Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Paper Sack Full Of Happy

Back before they made plastic pumpkin heads with a handle, designer Trick-or-Treat tote bags, or gallon buckets stenciled with monster heads, there was the perfect candy holder for Halloween night. The paper sack.

Long before the sun ever thought of setting on Halloween, we were all lined up in our home made costumes, clutching our paper bags - the very most important part of a successful costume. 
When mom passed them out, they were smooth and stiff and it took a bit of talent to roll the top down into a comfortable handle. But as we watched the clock roll around to twilight, we practiced numerous times on proper bag management. 

It was the only thing that had to survive the night. 

Forget the bed pillow as a belly, Dad's house slippers on small feet, or jewelry, wigs and gloves. They were all dispensable. But the paper sack? Well, it was the symbol of success, happiness, and love.

There are Halloween nights from my childhood that I can only remember through two small slits of a cheap mask. I remember high heels flopping on broken sidewalks, itchy wool sweaters, dripping makeup and insufficient flashlights. I can remember freshly mowed grass sticking to my shoes and dew soaking through my socks. I can still see jack-o-lanterns beneath porch lights, sheet ghosts in the bushes and crowds of neighbor kids like gangs, forcing a candy handout with the quick whisk of a open paper sack.

It was worth every stumble, every leap across ditches and obstructive landscape...every long ,weary mile of the candy crusade.  Because once we were under the protective halo of our own porch light again, we knew we had made it. We were home. Our sacks had survived. We had persevered. We were as close to heaven as children dared to be.

After ripping off the costumes, washing our lip-sticked faces and mosquito bitten hands, we changed into some warm clothes and sat Indian-style on the floor. In the perfect hollow of our crossed legs, we each poured out the contents of our bag, being extra careful not to cross the boundaries of one another. One stray Bit-o-Honey or a chunk of Double Bubble was totally up for grabs, no matter who had spent two chilly hours walking door to door for it.

By this time our paper sacks were thin and wrinkled, with a soft, pliable handle like the smoothness of old leather. Ripped, torn, and previously bulging, we used it again and again in the next few weeks to harbor our candy stash.

I always ate the chocolate first. (Things never really change, do they?). Then I chose the butterscotch, starlight mints and English toffee. I traded away my Tootsie Rolls, licorice, and Mr. Rainey's traditional red-delicious apple. 

Within a week, my paper sack rolled up nicely to the size of small town newspaper, hidden away in the back of my drawer with only a few sticky bits of gum and jelly beans clinging to the inside.

It's almost sad to think how important Halloween night used to be. But in our large family, candy was a luxury - known only at Christmas. Halloween was our jackpot. Our lottery of lollipops. Our only chance to savor, hoard, and possess the sweetness of rich peoples treats.

Eventually the paper sacks were empty. Our efforts to extend the life of Halloween night soon faded into thoughts of Santa. 
But I have never forgotten how a simple paper sack gave us such immense joy. How one scary night was was one we remembered for years to come,
every time we relished a piece of candy or a stick of gum.

Thank you, mom. For letting us out into the dark with our paper sacks to bring back priceless memories.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

It Doesnt Matter What They Think

When I was in fifth grade my mom took me to Montgomery Wards and bought me a new pair of shoes. This was a rare occasion, as most of my footwear was hand-me-downs, so I delighted in the prospect of something new and shiny...and totally mine.

What I ended up getting was a pair of patent slip-ons, with a slightly pointy toe, and leather the color of a pomegranate. Not red, mind you, but a sweet berry that shined with a hint of sparkle when I danced in the sun.

At first these shoes were stiff and awkward, barely bending the way I thought my feet should fall, slightly restrictive, but I loved them none the less. At night I would push them together under the bed and they resembled a little red heart. I fell asleep, anxious to wear them again the next morning.

Most girls my age were wearing go-go boots back then. Or sophisticated saddle loafers that bore no toe scuffs whatsoever - and smelled like real leather. I knew my classmates didn't really understand the fondness I had for my own shoes. And secretly I knew there were times when my shoes were the subject of muffled laughter.

Before long, the newness wore off. My feet slipped into them without a finger of assistance, the shiny, flesh colored soles became scuffed gray, and the glittery shine fogged over with days of unbridled play and unconscious abuse.

There were days I looked down at my feet and I was embarrassed. And I admit, there were tiny, fleeting moments when I wished I had chosen another style - or times when I dreamed of replacing them with a newer pair.
But in my little girl heart, I loved those shoes. Worn, familiar, and comfortable, I did my best to walk tall and be proud.

It is kind of like my home here. Some people don't understand. It's a little too wild, a bit too dated, a tad unfashionable and a suitable brunt of hillbilly jokes.

And even though this place is now familiar, no longer new, doesn't shine with quite the breathtaking brilliance as it did the day we moved here, my little girl heart still loves it.

And it's the perfect place to dance in the sun.

Monday, October 14, 2013

October Thoughts

I watch the world from my kitchen window...
 Yellow leaves swirl in the cool breeze. ..
Thin gray squirrels hop in the dry grass, searching for acorns and walnuts...
A hawk is silhouetted above the rain soaked clouds. 

I dip my hands in soapy dishwater and breathe deeply. This is my home now. Almost six months. 

Things grow familiar. 
Places fit my feet. 
I feel as though I am surrounded by lovely things here...and I belong.

The last three tomatoes from the garden sit in a blue bowl, almost soupy with ripeness. A bittersweet reminder that summer is over...that autumn surrounds us now and the harvest is complete. That the time of green clover and fireflies will not come again for another year.

I wonder if winter will be my friend at my new home....if I will curl up into a cozy cocoon and watch the snow fly, or will the chill eat away my bones till I can no longer see the beauty here? Will my heart welcome the ice covered creek and frosted pines, or will I hide away from the world of cold cruelty?

Yet, if winter must come, this is the place to face it. In a little cabin with a big fire, crackling away in a brick fireplace...soft cookies baking in the oven...a pot of thick chili cooking on the husband playing dog sleeping in the fluff of quilted bed...silent snowflakes making a white world beyond the windows...

Time goes by.
I try to catch it. Reach out my hands and grasp its wonder...

Thank you, God, for this beautiful world and the blessings you have given me.