All Hallows’ Eve

Every October, 31st as the sun sets for the night the streets gradually fill with little ghosts, goblins, zombies, and demons. They roam the neighborhoods visiting house after house armed with bags, buckets, and my favorite, pillow cases. They ring the doorbell and chant, “Trick or treat” in unison to demand that the occupant bestow them with candy or be the victim of a dastardly prank. The houses are adorned with cobwebs and candles. Jack-o-lanterns, perched on the porch with flickering eyes and glowing grins, light the way. Creepy carcsses rise from the dead. Grave stones and gremlins litter the lawn while witches watch from the trees.Halloween house

When I was a kid Halloween was right up there between Christmas and the 4th of July. In the weeks prior to this most evil night, my friends and I would boast about who would bring in the biggest booty, the largest loot, or in other words, more candy than you. Candy collection was a fierce competition, not only for the most candy but for the choicest pieces. Chocolate was of higher value than a box of raisins or an apple. A whole pack of just about anything was better than a single piece of something. Full size beats bite size. And anything edible always trumps a toy. But the ultimate goal, no matter what the treasure, was to fill your bag, bucket, or pillow case to the brim. Often we would double back to the houses with the most generous givers hoping not to be recognized as being a repeat customer.

Preparation for this wicked night was always filled with anguish: What costume would I where this year? (For me the home made costumes were more realistic looking than store bought ones.) What route would yield the most candy the fastest? What group of friends would I travel with? And how do you know when it’s dark enough to begin your quest? Is it OK to start just before the sun goes down or do you simply wait until you see other vampires and mummies on the move? A carefully planned route would ensure that you get the best candy before it’s gone. (There are a lot of other spooks and specters out there after your candy.)

In recent years I’ve noticed a radical costume trend shift. What happened to the crepe paper mummies and the oversized thrift store suits that made for an excellent Frankenstein’s monster, with the addition of a little of Mom’s makeup? In fact, it’s difficult to find a Halloween ghoul at all let alone a self-made one. The trend today has moved away from the freakily frightening and more toward the cute and cuddly. Vampires, witches, and werewolves are being overrun by ladybugs, pixies, and puppy dogs. Some of the older kids don’t even bother dressing up anymore. The threat of “trick” instead of “treat” is almost nonexistent. Doorbells ring, candy is deposited in small pumpkin shaped buckets, and the princesses and pixies calmly move to the next house. Fewer and fewer homes are decorated to their maximum potential which makes for a dull night of haunting when it used to be so much fun. The good old days are all but gone.

Halloween will live on, though. Whether it’s demons or Dora that lurks in the night they will always get their fill of candy and treats on this non-official holiday just for kids.

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Rainy Days

When I was a child a rainy school day was something to be dreaded. I hated donning rubber galoshes over my shoes and a bright yellow rain coat and coveralls for the wet trek to school. My mother would bundle me up so tightly that it’s a wonder I don’t have PTSD from it today. Once I waddled off to school and made it safely into the classroom it seemed to take ten whole minutes to strip out of multiple layers of winter protective wear. Having to stay inside the classroom for recess and lunch break was like an unjust prison sentence, though the teacher tried her best to occupy us with indoor games but what we really wanted was to go out and play, rain or no. Then, at the end of the day, donning the gear once more for the soggy trip back home was equally unpleasant. Cold, wet, and gloomy was the outlook for the day from the moment my eyes opened. No going outside to play at the park. No bike riding with friends around the neighborhood. Definitely no playing in the wet grass with all those fallen autumn leaves. Nothing to do except stare out the window at droplets of water falling into puddles and wishing that tomorrow would be dry and sunny.

The early teen years were a little better for the wet weather. By then I was not interested in playing or riding bikes with friends. And who wants to play in a bunch of wet leaves anyway? It was still a bit of a drag when it came to getting around while it was raining with my only real means of transportation being my bicycle or the public transit system. Waiting for a bus that isn’t due to arrive for another thirty minutes, because I just missed the one I was trying to catch, while being pelted by rather large rain drops driven by the wind would make me wish for that rain coat and coveralls, nothing on earth could get me in another pair of galoshes. On the other hand, riding a bike through the wind driven rain presented its own problems; usually because I would almost always be riding into the wind. And have you ever been splashed by a passing car driving through what seems like the only large puddle on that particular stretch of road at the exact moment you happen to there too? But the rain didn’t hamper most activities as a teen. I could still go over to a friend’s house or to the mall if I just had to get out of the house even if it meant getting a little wet. If it happened to be storming, though, I’d probably be left sitting at the window staring at droplets of water falling into puddles and wishing that tomorrow would be dry and sunny.

When I turned sixteen years old I had my own car and the rain meant nothing to me. Nothing until I realized that most of my friends didn’t have cars and depended more than usual on me to get wherever we were going when it was raining. At least back then gas was cheap! We would pile into my 1976 Datsun and brave anything that Mother Nature could muster up. Whoever was in the front passenger seat would dutifully wipe the inside of the windshield with a rag to keep it clear because the defroster didn’t work (hey, the car was free and twice handed down). The days of sitting at the window staring at droplets of water falling into puddles and wishing that tomorrow would be dry and sunny were over!

As an adult I find myself actually looking forward to rainy days (as long as they come in moderation). Staring at droplets of water falling into puddles is somehow peaceful. The sound of a hard steady rain assaulting the roof top and a fire crackling away in the fireplace sets the stage for a very relaxing evening. I even enjoy the thunder and lightning as it rattles the walls and windows of my house. Sometimes if it’s just a light drizzle I might take a walk in the crisp cleansing drizzly air. The smell of both the coming rain, and just after it has stopped invokes memories of childhood when I used to sit at that window staring at droplets of water falling into puddle and wishing that the next day would be dry and sunny. The memories are far from unpleasant. They send me back to a time of innocents. My options may have been limited on rainy days as a child but then so were my responsibilities. Yes, I still had to go to school in the rain but as an adult, working in the heavy construction industry, mainly concrete, I have to work in it. People think that construction shuts down in the rain. Not so! I’ve been soaked to my skivvies, cold, nose runny, and fingers numb trying to finish a concrete form for the next day’s pour. How I wished to be warm and dry just watching the rain fall through that window instead of having to toil in it.

Rainy days are essential for all of us to survive. We may not like to get wet when we have to go out in it but we appreciate what it brings us; life. It makes our trees grows tall. It cleans the air and washes the summer’s grit and grime from our streets. When the rain stops falling and the sun finally peeks through the gray clouds it leaves us with brilliant colors arced across the sky. Colors that have inspired myths and legends and are chased by children in vain. So next time you find yourself with nothing to do on a rainy day try sitting at the window staring at droplets of water falling into puddles and make a wish that the rain will continue to fall just a little while longer.