Rabu, 26 Oktober 2011

Tonight Is Not Halloween

Halloween has been celebrated on Oct. 31 for my entire life. The date is written in everyone's head, but a Connecticut state representative has floated an ill-conceived idea to change the holiday, so that it falls on a weekend. but a state lawmaker wants to tamper with tradition to ensure the holiday is always marked on a weekend.

"Halloween is fun night for the whole family, but not so much when you have to race home from work, get the kids ready for trick or treating, welcome the neighborhood children, and then try to get everyone to bed for an early school and work morning.”

Both Democrats and Republicans lambasted the suggestion, which included trick or treating in daylight for safety's sake.

I also disagree with this idea, but last year New Yorkers were sporting Halloween costumes for a week.

Call me old, but I thought it a sacrilege and on October 30th a friend said that he was celebrating the autumn fest a night early. We argued about the date, until Shannon explained Halloween's Celtic origin as Samhain, which marked the division of the year into halves of light and dark when the otherworld was nearest reality.

“It was a night of fire to cleanse the world.” I knew my Irish heritage. My mother’s family came from the West of Ireland.

"And it was turnips that were carved, not pumpkins." Shannon stated with authority. His fiancee Charlotta was smart. He had been busy mining google's vast abyss of useless knowledge to impress the German artist.

"So the band should have been Smashing Turnips." The Chicago alternative band had been big in the 90s.

"No, once us micks came here, we opted for pumpkins instead of turnips. They were bigger."

"Plus it’s hard to carve the jack 'o lanterns with eyes and mouth on a turnip.” Ben Franklin had favored the wild turkey over the eagle as the National Bird. He must have supported the turnip over the pumpkin just to be contrary.

“Hollow pumpkins smash easier.”

“Not it you carve smaller eyes and mouths on a pumpkin.”

“Why?”

“Because the pumpkin will rot within a day if the holes are too big." I had been researching 'pumpkin soup' on the Internet. Getting smart didn't take much of an effort these days.

"Plus a pumpkin is easier to cut up than a turnip."

"You got that right." I had narrowly missed slicing off my thumb splitting a turnip the other night. "What are you going as this year?"

'Some kind of monster." Charlotta was hosting a Halloween party the right night. She believed in tradition and so did Shannon. "The first Halloween in America was mentioned in 1911. Someplace in hockey-puck land."

"Canada?"

"Yep."

"Then Happy Hallowmas." I wasn't contesting his learning. My Halloweens only go back to 1956. Falmouth Foresides. Maine. My mother warned that I couldn't go out 'trick or treating' unless I finished my beets.

Canned beats paved the path to chocolate paradise and I poured a glass of milk to wash down the purple vegetables. My older brother was watching in his cowboy costume. Mine wore an identical outfit. We were going out as Frank and Jesse James.

I put the first sliced beet in my mouth. My tongue skated around the jellied vegetable. The bittersweet chunk tasted twenty years old and I swallowed it while. My throat constricted on the unchewed beet's passage, but I got it down.

Only two more to go.

"No more milk." My older brother pulled away the half-filled glass. He had a date with Sandy the girl next door. The 5 year-old was dressed in white up as a good witch.

The James Brothers and the Good Witch. My best friend Chaney was a clown. His sweetheart was a ballerina. I had asked Kathy Burns to walk the rounds with me. She had decided to go with Jimmy Fox. I didn’t have a date, but I would have chocolate, if I cleaned my plate.

I stuck the fork in the second beet slice and stuffed it deep into my mouth. Maybe too deep, because I gagged on it. My father's clap on my back slapshotted the beet back onto my plate. My mother was not amused by my upchuck.

Her family had gone through the Depression. Food on the plate was meant for your stomach. This was 1958. Eisenhower was President. America was a Land of Plenty. The beets belonged in the trash, but not in our house. Two slices took two minutes to stuff down my throat.

"That wasn't so bad." My mother cleared my plate from the table.

"No." They came from a can and I vowed never to eat beets again.

Our neighborhood was rich with candy and chocolate that night. My bag was half-filled by treats. We had done no tricks. My brother kissed Sandy on the cheek and I went upstairs to get rid the taste of beets by stuffing four Baby Ruths in my mouth. I chewed them into mush and they sluiced down my esophagus into my stomach. The combination of chocolate and beets wasn’t meant for a 6 year-old and I ran into the bathroom to empty my belly into the toilet.

The color was purple.

I drank a glass a water and returned to my bedroom. My brother was separating his candy into groups. I picked up a Baby Ruth and chewed it a little more slowly than the first four. It was not a beet or a turnip or a pumpkin or a kiss from Kathy Burns. It was sweet chocolate.

And there was plenty of it.

As there will be forever as long as Halloween is celebrated on October 31.

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