The modern version we call Halloween is an amalgam of early Catholicism and autumnal festivals celebrated around the world and dating back to forever. As the harvest ends and shadows grow longer, people have historically associated the change of seasons with dying and death.
November 1st, All Hallow’s Day (Dia de Todos os Santos, All Saint’s Day, Dia de los Muertas), is the yearly remembrance of our dearly departed. People hope/expect the souls they loved so well in life to visit. Graves are cleaned and decorated, remembrances and offerings are left, memories cried over during celebrations and feasting. The night before All Hallow’s Day is, of course, All Hallow’s Eve(ning) and has been shortened to Hallow’een.
Over the centuries (and through the richness of storytelling around warming fires) the idea of lost souls with no one to mourn them also being up and about on that day took over active imaginations. What would these lost souls (ghosts) want more than anything? To take over the body of someone living.
Jack o’lanterns were carved into faces and planted on gates and around doorsteps to fool evil spirits into entering the pumpkin instead of those sleeping inside the house. That eventually grew into disguising innocent children on that night, too, so evil spirits wouldn’t recognize them and take over their souls. That’s why they dress up as the wicked and scary, so they pass among the evil ones without being recognized as the innocent souls they are. The tradition of giving treats to kids in costumes at your door was a wink/nod at tricking the ‘evil spirits’ into leaving their homes.
Satanism celebrates and worships Satan and evil. It’s a whole different vibe and intent, which has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween.
If you are still curious, I highly recommend The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury. It’s a glorious short novel that explores different autumn festivals and how they’ve become associated with Halloween.
Tomorrow is a long-awaited birthday, the one I’ve hoped to attain my entire life, my sixty-fourth. I have literally waited for this day for the last fifty-four years. I know I’m getting old (my grandkids think I’m already there, phht) but it’s a day that will make me feel delightfully young again. I plan to dance and sing loud enough to shake the rafters. Even if it’s snowing and the temperature stays below zero all day, the sun will be shining in my heart and eyes as I revel on this special day.
I understand if you are searching for some relevance for that particular number. It’s not one of the Big 0’s, it’s not three-quarters of a century, or four-score and seven, not even the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. So why, you’re wondering, has my sixty-fourth been such a big deal for so long?
It’s my Beatle Birthday. Allow me to explain.
In 1967 I loved the Beatles, I and every other girl in the Western world and most of the Eastern as well. I mean, LOVED them, and would have happily swooned at any one of their live performances. Their songs spoke for, to, and of a generation, my generation. However, having been born at the tail end of the baby boomers I missed the ‘Revolution’ by eight long years.
As a ten-year-old (don’t torture your brain, I was born in 1957), I wasn’t old enough to be a hippie or Love Child, but I longed to be. British fashion invaded America with the Beatles. Art exploded with color. Songs told stories of righting wrongs, ending oppression, gaining understanding and brotherhood. Television pitted young activists against hawkish conservatives, entertaining both on different days and during varying hours.
Happenings were happening all around me and I longed to participate. I wanted to march against the Vietnam War, sit-in for civil rights, sing folk songs with students planning a social revolution. But instead, I was babysat by them or dismissed as their younger sister’s friend, not accepted as one of their own. Sigh. So it is in every young activist’s life.
1967 was also the year the Beatles released their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. I’d always enjoyed their music but was more fascinated with their personalities, especially John. However, that album changed the way I listened to music forever. It took root in my brain and became the first, but certainly not last, to be played repeatedly wherever I was, over and over, for days to weeks to months. I knew every line of every song, finding depth and human wisdom in their stories of everyday people.
Each of the songs have been special to me at various times of my life, She’s Leaving Home and For the Benefit of Mr. Kite pretty much defined my early teens. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (the song), Lovely Rita, and With A Little Help from My Friends explain a lot of my young adulthood, and then there’s the one I’ve loved most (yes, even more than Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds) over the years.
When I’m Sixty-Four
When I get older, losing my hair Many years from now Will you still be sending me a Valentine? Birthday greetings? Bottle of wine?
If I stay out till quarter to three Would you lock the door Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? When I’m sixty-four?
The rest of the song is entertaining, but it’s the first two stanzas that have tickled me for a rather long lifetime, teasing me with questions for my future.
Finally I know the answers. My sweetie still sends me a Valentine, birthday greetings, and if not a bottle of wine then a pricy, fancy, box of chocolates. I never see a quarter of three without her lying by my side. She still needs me. She still feeds me.
In your relationship, who is in charge of getting gas for the car?
Between ourselves, my wife and I joke about being in a Butch/Femme marriage but when anyone asks about stereotypical heterosexual roles we explain, “Whoever gets up first makes the coffee, last one up makes the bed. We take care of each other.”
There are many chores we do together. We take turns cooking, filling and emptying the dishwasher, helping each other when we can, and we always make financial decisions together. However, that said, after twenty years together some ‘household chores’ have become habitual to the point of expectation. I do the indoor stuff while she takes care of the outdoors.
I am not fulfilling some gender destiny, or cultural compulsion to exemplify femininity. Over the years we’ve discovered that I hate gardening. There’s something about bees, dirt under my fingernails, mosquitos, the smell of moldering leaves and weeds, the getting down, getting up again, down, up, and the wasps…well, it’s just not my thing. I found myself avoiding those chores when they needed doing, leaving them to Traf.
But I can’t sit around while she works so I took over the inside cleaning. I love the people who use our bathroom, so I clean it thoroughly to keep them protected. I’m careful when dusting all the treasures accumulated over decades. I move furniture when vacuuming, to get at the cat fur and dust that accumulate in hidden places. And I sort, wash, and dry the laundry keeping everyone in clean clothes, linens, and towels. Turns out, I feel much happier and fulfilled as things around me get straightened, sorted, put away. I love watching my labors produce cleanliness.
All of which makes me grateful my wife loves to get down and dirty, because I surely do not. It pleases Traf to grow a dazzling garden filled with fresh, healthy veggies every summer, delighting both taste buds and our wallets. Her careful lawn care and border of tiger and day lilies delight the neighborhood for weeks, even prompting strangers to stop and take photos. She also keeps the outdoor machines; cars, lawnmower, snow-blower, garage door, and all lamps/lights in good working order.
In relationships there’s a tit for tat, I give you this and expect that from you. If she starts to irritate me or I’m feeling underappreciated, I remind myself of what she does for me, or for us as a couple, that I have taken for granted before. I own it, after all these years we’ve both forgotten to be grateful and hurt each other, and we’ve learned from experience.
But, um, yep, I expect my wife to keep my car filled with gas.
If she starts feeling miffed about it, I hope she thinks of me cleaning the toilet following an episode of unfortunate digestive issues. In the same way, whenever I get pissy about sneezing from dust motes atop bookcases and fur-mice under couches, I think gratefully of Traf mowing the lawn on a hot summer day and up to her knees shoveling snow in winter.
I remind myself who I’m doing it FOR, my wife and family.
It is a privilege to take care of the woman I love.
Things are tough, everyone knows it. Some of us are back at work, or whatever work looks like these days. Some still shelter at home, some are becoming new techno-wizards-by-necessity. Some people are out of work and hanging on by a thread. Other folks are nervously still working at businesses that are themselves on the verge of bankruptcy.
Politics are heating up and people who have made their choices are busily trying to convince those few stubborn folks who refuse to pay attention to either party (and blindly insist that both parties are the same) that their candidates are superior in every way. Everywhere you look are political ads pointing fingers, yelling out warnings, using the sounds of war, snapping fingers, ringing phones, and even rattlesnakes in the back ground to make you even more on edge and willing to seek safety.
And then there’s the weather. And fires. And social unrest, peaceful protests, rioting, police brutality, white privilege, systemic racism…
…oh, and a little thing we call a pandemic that is killing our fellow human beings at shocking rates all around the world. We try to go about our business while getting used to wearing masks (fogging glasses, smoker’s breath) and no longer getting facial cues to help us understand others.
People are totally stressed out. And as they have always done, they lash out at strangers because that’s so much safer than risking relationships of value by venting at home. People are rude when told something they were used to is different now, they’re vindictive online when their whims cry out for revenge, safe behind screens to write things they’d never say with mouths that kiss their mothers. Stress turns normal people into fretful freaks, or angry avengers, or snarky narcs, and every one of them shows up in your line. Metaphorical line, it could be they’re on your phone, visiting your office, trashing your book reviews (Charles), or staring at you through two car windows and a foot of space between them during rush hour.
They stomp on your day, digging sharp elbows into soft bellies, setting your teeth on edge, challenging you to admit you don’t know what you’re doing and have completely, utterly, failed. Judith Viorst knew exactly what I’m talking about and brilliantly named a picture book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which I used to read aloud to my students, even the sixth graders. Because everyone has them.
Terrible days. Horrible weeks. No good months. And very, very bad years (Yeah, we’re looking at you 2020). You need a way to counter their effects, save your day, remind yourself of your skills and talents, and give yourself a mental hug. So I’m sharing a life hack that has served me well over the decades, but shhhhh, don’t tell anyone.
As an elementary school teacher, I began keeping a file in my desk at work. I titled it: To Be Read on Very Bad Days and in it I kept every little thank you, recognition of my skills, and love note from a student I was given. Any praise from administrators, awards and recognition, photos with kids, were carefully stored. On days that left me ready to weep with exhaustion, low self-esteem, and frustration I would give myself 10 minutes to pull out my file and remember. Re-reading about my successes, seeing the appreciation of those whose lives I’d touched for the better, remembering the strength of my conviction to be my best self, would help. I’d straighten my shoulders, stiffen my spine, wipe my eyes, and carry on.
Over the years that folder grew thicker and just the sight of it would sometimes be enough to help me shoulder through the days when I felt like the worst teacher ever. Even though I’ve been retired a long time now, that folder stays in my desk in the basement. I still read it from time to time.
Start one. Today. Take a half-hour and gather whatever you’ve got lying around in the way of compliments, no matter how small. Birthday cards signed by co-workers, a note, glowing reviews… We need to SEE, visibly SEE our successes to remember why it’s worth going through the messiness of life, especially these days.
Keep adding to your file and over the years it will become just the thing you need on those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days when you need a little self-support. And if you can’t count on yourself, who can?
Teens managed THE coup of our times by buying up the tickets of the Tulsa rally, guaranteeing empty seats and low turnout.
Yes, the same teens who sat on pins and needles in classrooms where they trained in the art of sheltering in place before learning the curriculum. They who were raised on the kindness and decency of Obama and now watch corrupt, cruel Trump. Today’s teens skate around the internet like wiry young adults of the 50s once did on roller rinks. Not politically savvy in the ways of their elders, which might be a good thing, they were nevertheless effective in their strategy and not giving it away beforehand. They embarrassed and deflated Trump, kicking the legs from under this throne.
BTW, I put up a meme about this a long time ago, kind of a ‘wouldn’t it be funny if’ thing about buying out blocks of free tickets so his arenas would be empty. Which, lets face it, seems to be the only thing that really lets the air out of the orange windbag. I didn’t do it, I was re-posting a funny meme of the time, and I promptly forgot it in the wake of ongoing news. I believe the Zoomers and KPoppers fooled the rally organizers, it fits the circumstances perfectly: the bragging about a million requests for tickets, building an entire outside area with stage and large screen outside to accommodate overflow crowds, and then being caught up short by the actual low turnout.
Sure, the low turn out is probably the result of Covid fears and the warnings from their obviously concerned governor probably kept some Oklahomans from showing up. Fear over possible violence, ditto.
AND a bunch of smart, dedicated, and capable kids who know how to push buttons, literally and figuratively.
It happened in 1987, so if that was before your time or if it passed you by the first time as ‘some kind’a hippy-crystal-lovin’ shit’, let me explain. On August 16th and 17th the first global attempt at synchronized meditation occurred across the planet. As Earth aligned with the other planets, people sang, danced, and prayed together in a universal plea for world peace. It didn’t work, but it brought enough like-minded people together that environmental issues, social networking, political support groups, religious and spiritual growth, and many other good things, took root in the World/American consciousness. The great harmonic convergence not only made us feel better, it was the beginning of a lot of important growth for the people of Earth.
It’s nearly 33 years later, and tonight there will be an impromptu opportunity for another shared experience as we survive our simultaneous losses. Over the last decade our families have collectively absorbed the Pritchett/Dunphy family and together we’ve become a Modern Family. With humor, style, and honesty some of the best writing/acting/producing on television led many topical conversations. As their family grew up, we recognized ourselves and our children in their hopes and dreams, attempts, failures, and successes. We laughed with them more often than at them, but one way or the other they left us laughing week after month after year. Tonight, we lose them forever.
Which hits a very un-harmonic chord of pain within me, channeling a path for hot tears of mourning and loss. I burst into tears at the breakfast table the other day and when questioned for the reason, I sobbed, “It’s too much. We’re losing so much it doesn’t seem fair that we’re losing them, too.” I gestured at the TV screen where a promo for the grand finale episode shows a group hug they can’t break.
Now, I trust ABC/Disney to expertly milk my thin-skinned emotions tonight. I expect to be crying, sobbing, and laughing while they wrap-up a lifetime of stories in a two-hour period. So, since my tripwires will be triggered anyway, I thought, why not cry for everything at once?
I plan to howl at the beautiful uncaring moon and let out every bit of pain I’m already feeling and my fear of what’s still to come. Tears will be shed in memory of those already gone, fears for my nears and dears, and fury because I don’t know if I’m an asymptomatic Covid Cary (think Typhoid Mary), but I must act as if I am and treat you as an infected creature shedding germs in your wake. I hate this loss of normal, and the cost of holding it together is showing, so I’m going to roll around in my misery, sob my eyes dry, rail at fate and face the pain of final farewells through hiccups of reluctant laughter. I welcome your company, as shared pain is halved.
Everyone is hurting. So, YOU are invited, you who face daily danger as you deal first-hand with the sick and dying, burying the horror of what you’re personally living through to deal with in future therapy. And YOU who risk continual exposure from a never-ending parade of panicky strangers who must shop for food, medicines, their basic daily necessities, you need this, too. And YOU, if you’ve lost a job, your life savings, travel plans, graduation or another honorific celebration fairly earned, join me. Your losses are not trivial. They are substantial and deserve recognition. Together WE will grieve them, and the loss of hugs, shoulders to lean on, and arms linked in camaraderie. Our families face devastating changes. Tonight, we can howl at the moon together, a discordant convergence channeling our emotions through a cathartic mutual loss of our friends and neighbors, the Pritchetts and Dunphys.
Join me tonight during the grand finale episode of Modern Family, aka the #GreatDiscordantConvergenceCatharsis2020.
My smile is so big as I write this. While watching this short film, at minute 4:54 I saw for myself the growth of our society in the skillful portrayal of a parent getting a shock, sucking it up, and instantly choosing loving support. Yes, we slip a lot and yes, we have citizens howling and screaming to drag us back in time, but in the land of lawn mowers, oleanders, and teen dances we’ve come so far. Every single actor in this 8 minute production gave their absolute all to the project, every character springs to life fully 3-dimensional. And wow, do they tell a brilliant short story.
Go back up and watch it for yourself. It takes half the time of a coffee break. I’ll wait.
Told you so. Listen, spring dances start in a matter of weeks so please pass this wonderful short film around and help people see a story about the love and support our youngsters deserve from us.
I’ve got sympathy for teenagers, their hormones jump around, adulthood looms large, and they reject and demand responsibility for themselves simultaneously. They stew in an odd mix of fear, courage, paranoia, assumptions, growing self-awareness, dreams, options, and most of all worry. Their emotions are as raw and real now as yours were at that age.
We store memories as reminders of who we were once and sudden strong memories pop up in everyone’s mind once in a while. They swoop into your brain, peck at your ego, knock you down to size, and leave behind the same emotions you recorded in that moment. Remember? Of course you do. We all grow through adolescence and awkward young adulthood. You’re a survivor.
Prom night will be a night your teen will NEVER forget and you, their folks, will play significant roles in their lifelong recurring memory. Ask yourself, ‘How do I want my youngster to remember me long after I’m gone?’
When I was a kid (maybe 9 or 10 years old) my dad bought one of the first Polaroid cameras, the kind where you rubbed the ejected square with chemicals to get the picture to appear. He was having a wonderful time with his new toy and on Easter Sunday, since we were all dressed up for church, he sat each of his five children one at a time in a straight-back armchair to take our portrait.
We started from the oldest to the youngest because Mom was still getting the youngest ones ready to go. When it finally came to the baby’s turn, she was all decked out in a fancy dress (she was 2 or 3) with gloves, hat, and fancy white patent leather shoes. Everyone gushed over how cute she looked, so she was excited to have her photo taken.
While waiting, she’d somehow gotten a thumbtack stuck in the sole of her shoe. When Dad perched her up on the chair, her little legs stuck straight out and everyone watching (i.e. Dad, Mom, and her four older siblings) all shouted, “A tack!” and lunged for her foot.
The baby, terrified by having her entire family shout, “Attack!” and race toward her, burst into tears. Poor little thing…we probably scarred her for life.