Valentine’s Day Memory, 1991

There is only one happiness in life—to love and be loved.”  George Sand

                                                                  Photo Temari 09

Valentine’s Day Memory, 1991

The love between my mother and father was an example of how true love should always be.  I almost never heard them argue.  More often, I heard my mother laugh at my father’s antics, humorous comments, and silly faces.   My father tried always to please my mother and make her happy.   I remember one evening when I was young, maybe around ten years old, I walked into our darkened dining room and encountered my mother and father in a deep embrace.  I had never seen them like this, but I knew it could not have been the first time.  I just had never seen it before because their love tended to be a very private thing.

After they retired, they bought a small house in Florida where they spent winters.  They returned to New York for spring and summer.  In 1990 my parents came up for Christmas, but my father wasn’t well.  We just weren’t sure what was wrong.  A few weeks after they returned to Florida, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer that had spread to his lungs and his brain.  My husband and I drove down to Florida in February to drive them both up north so my father could receive treatment and they could get the support they needed.

Valentine’s Day occurred while we were down there.  I remember my father motioning me over to his chair and handing me some money.

“Buy your mother a box of chocolates and a dozen roses for me,”  he said.  He was barely able to get up out of his chair, or I know he would have dragged himself out to get these things himself.  I did as I was asked, and when I returned, he asked me if I would continue to do this every Valentine’s Day in the future.  I guess he knew he would not be doing it himself any more.  I promised him I would.

My father died on May 10, 1991, just a few months after his diagnosis.

Every Valentine’s Day since then I have bought a red, heart-shaped box of chocolates and a dozen roses for my mother.  Every year she has said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have done this.”  But when I tell her they are from Dad, she can’t argue with that.

I hope every year he has looked down at us with joy as my mother opens her box of chocolates and arranges the roses in a vase.

Dad, I’ll remember to do this every year, just like you would have.  And thank you, Dad, for showing me what true love is really all about.

Halloween Scrooge: How many of us are there?

The proliferation of spider webs, witches, jack-o-lanterns, and skeletons is beginning to move into our neighborhood.  I wish I liked Halloween. What fun decorating trees, porches, and windows with frightening objects!  I guess I just find enough fright other places in my life making me no doubt a real wuss.  (Where did that word originate anyway?)

It seems that in every neighborhood, most likely those with small children and teenagers, there are households that go a little overboard with the scary theme.  There are even sensor-triggered sounds from skeletons and witches, ghouls and ghosts, eerie screams in the night.  I have always thought that we like to scare ourselves in a controlled way to cope with those scary things in life over which we have no control.  We thumb our noses at death when we watch terrifying movies and thrill to the fear of Halloween.

When my children were small, I had to go along with the décor of Halloween, although carving a pumpkin was the extent of my compliance some years.  Then there were the huge bags of candy we had to purchase.  If we tried to go cheap and buy the variety packs of Smartees and lollipops, we were often greeted with disappointment.  However, those expensive chocolate candy bars were always a big hit.  Then there were years we bought only what we truly loved ourselves, especially after our children were grown up and buying candy themselves for children.  I always felt that I was held hostage by teenagers who showed up at our door with little more than a pillow case, a fake mustache, or a baseball cap.  Sometimes we got a trick even if we gave a treat—shaving cream on the car, toilet paper hanging from the trees.

I guess in these difficult times, we all need to have a little fun.  We all need to be afraid of something besides losing a job and our life savings tied up in the stock market.  Some years when I was teaching, I forced myself to pull out my black witch’s hat, relishing the age-old line that as a teacher I had chosen an appropriate costume.  One year I borrowed my sister’s Miss Piggy costume (as a school nurse, she loved to dress up for Halloween) and went over to the cafeteria to greet the students, only a few of whom guessed it was me.  Now I want to just hide upstairs with our dog and let my husband hand out the candy, oohing and ahhing at the little ones’ costumes.  We try to turn out the lights and lock up before the older ones begin their cruising up and down the street, sometimes multiple times.  I want to shout at them, “Go get a job and buy your own candy!”  What is wrong with me, I later wonder.

If my grandchildren were here and not in California, I would make the attempt to get into the spirit of Halloween.  I would decorate the front porch, hang skeletons from trees, get one of those motion-sensor ghouls, and buy only the most popular candy.  I would try not to be one of those people who in the spirit of proper nutrition hand out boxes of raisins and pencils.  I saw an ad recently for tiny containers of Play-Doh just the right size for Halloween bags.  Would a child really enjoy getting this instead of candy?

The truth is this year I am not going to work in a school wearing a witch’s hat since I have retired.  I won’t put on the hat for the neighborhood children since each year we have fewer trick-or-treaters as they go off to the malls or firehouses where the treats are abundant and temperatures are warm.  I do miss the days when we dressed up our children, often in costumes I made myself, and went to see the parade of kids at school as they walked around the hallways or streets near the school.

If there such a thing as a Scrooge of Halloween, I would be an excellent candidate.  This year as always my husband will carve a pumpkin.  He will hand out treats.  I will hide out in the bedroom with the dog.  And for weeks afterward we will eat chocolate candy we do not need until the Christmas candy appears and the healthy diet continues on its downward spiral.

Today as I look out at the falling autumn leaves and feel the coolness of the morning air, I realize that I do truly love October.  I do love the idea of pumpkins on front porches and ghouls and goblins everywhere.  I love that children love Halloween even if I don’t.  And I will try to enjoy these weeks before Christmas when the real Scrooge appears in our lives.