and Long-legged Beasties
I love this time of year. I love the sunrises and sunsets – the vibrant reds and
purples and oranges undimmed by summer haze. I love the clarity of the air, the
vibrance of a world getting ready to settle into winter. We can hear the marching
band at the school stadium in the evenings, the drum cadences, the crowds cheering.
What could be more cheerful, more evocative of days past and youth and the season
– even better than being there, to hear it from a distance, like a memory. Yards
are decorated with sheaves of corn, bales of hay, pumpkins and scarecrows and
skeins of scary spider web, bunches of chrysanthemum flaming in the fall sunshine.|
have always had the best fun with Halloween costumes. One year Michael spirit
gummed black fur over every bit of Andy’s exposed skin. It was so funny to see
his twinkling eyes behind his little round glasses and his impish grin, his little
chubby hands hooked into flesh rending claws, and all that hair. It wasn’t so
cute when it was time to clean up, but it was worth it. We have, over the years,
created genies and geisha girls, muscle men and frogs. Gypsies, flappers, vampires
and cannibals. Egyptian queens. Vikings. Butterflies and gruesome, oozing corpses.
Michael was always a genius at making gaping wounds for our pretty little children,
but he wasn’t the only one who was good at it.
One October I went to a
Cub Scout leaders’ training session with our Scoutmaster, Wiley. We learned to
make scars and wounds out of cornstarch and glue. I made Wiley a pretty good gash
on his cheekbone with some nice bruising and just the right amount of congealing
blood. We got back to my house and I went in the door first. "Now Mike, don’t
get mad . . ." I said. Wiley came in right behind me, "She popped me! Your wife
popped me!" Mike was up out of his chair faster than I had seen him move since
the time that Davey stepped off the top of the slide platform at the playground
into thin air ("It was fun ‘til I hit the ground."). His shoulders were thrown
back and his chest was thrust forward and the look on his face said that Wiley
had better explain pretty quick or he was going to get popped again. Andy and
Dave started hollering and running up and down the stairs, "Girls, girls! Mama
slugged Wiley! Mama blacked Wiley’s eye!" They didn’t sound upset at all. They
sounded gleeful. They sounded like they’d like to get in on the action. They sounded
like this was the greatest news they’d ever heard. Not that I had belted Wiley
per se, they loved Wiley. I think it was the idea that their Mama had punched
somebody, anybody, and had drawn blood. The girls came barreling down the stairs
screeching, "Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!"
As my children were thundering
up and down the stairs hollering and going into their Lord of the Flies mode,
Michael got a better look at the wound, which was beginning to detach itself from
Wiley’s cheek and Wiley and I, unable to keep it up any longer than the twenty
or thirty seconds which had passed, were cracking up laughing. Michael snorted
a little and sat back down. "I wouldn’t have been surprised," he drawled, "she’s
mean as a snake."
Now, you might think that Halloween is no longer the
big deal at our house that it once was. Now that the kids are big. But you would
be wrong. The older ones go to parties now, instead of trick or treating, but
they all still like to dress up. We still carve pumpkins every year. I’ve been
momentarily tempted by the new fake carve-able pumpkins. But then I think about
sitting out in the front yard, in the grass that is more brown than green now,
the homey pumpkin smell, scooping the slimy innards out, waving them menacingly
at one another. The long debates over how many scary faces and how many happy
faces we should have. Guess we’ll stick to the real thing. I love to watch my
staid, calm husband hurry to answer the doorbell. I love it when he opens the
door and then hollers over his shoulder, "Liz come here! There’s a real live princess
on our front porch!" I love telling the kids that I need to go through their bags
because everybody knows that Almond Joys are poison to little (HA!) children.
I love it when they ask me if Baby Ruth’s are poison too. And I assure them that
they are. Deadly poison.
© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"