Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallow's Eve

This morning Amelia woke up very early, very excited, talking of monsters and pumpkins. Her eyes lit up when she saw the huge bowl of candy sitting on the table. She asked for a piece, calmly, and didn't seem to mind when we explained to her that it was for tonight, later, when the tricker treaters came to the house in their costumes.

We had a group hug and I headed out for the early bus. As I walked, I tried to think of a good opening for this week's blog. Originally, I had planned to write about how I wasn't superwoman, how this weekend I made a decision not to run the Healdsburg half-marathon, how I spent the weekend catching up on sleep and much needed family time instead.

And then a memory that use to be very painful came back to me, filling me with this amazing sense of calm. A long time ago. I was back east for Christmas and could only make a short dinner visit. On the drive over, I pulled over to throw-up. By the time I got to the house, I was sweating, and aching all over.

She took my temperature - it was 101 and climbing. I tried to brush it of, I would be fine, it was just a cold, I could only stay for a short time, and then I had to meet my other obligations. She insisted that I stay, lay down on her lap, and rest for awhile. After an hour of absolute comfort, I got up to go and the tears streamed down my face (the fever was high). I really did not want to leave.

She picked up the phone and rang my dad's house and I could hear her say that though I was stubborn and heading for the door, she was not going to let me go. My fever was over 102 now, and I had been vomiting. I needed to rest. Her voice was strong, authoritative. She was insisting that she knew what was best for me, that someone had to look out for me, because I was always looking out for everyone else.

That night, she put me to bed, the green room. She sang me to sleep like she did so many times when I was a child. In the morning, she made me pancakes. This is my last living memory of her. But every year, around this time, she and Pop-pop are with all of us. They are the spirit of Halloween. My sister and I talk about it sometimes, their overwhelming presence at this time.

When I go back to that space, the memories are crystal clear. I know this because I experience them with all my senses. I remember a line of kids that wrapped around the corner, waiting to meet the Doc and get their candy. We would run in and out of the door, taking in their building excitement, knowing how their eyes would light up. The air always smelled like cold chocolate outside and warm licorice inside.

That low table in the living room covered in small wicker baskets, each one packed high with full-sized candy bars, full packs of gum, and a basket of special treats that Pop-pop kept close at hand for the little ones with magic in their eyes. She would make a big-fuss, and he would wink and the parents as he gave the little one exactly what they imagined would be at the end of waiting.

We would eat candy, as much as we could possibly consume, no dinner, just candy. We would stay up late with our friends laughing so hard with sugar-highs, that a couple of times, one of us actually peed our pants.

I often wish there was some way to share the magic of Park Place with Amelia, that absolute feeling of happy-tired after a full day at the beach, swallowing so much sea water that your breath is short and shallow, that lazy Saturday morning cartoons and the biggest buttermilk pancakes that you have ever laid your eyes on, Stephen's Day (the day after Christmas), stealing a sip of champagne, cucumbers and Russian dressing, and a room full of toys and clothes and sweets. 

All Hallow's Eve, cold, crisp night, when the whole town knows just what it means to be a part of that magical Park Place. That night when we were famous because we didn't have to wait in that line around the block - we could come and go as we pleased, having access to spaces that no one else could enter, but everyone assumed was full of even more magic...

And they were right.  

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