Saturday, October 31, 2009

Liveblogging Halloween, 2009

7:15pm PST. It's been dark now for 45 minutes and we've gotten 5 trick-or-treaters, including one who came twice and who said, "I want some candy" instead of the requisite "Trick or Treat" the first time here. He was wearing that white Scream mask called Ghostface for a killer in a series of splatter movies. So, what would you expect about the kid's character? When BFF queried about his previous visit, he denied it and then, after getting his candy, compounded his brattiness by bragging that he had been here before. This was a bad start..That was about 15 minutes ago, and I just answered the door to a nerdy, fair-faced boy, about the same age as the little shit, wearing a green hooded top, saying, as I opened he door, "Greetings from the land of Eragon, I am the young prince, [and so on and on with his quaint memorized introduction]." I reply, "Greetings, prince." He takes the candy and hops in a half-graceful/half-awkward way down the steps with a good-natured "Happy Halloween." Now, that's more like it.

7:17. I hear voices. The sweetest girl, by herself, about that same age (where are all the young ones?), dressed as Dorothy, blond pigtails, fresh-faced with a bright smile. She takes a Nestles Crunch out of the offered tray, and demurely chooses a Kit-Kat when I offer again. A bright, yet shy, "Thank you," is echoed more heartily by parent at the bottom of the steps, dressed as a lizard. I can't tell if this is mother or father.

7:07. Doorbell rings while I'm seated in the living room waiting for the oven to heat. A youngun'--fairy princess type--followed by her pre-preschool brother wearing a red onesie with a fire department insignia on the little male chest. I figure his dad, who is at the foot of the stairs, is a fireman. His mom is shepherding him along while holding the daughter's hand, cueing the three basic lines: "Trick or treat...Thank you...Happy Halloween." The little fireman is in no hurry, carefully wrapping his chubby hand around each of the wrought iron railing posts as he approaches the proffered CANDY, and me, on my knees. He delivers his lines late, mumbled and jumbled out of order, but this must be a pretty weird experience for one so young. It's charming as hell.

7:20. I spill some red wine on our ecru couch and launch into a shamefaced drill to remove it. BFF and I have both being feeling kind of fragile today...I hear 4th grader voices in the distance...passing by.

7:21. Coming down the street, an adult is whistling "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" which, for some reason, sounds ominous...From nearby I hear a parent say, "Do you want to knock on the door?" A little girl's voice replies. Door opens. I hear mumbles and "Do you want to say thank you?" More mumbles...They're coming here next--I feel the excitement and call BFF. I tell her this will assuage her disappointment with previous Toters [Trick or Treaters]. She comes and we crouch by the door, trying not to get our silhouettes between the light and the giant spiders we have posed on the screen. We wait, nothing...They've gone next door--the young couple's house with one 2-year-old and one on the way. We wait and I say, affecting brightness, "They probably know each other." It's nothing personal, I imply, that they've skipped our house. BFF walks back to her office...I've resume liveblogging when I hear voices on our steps. A shout to BFF and she hurries to open the door to another Dorothy, in sparkly ruby slippers, held by a thirty-something dad in a red fleece jacket and they are all smiles. Parents deliver the now-standard coaching of Things to Say to confused effect from little Dorothy. It's all good, though. BFF coos and proclaims over the little girl's beauty and intelligence and we agree that "Thank you" will come next year. We intuit that "Happy Halloween" is too advanced, so we do our part and say "Bye-bye." Parents prompt Dorothy, we all wait expectantly, hopefully, but hear nothing until as we are shutting the door, comes a baby "Bye," and then it's repeated.

7:25. From next door to south I hear "Bye...bye-bye."

7:34. Voices on the street. It's a crowd, adults referencing our spider with a mock scream. Two cute young pirate wenches. I coax them to say, "Thank you." From their clutch of parents, someone says, "Nice spiders."

7:36. Hard on the heels of the two families with pirate-wench daughters, our doorbell rings, catching me still fumbling with the laptop and BFF dancing with the candy tray. I hurry to push the arrow to cue the mpeg of the "Ghostbusters" theme while BFF talks about my butt being in the way. She gives candy to 3 appropriately aged Toters while I strain to hear from behind the door. Hard on their heels I hear her compliment those just coming up the steps on their good costumes. I edge from behind where I'm trapped with the laptop to see two 11-year-old boys in knight's costumes. One has a foamboard shield with a Y on it. I ask what the Y stands for, but he doesn't know. He says his dad made it. That makes 13 Toters.

8:02. This might be it. The two pubescent male knights have been the last Toters for almost half an hour. We're going about our business. BFF preparing burgers and relish. Me? I'm taking charge of the Alexis frozen fries.

Next morning. BFF and I had bet on the number of Toters we would see. She won, having guessed 20 to my 23. I had thought the actual total Toters was 15, but can't picture the last two and neither can BFF. We're feeling more hearty today, Dia de Los Muertos, and happy the weather is unexpectedly sunny.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Satisfying the requirements

Every five years, we teachers are supposed to have accumulated 150 clock hours of training. I recently became aware of this requirement at the end of my fourth year. Unfortunately, I had not been saving any of the paperwork to prove my adherence. I am currently taking a course in writing from which I will acquire 50 clock hours--so many because we meet on weekends and after school until March. Below is a piece I wrote during our first two meetings, in mid-September:

The boy can still feel the orange dust on his tongue that their car had bounced up from the rutted road. With his granddad, he wades now out of the shadows into the dappled sunlight, its reflections dancing on the underside of leaves that bend low over the creek. The boy looks at his granddad’s hairy arms beneath the rolled up sleeves, excited at this beloved man’s rare informality.

Later, the granddad rocks back and forth on the fly rod and reels in a fish. He passes the fish to the boy who slips its speckled green back through the narrow square of the woven creel. The trout’s desperate thrashing is so frightening in its intensity the boy distractedly puts his fingers to his lips and tastes the fishy slime.

The boy’s childhood passes with only a few of these summer idylls to remember.

On an afternoon, ten years and two hundred miles from that summer creek, the phone rings. The boy answers and hears his grandmother. Time in the narrow hallway becomes attenuated; space thickens. The boy calls his mother to the phone. He remembers later being surprised and proud that his mother, normally a nervous woman, keeps her poise so well.

The grandfather is buried in the Catholic cemetery at the edge of a town in the middle of Missouri. The boy learned the Hail Mary prayer from Burma Shave imposter placards posted where the highway passed on either side of the thin wrought iron gate to the gravesite. He especially remembers the pause between, “And blessed is the fruit…Of thy womb Jesus.”

Today the man keeps a picture in ritual remembrance of his grandfather. It shows a dapper, bald and white-haired Mick wearing signature suspenders and tie, posing a cigarette holder like MacArthur, and wearing a long-sleeved shirt buttoned at the wrists.