Thursday, October 31, 2013

Yesterday was the best Halloween ever

Halloween has come and gone, it was the best ever, and I think I owe it all to math.

That’ll be a very confusing sentence to those of you familiar with the Roman calendar. For most of the country, Halloween is today.

Not in the tiny one-stoplight borough where me and about 980 other hallowed souls dwell. Ours was last night. For reasons I’ve for 20 years never understood, Youngstown never seems to celebrate Halloween on Halloween. This tends to infuriate people disposed to logical thought.

People like my wife. She once talked about running for town council on the single issue that if people voted for her she’d ensure that Halloween would be on Halloween. 

Imagine how different America would be today if Mitt Romney had thought to run on that platform.

As many of you may know, I’ve been crabby for the past few Halloweens -- and by “crabby” I don’t mean to infer I was wearing a crustacean costume.

I’ve been upset how Halloween’s become an all-consuming, month-long Caligulian candy fest so thorough I’m beginning to suspect the American Dental Association is behind the whole thing.

It’s become Sprawl-o-ween.

For some reason, this year it didn’t seem to bother me. Maybe it’s because I did the math.

Laying there in bed one night, I started doing some calculating involving the ages of two girls I dearly love.

One is 13.

I thought, man, in five slim years she’ll be 18. That means if opportunities arise, she might be away in college, serving overseas in the Army or -- who knows? -- maybe waitressing at some lunar golf resort.

Just because I don’t dress up for Halloween doesn’t mean I don’t have a lively imagination.

It dawned on me that this might be the last Halloween where Josie wants to participate in the town candy parade. And that sentence is not metaphorical.

In Youngstown, the kiddies, the parents, the grandparents and all the town dogs all line up in the church parking lot at 6 p.m. That’s when the volunteer fire fighters close down all the streets and lead a parade of fairies, princesses and dozens of darling little demons behind the big firetruck right down Main Street.

It’s Satanic Americana at its very best.

Without fail, that hour, the very essence of Halloween, is what I most enjoy about the holiday.

More math: this one involving a girl who is 80.

Mom’s doing great right now. Sure, she has a faulty memory -- big whoop -- but she’s utterly sweet, and I realize I’m blessed she’s for now able to live more or less on her own.

But who knows where an 80-year-old woman with mild dementia will be in five years?

She might be waitressing on the moon, too, only without ever setting foot outside her South Hills apartment.

So I thought I’m going to try and do this one Halloween right.

Boy, am I glad I did. Despite her protestations about not wanting to leave the comfort of her own home for an inconvenient overnighter, I drove into Pittsburgh to haul her old butt out here for Halloween.

She’d found a 1944 diary from when she was 12 and read it out loud to me the whole way home.

I learned 12 year old girls growing up in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, take a lot of baths. Here from memory is a typical entry from her life that historic year when the rest of world seemed intent on blowing itself apart: “Went to school. Had a good piano lesson. Came home. Took a bath.”

It was about an hour of that.

I decided to consider it charming.

It was a beautiful fall day. 

At home, I took Mom by the arm and went for a walk through the woods. I eased her into the hammock and watched her revel as the leaves fell down around her face. Best part was when Lucy got off the bus and ran up to join her for a snuggle and a picture that to me looks so perfect you’ll swear it was posed.

On this day when so many pretend they are the undead, Mom was for one afternoon once again fully alive.

So was I.

If this is, indeed, the last Halloween, then I’m happy the ghosts of it destined to haunt me will all be friendly ones.

Remember, it’s never too late to have a Happy Halloween.

Especially if you live where we do.

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