Oh – For the Glory Days of Halloween

 

We grumble about change. Who likes it? But damn, I miss the glory days of Halloween in our neighborhood – which takes me right back to being a kid, and what the great spooky candy-fest was all about back then. WE never had store bought costumes, except maybe for those horrible hard masks with the cheap elastic on the back – who cared though? Our mom would haul out black shirts, and tights, and rip up sheets and voila – the five of us would be a rag tag team of cats, witches, hobos and ghosts. My folks never followed us into the dark scary night – they kept the youngest inside and let the rest loose, but Holy Cow Batman, we weren’t ever alone. We tore through hedges and across lawns following a band of trick-or-treaters hooting and hollering through the night, stomping our feet on door steps where someone’s dad was insisting we sing before he would drop caramels or suckers or candy corn into our pillow cases. Yep pillow cases, always pillow cases.

pumpkin face

 

Halloween got more la dee da for my four kids. I bought them big plastic orange pumpkins for their loot (pillow cases held more). l encouraged them to fashion their own costumes but was a sucker for buying green make-up and shiny witches hats. And admittedly, for as long as they’d let me I tried to keep up to their scampering feet, but not for safety, more for camaraderie  with the neighbors and because – Dang it! – I delighted in the excitement of Halloween.  I shared the thrill of the kids running through the dark, costumed as something they imagined as scary or comic, trying to decide should they go this way or that, amid rumors of haunted houses and neighbors giving out unheard of amounts of loot.

My kids have grown up and buy elaborate costumes at ‘Halloween Stores’ to wear to parties on the Saturday before the 31st. The kids have grown and flown but a lot of us parents in this community have stayed put. It gets referred to as ‘an old neighborhood’ especially the day after Halloween when we lament the small number of trick or treaters, and talk about all the leftover teeny-weeny chocolate bars we have to eat ourselves. The afternoon of the 31st I was in a local mall and as dusk descended parents were bringing their tiny kids, dressed as mice and princesses, to the brightly lit shops to get free candy. Okay, it was cold and raining – I’ll give those moms and dads that, but parading through the malls just isn’t the spirit of trick or treating outside after dark, with pumpkins all aglow. It galls me to think that while Halloween gets steadily more commercialized the old-fashioned fun of it is being destroyed by overly anxious bubble- wrapping parents, though friends assure me that out in the new neighborhoods, stacked with children, you can still experience throngs of trick-or-treaters.

creepy house

Part of our Halloween gig is for me to pick up my costumed granddaughters (this year they’re Batgirl and Gotham’s Harley Quinn) and whip them over to their great-grandparent’s house – even at age eighty-seven my mom would never dream of turning out the lights and hiding when there were ghosts and goblins outside looking for treats. On the way we stop to stare and shiver at one of those houses that go all out – bearing witness to the most devoted display of Halloween spine-chilling hair-raising dare-to-come-up-the-path to-our-house fun. Watching this couple adding dry ice and flickering lights to their freaky yard restored my faith in the occasion, and I doubly felt my granddaughter’s urgency to get home to trick-or-treat.

bat girl and harley quinn

My daughter brought little batgirl and Harley Quinn to our house after they circled their own block, still revved up enough to come visit lonely neighbors with me. Like I said, it’s an old neighborhood, the streets are far too quiet and we all want to bend down and regal Batgirl and Harley Quinn with stories of the glory days on the block when there were gangs flying down the street calling out into the night, “Trick er Treat. Halloween Apples.”  But the girls, sleepy eyed and contend, and just the right amount of scared, don’t seem to be missing what they never knew. And hey what’s with the apples anyways?

PS. I’d like to engage with my readers – please leave a comment or tell me, what was your Halloween all about? If you’d like to read more about my own four monsters and their journeys into the wide scary world check out my book, Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest. 

 

Coming soon to a phone in your pocket

ImageImageThis time of year I untangle the Christmas lights and reflect on Christmases past. Two years ago in a snowy December, I got swept away with the rush and energy of the most intense, dramatic, mind blowing project.  My amazing friend, Barry Varga, aka Mr. Dry Wit, wanted to make a funny movie about three guys in wheelchairs robbing a bank. You heard that right. Barry has ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was confined to a wheelchair himself. He wanted to shine some light on a grim situation, raise funds towards the fight against this disease – but mostly he wanted to give people a laugh. Barry asked my son, Levi, to co-write the script with him and my other son, Kyle, to direct the movie.  Some very generous and kind friends helped my husband cover the costs of our speedy production.  Kyle and his Vancouver crew only had a small window in-between classes to head to Calgary and do the four day crazy shoot.  I remember that getting off the plane one of Kyle’s wise friend’s said, Kyle we should never work more than a twelve hour day – and we all said, that would be insane – who would do that? But guess what? To cram it all in, we pulled a fourteen hour stint.  It makes my spine tingle  thinking about all the family and friends, and friends of friends, and kids of neighbors, and relatives of Barry’s and mine, that showed up everyday – following us  across the city -from the university to the high school, to a slushy street scene – taking part in everything from feeding the folks, applying fake tatoos, driving electric wheel chairs without a licence, babysitting the little toddler of an actor, or waiting (and waiting and waiting) to be a court room extra only to be left on the cutting room floor.   After that exhilarating Christmas shoot they took the footage back to Vancouver and created Disabled and Dangerous. Our movie is only eight and a half  minutes long, but a funny eight and a half minutes. 

We screened it in Calgary in June 2012 to a packed house and then sent it to film festivals – making it into three in New York City, and (drum roll) winning the audience choice award at the Iron Mule Comedy Festival in October.  It’s been a wild ride and now Barry and the guys want to share it far and wide with the assitance of some amazing dedicated women at the ALS Society of Alberta. I am absolutlely thrilled to let you know that Disabled and Dangerous will launch on YouTube on Dec. 19th, two years from the day we wrapped up the shoot.  It’s time to share Barry’s funny story idea.  The more views, the more people we make happy.  The official trailer is now available at http://youtu.be/nm8wGGEpg-Y or on the facebook page www.facebook.com/dangerousshortfilmgroup! It has 19,000 views and counting on Youtube – and that is just the trailer.  Check it out but please share the movie when it debuts on YouTube on December 19 and help make this “the heartfelt heist heard round the world.”  Remember this is just an ordinary stick-up.

Sixty Years of Wedded Bliss and Alberta’s Flood Waters

More than ever I wanted my parents to have a special 60th anniversary.  Sixty! – for heaven’s sake – they have been married to each other, taken care of each other, put up with each other, for sixty years – 720 months, a zillion weeks – a long, long time.  June 1953 when they exchanged their wedding vows was a rainy wet month in southern Alberta – they sloshed through the muddy church yard hauling up the bride’s dress to keep it clean.  June 2013, the year of this diamond anniversary, has involved epics floods that have devastated their city of Calgary, Alberta.

For months, myself and my four siblings have planned a family celebration of our parent’s wedded bliss involving their children and spouses, the grandchildren and spouses, and the two little great- granddaughters all meeting at our cottage on Shuswap Lake in B.C. – a seven hour drive from Calgary.  When I said, “hey, just pack a bag and we’ll make a little trip of it,”  I had never fathomed we’d be housing evacuation victims,  and glued to network forecasts on the country’s number one highway being washed right out with storming mad flood waters.

As distracted as we were with the hardships going on around us – property destroyed, power out, transportation a mess – it seemed my eighty-three and eighty-four- year- old mom and dad still deserved to have us rally to mark the occasion, but there was that matter of the main highway having vanished under muddy debris. Image

We waited it out a day and then I told the folks we would scout out an alternate route.  And there we were a few hours later jammed packed with a line of transport trucks all headed north when we all needed to go west.  We met up with fifty troops of army reserves returning from natural disaster duty – at the A and W in Red Deer, then struck off west finally over miles of land that couldn’t have been more lush as the rain came down again.  Reaching the Rocky Mountains we were forced to go south now and finally, after five hours of detour, were back to the number one.  Tell me about your honeymoon, I said to my mom, as the sun crested a peak and my dad slept in the back seat.

We pulled into the iconic Chateau Lake Louise for a late, late afternoon coffee. The waiter there, learning it was the 60th anniversary didn’t charge for the two desserts we shared, and bid them a respectful (awe struck) congratulations before we pushed on a mere half hour further to the Kicking Horse lodge in Field, British Columbia, for a evening meal in the railway town before bedding down for the night. Image

And I do feel guilty for high tailing it out of Calgary when I see on Facebook and in the news that the horrible messy clean-up is just beginning.   But the clan is gathering and this anniversary party must go on – stayed tuned for the low down – how much asparagus do twenty-seven people eat?  Should I keep introducing my folks as the ‘diamond anniversary couple’ – will the grocery store comp me my hamburger buns?  Are twenty-seven family members – twenty-six too many to spend three days with?  Will the folks share their six decade secrets of long matrimony?  These answers and more in the days to come…

Four Generation Photo Shoot Mother’s Day Madness

Mother’s Day 2013 and I realized I could repent for past sins – after a few years of living away from my almost three-year-old granddaughter our big family feels so, so fortunate to have her and her baby sister (and their mom and dad) move ‘home’.  And with one set of grandparents and one of great-grandparents back from winter escapes, suddenly we find ourselves all living in one city with three four-generation family groups. my fave four gen

Now that begs for four generation photos.  True we could have set up a few calm afternoons with the parties involved at separate locations according to which side of the family we were calling into dress-up (but not to up) and smile action.  But a windy warm Mother’s Day afternoon was picked for a massive ‘let’s get this done’ opportunity.  grandmasteeple

My youngest daughter stepped up to the plate as patient photographer extraordinaire, and I took up the job of production coordinator – a few days before the Mother’s Day event I realized I was so mentally excited that I’d only imagined my official invite to several key players.  lucy in yellowCould have been due to my distraction over shopping for teeny white shoes for new baby or finding the right shade of yellow hair bows to twist onto the three-year -olds pony tails, while directing the other guests to organize their groups into comfortable clothes that go together and trying to settle on a menu for a brunch that would go cold on the stove while we bossed people around.

 

Mother’s Day arrived – perfect overcast clouds for great photographic light –the lot of us looked exuberant – every generation, while we waited an hour for babies that needed to nurse and kids that needed to be polished up, and chairs to be transferred from suddenly too sunny spots and a very special 60th anniversary photo of my parents.  And then from the minute we shouted out the first, “Cheese” until two hours later we posed and jiggled a baby, blew bubbles at the too energetic toddler, sucked in and grinned while she zipped into the shot on a ride ’em caterpillar, called senior folks from this end of the yard to that, helped the six-year-old hold the baby who was losing it, smiled and smiled, and suddenly the window closed, the baby cried, the three-year-old collapsed and myself, the production coordinated – tried to push on, ever conscious of the photos we didn’t get at the wedding – the ones I was trying to make up for, until finally I called out, “Enough. Stop me.  I’ve gone insane.” And it was over.  I could collapse with the little ones – or maybe even relax and feed the guests, while waiting to view the wonderful joyful shots of what we’d just pulled off.   alice and adina tired

Oh Baby – Let’s Swing

“How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown–
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down! ”

The Swing –   Robert Louis Stevenson

Up at our cottage there is a small clearing in the trees, with a view toward the lake.  It is a place some of us (probably the girls) always looked at as if it was where you would slip off to with a new boyfriend when it seemed you had been inundated with aunts and uncles, and cousins or other lakeside visitors –  to get away and whisper, or steal a kiss without being observed by dad.

It is a place to go when you are feeling like a moment, or being contemplative, or are in love, or out of love – a place away from the other places, a place to steal a kiss, or tell a secret. IMG_4581

 

 

 

And then our eldest had a baby who has a love of swinging, and we’d drive for twenty minutes to the park beside the local baseball diamond.  At last I knew what the spot in the trees needed – a swing – a swing for a toddler, but a swing for a long-legged kid or a grown up, too.

Lucky for all of us my son-in-law, the toddler’s daddy, is a recently graduated architect with a passion for building – no pre-packaged swing set kit for us.  On three of the hottest days of last summer he happily constructed the perfect, simple baby swing and a ‘big’ swing, and a place to climb and slide – with awe struck assistants from those of us eager for the finished product.

It was a hot summer with the lake temperature invitingly warm, so swimming and boating and floating we’re so much of what we did – not much swinging at all.IMG_4641

But it’s British Columbia, Canada and there are long crisp seasons where the lake is the backdrop for more quiet pursuits, times when there will be a fussy baby that needs to be soothed or too many folks will be crowded inside, and two others will have to slip out to that spot in the trees and take turns simply swinging.nest painting-2

It’s January now, the ground is icy white, the still air promises more snow and cold.  But hey, it’s time to dream of  spring and going “up into the air and down”….

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Phone-less in San Francisco

In response to reading melancholy blogs from parents experiencing  withdrawal from kids gone away to college and university, I promised to re-post a couple of those learning curves of my own.   So here is PHONE-LESS IN SAN FRANCISCO

Seven P.M. on a Sunday night my twenty-year-old daughter calls,  obviously near tears.  “Someone stole my phone,” she cries.  “I feel so cut off without it.”

But she is on a phone, one the cell company she’s been dealing with, has given to her.  Born in 1959 myself, it takes me a minute to catch up.  It’s not the phone, it’s the information in the phone.  “I feel like I have to start over meeting people, making contacts.  I feel so alone again, Mom.”

“Honey, honey, I get that you’re upset.  But those people will call you.  You’ll get your numbers again.”

“Mom, it doesn’t work like that.  I’ve done this enough to know lots of those people were never going to call me.”  What she’s done enough, is move around, this daughter of mine.  This is the third time in her young life that she has by choice surrounded herself with absolute strangers – situations where she had to work to have even a single friend.  From our home in Calgary, at age sixteen, she bravely did a high school exchange in Rome, Italy – isolating herself further by having to learn Italian.  Her siblings went to school on the west coast, but she headed east to Concordia University in Montreal.  Now, trading another cold Canadian winter for a foggy one, she was taking part in Concordia’s school abroad program by doing a year at SFSU in San Francisco.  “People here have their own friends.  I’m the new one.  I have to call them,” she explained further.

I was alone in our renovated, too big house, when she’d called.  Her dad had taken two of our nephews to an early hockey game.  The weather outside was shifting, from a Indian summer to light flurries.  Earlier I’d been in the yard pulling down sweet pea vines and raking leaves, and wishing I was cooking a Sunday dinner like some of my friends would be, for kids who stayed in the city for jobs and school.

“What are you doing right now, Mom?” she asked quietly.

“Missing you guys.  Dad’s gone to a hockey game.  I was going to make toast but the breads gone moldy.

“Mine too,” she said.  “My bread’s gone bad, too.”

“I guess we need each other to finish a loaf of bread,” I said, from where I watched the sky turn dark outside the living room.

“Yeah, we do.  I miss you guys so much.”

“You’ll get your numbers back, Lily.  You’ll run into people.  And some friends will call.  It just seems bad now.  I’ll email you Zoe’s and Hudson’s and Cole’s and your cousin’s numbers.”

“Will you do it now?”

Of course, I told her, yes, I’d do it right away.  And I would add a note to her email, about how brave she was, and how I knew the next time we talked she would be okay again, having found her friends.