Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Confessions of a Siam Princess

Happy Halloween to one and all! I'm cheating this year by reposting something I wrote way back in 2005 as a newbie blogger about how I felt about Halloween as a child. Reading it again brought back wonderful memories, so I'm plagiarizing myself with 'nary a qualm. The pictures, by the way, aren't of me. To my knowledge, we don't have any Halloween costume pictures from the 50's or 60s. Sad. Anyway, welcome to my memories:

When I was a little girl, I could never get to sleep the night before Halloween. It was a couple of notches down from the keyed-up restlessness of Christmas Eve - after all, I didn't have to listen for reindeer on the roof or a big ol' red-suited elf falling down the chimney into my living room - but the butterflies-in-stomach excitement was there all the same.

What kept me awake, I wonder? Was candy such a big deal? Was dressing up as someone or something else worth losing sleep over? I really can't remember what had me in such a dither the night before Halloween.

My mother - my Southern Baptist, right-of-Attila-the-Hun mother - loved Halloween. (This is how I know that all the anti-Halloween right-wing stuff is pure crap.) She dangled the shiny idea of "tricks-and-treats" over our heads the entire month of October. She enjoyed helping us with our costumes and had fun giving out candy to the kids who came to the door. My costume was usually homemade - seems like I was always a gypsy - except for when I was 8 and 9 years old.

One year for some reason Daddy sprung for a Siam Princess costume from the dime store. I think it cost a whopping $2.98, and I remember choosing it. Siam Princess? I liked the mask and the shiny yellow and bright pink coverall with some sort of intricate (to an 8-year-old) sparkly design. Notice I chose a princess who could wear pants, not a fluffy skirt. I got two Halloweens'-worth of wear out of it, so when you amortorize the cost, well - practically free. (Yes, it was a little big the first year and a little small the second.)

The mask was one of those molded plastic jobs with the thin elastic strap to keep it over my face. And I'm sure if anyone had struck a match within 20 yards of me, I would have gone up in a flash. But nobody worried about such things then. (Which make ya' wonder how all of us made it through such dangerous childhoods to a place where folks have their diapers in a wad wondering how they'll take care of us in our old age. Well, just dress me as a Siam Princess and set me on fire, I say!)

I think one thing that kept me awake was the anticipation of being allowed to go door to door, never knowing who'd give you what, trying to set a goal of how many houses you could get to or how big a paper sack you'd be able to fill. We always took paper bags to collect candy - no plastic pumpkins or trendy little totes - except for the big kids (and you really weren't supposed to trick-or-treat over the age of 12 - but some boys pushed it to 14), who carried pillowcases. The idea of collecting candy, or whatever - because you were just as likely to get apples or homemade cookies - was exciting. That stuff just wasn't as readily available to us on a day to day basis. Candy, cookies, Coca-Cola - those were all for special occasions. Like Halloween.

I don't remember getting much chocolate; it was mostly hard candy or wax lips or bubble gum. I well remember the excitement of getting home and dumping it all in the middle of the floor, pooling our resources, trading this or that, with big brother David coming in at the end with a bulging pillowcase (or two) to add to the loot.

As we got too old for trick-or-treating, there were usually parties or the coming-of-age thrill of getting to answer the door and hand out candy.

I tried to provide the same good Halloween memories for Kate when she was growing up, and I think I did. Her costumes were more elaborate, though we did have several rag-bag homemade ones, and the decorations grew well beyond a simple carved pumpkin, though not to the level of many houses today. I don't know whether or not Kate could sleep the night before Halloween - I'll have to ask her.

And tonight? Well, I think I'll sleep tonight without difficulty. The jack o'lantern's carved, the house decorated inside and out, the treats are over-flowing the special Halloween tray. I won't dress up tomorrow night - I have done on occasion, but I will love seeing the little cuties come to the door - some in awe of the whole thing, standing there dumb-founded, some shouting "trick or treat!" so loud they blow out all the candles in the house, the princesses and the clowns and the Batmen and the Harry Potters.

Still, if I lie in bed tonight and try to dredge up the feeling of being an 8-year-old Siam Princess again, who knows? Maybe I won't get much sleep after all.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Be Ye Kind

One of the first Bible verses I learned as a tiny child was "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another." I was not always kind as a child, and I'll admit that I've not always been kind as an adult. Unkindness usually rears its ugly head as a result of my bone-deep impatience, something I fight against all the time. (Yes, I'm impatient with my impatience.) Still, I'm not comfortable with unkindness in myself or in others. Just as I'm uncomfortable with conflict (it's a middle child thing, I've been told), unkindness is a big boat-rocker for me, and I do like life to run as smoothly as possible.

Unkindness seems to be rampant these days. Basic civility, which in the past helped check rude, mean, insensitive behavior, has flown out the window. There are no barriers to saying whatever one's thinking or acting on individual foibles and prejudices. As important as individual rights of speech and action are (within the law), those rights do nothing to contribute to a more civil society if the individual loses compassion and the ability to see oneself as part of a bigger community.

Maybe kindness seems more elusive now than in the past simply because we are bombarded with human wretchedness 24/7. Yet, it seems too easy to blame the internet and media outlets, though both certainly spread cynicism, anger, and the urge to get revenge on whoever/whatever rubs us the wrong way. I think it runs deeper than that, but I'm at a loss as to an answer.

Nothing I've said is news. and, honestly, I can't do anything about anyone but myself. While I'm certainly free to say whatever I want or act on whatever skewed feelings I may have, I don't have to do either. I can make an effort to check words and actions I may later regret. It's not only about avoiding unkindness; it's about being actively kind.

So, as we head into the season of thankfulness and celebration, I plan to be more intentionally kind. I will do my best to avoid petty arguments over politics, lifestyles, or sports teams and look for ways to a pay a compliment, relieve a burden, or create a pleasant surprise. I will try to remember the words I learned as a little child, "Be ye kind." It's worth a try.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Halloween Monster Rankings

Not all monsters are equal in my book. Some have a full range of incredible powers. Some have ancient histories and have haunted the human race across the sands of time. Some are scary; some are downright lovable. At this Halloween season o' scare, I've run various monster species through the tried-and-true Shorty PJs Monster-O-Meter to see how our favorite supernatural hair-raisers rank. Here are the results, starting at the top.

#1 The Witch. Really. Nothing comes close, even though the witch is technically not a monster. And I didn't even include the warlock, or she/he would've been totally off the charts. Witches have it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Whether you prefer the Witch of Salem, Eastwick, Endor, Oz (East or West), MacBeth, Hazel, or the apartment upstairs, she is a constant surprise. Witches are not boring, my main monster-criteria. Why, they can brew, fly, cast spells, change shapes, foretell happenings - an endless list. Warts (or not) and all, I love 'em.

#2  The Ghost. Also not boring. I mean, you never know whooooooooo's going to turn up, right? Maybe it'll appear as a transparent spectre, complete with a chilly cold spot. Or maybe, it'll turn up as a sheet with two eye-holes. Perhaps it's Julius Caesar, Hamlet's daddio, the Flying Dutchman, the Ghost of Christmas Past, dear Casper, or your great-uncle Ned. Never a dull moment with a ghost.

#3 The Vampire. I have to admit that vampires have lost a bit of credibility with me in the midst of the soppy Twilight schlock. However, when I return to classic Dracula funsters, the 1960s-70s B-movie sexy vamps, and Buffy's blood-suckers, the Vampire manages to hold on to third place. Vamps are mysterious, sexy, and slightly humorous. Eschew Twilight and chew Bela, Christopher, and Spike and Drusilla.

#4 The Ghoul. Not to be confused with our friends, the ghosts, these creepies are living creatures who feed off buried folks. Naturally (or un- ), they hang out in graveyards looking for the next big feast. Evil shape-shifters with endless terror-possibilities, so what's not to love? And one of the main reasons I plan to be cremated.

#5 Frankenstein's Monster. Granted, there's only one of these. Well, two, counting The Bride of. But I'll include any put-together-from-dead-parts monster in this category. He's so attractive, especially the neck-bolts. And her hair - well! Awesomeness. You never know how these two will react. One minute all grunts and groans, the next weeping over a flower or a violin tune. (And that's Frankensteen.)

#6 The Mummy. Ancient, ancient, ancient. Was this guy or gal really dead before wrapped, sealed in a fancy box, and buried deep under desert sands or pyramids of stone? Maybe yes, maybe no. But you can bet your bottom hieroglyph that each mummy has an intricate backstory, even the non-Egyptian ones.

#7 The Werewolf. What I love about these furry creatures is that they're usually nice guys in human form, at least according to the film-world. Not sure why sweetie pies are targeted for the werewolf curse, but they are, so it's hard not to find them kinda dreamy. Darn those full moons!

#8 The Zombie. Sorry. I don't care how popular they are right now, I find zombies the most boring of all the monster-world. They are so one-dimensional. They're dead. They look dead. They walk around. Just obliterate their brain, and they're goners. They hardly register a .0001 on my Monster-O-Meter. Yawn.

Other pesky scary things - poltergeists, rat/lizard/seaweed-people, congressmen - are also-rans, at least when fed through the Shorty PJs Monster-O-Meter. Light your jack-o'lantern and save your monster-honor for the superstars - witches, ghosts, and vampires.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Donald Analysis

While watching The Donald on TV last night, I found myself trying to figure out what makes him tick. Why is he so mean? Why is he always working against the welfare of his community? If he suddenly became the "good guy," would he be as interesting? You know, of course, that I'm talking about Donald Duck, right? (There is no hope in trying to figure out the other Donald, so fuggitabahtit.)

OK, so I'm rared back watching that great Halloween cartoon where Donald goes up against "nephews" Huey, Dewey, and Louie and the incomparable Witch Hazel, and the thought comes to me, hey, wait a minute, how are H,D, & L really related to Donald?

Yeah, I know. It's just a cartoon. All made-up stuff from the mind of "Uncle" Walt. (Really? Why do we think of him as "uncle?" - but that's for another day.) Still, you have to admit there's seemingly no familial relationship between Donald and his "nephews." Are they the ducklings of The Donald's sister? Brother? Why don't we ever see Donald's siblings then, even a quickie shot of them dropping off/picking up H,D, & L at their "uncle's" house?

The more I thought about it - you see how my brain works here? - I think I have the solution. Donald isn't the biological uncle of Huey, Dewey, and Louie. No, there's a deeper secret here. H, D, & L are actually Daisy's sons from a previous relationship (perhaps with the Ugly Duckling?); thus Donald, as in all blended relationships, is known as "Uncle Donald." Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, you know what I mean , Being stuck with Daisy's brats while she's off doing God-knows-what with various drakes and ganders in Disneyville could explain why Donald is always in such a foul/fowl mood. Think about it.

And don't even get me started on Mickey's "nephews" Morty and Ferdie, Daisy's "nieces" April, May, and June, or Minnie's "nieces" Millie and Melody. How does Scrooge McDuck fit into the picture?  I think there's more to all of this than meets the eye. Sayin'. Such complex family relationships these mice and ducks have in the mind of "Uncle" Walt!

Now, if I could only figure out why Donald talks in his scrabbly voice while Daisy speaks like a human, I think we could get to the heart of The Donald's crankiness.