad daughter rummage through the bowl of candy, I mentioned my impression. A grin dawned. Oh, yes ma'am, he assured me. I came to your house on Halloween myself for years. You always had the best candy. My parents lived over on Charlotte, and I remember you so well! I just had to bring my baby here! Charlotte is the street behind my house. A neighborhood kid then, grown, raising the next generation.

I gave him and his daughter a smile of my own, one that I had been saving for a special occasion. As he hoisted the little girl on his shoulder, and turned to descend to my sidewalk and on out to his car, the little girl raised her hand, spreading her five delicate fingers in a definite wave. Then she rested her head on her papa's shoulder, and closed her eyes.

Autumn reclaims my neighborhood. The heat-stressed hollies in my front yard are brown and straggly, and the maples' leaves began to turn too soon. But the earth has raised itself from the slump of summer, and shimmied its shoulders. Cool air soothes the bedraggled gardens. On the surrounding porches, new pots of spider mums brighten the drabness of dead annuals in their dusty pots. October has come, and will soon reach its end, the brief fall giving way to winter all too soon. I have already started running the heat, and unpacked my winter garments, for the nineteenth time since I bought this house. And, though I won't light the porch for Halloween, it will be crowded with ghosts nonetheless, and the echoes of tricksters clamoring for candy from the best house on the block.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.