Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Make Believe

I co-hosted the 5th annual family Halloween bash Saturday. It took a month to prepare for and caused its fair share of stress, like every year, but it was absolutely worth it. People keep asking why we go to all the trouble. All I can think to tell them is that for Morgan and I, Halloween means we get to be kids again, even if it’s just for a few hours. We have always enjoyed constructing costumes, sets and props, even when very young, because we’re outrageously creative and gifted. If I can draw or paint it (and I can), she can sew it (without a pattern, and that’s nothing to sneeze at, but she’s far more humble than I). Plus, no matter how intense and frustrating the preparations are, we get to spend time together late at night, which is the sure road to that singular shared hilarity that only a sibling bond can foster. Kelly will attest that his wife and I frequently laugh until we drool over things that nobody else finds the least bit funny.

Mom and I made Halloween our own while living in San Diego, where there are innumerable family-friendly activities to enjoy. There was always some spook trail or haunted museum in Balboa Park, the Star of India (a lovely old tallship docked in the harbor) hosted pirate skits and the real Blackbeard’s skull, or one could always just sit at a coffee shop in Hillcrest and watch the freaks go by. Mom and I considered it ‘our thing,’ but Christmas-mad Morgan wasn’t hard to convert when I came home, owing to the reasons mentioned above.

Saturday’s party was the usual overdose of feasting and fraternization. I have an unusually intelligent and goodhearted family, hardworking, loyal people with ready smiles and quick wits. Grandma was the fourth of five children born to Slovenian immigrants from Skofja Loka, and we all pretty much branch off from there. My cousin Amanda, weighing in at about six ounces at her premature birth, has been confined to a wheelchair for all but a few days of her nearly eighteen years. Mind you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her mind (or her mouth). But her dad, Roger, keeps acquiring successively larger wheelchair-accessible vans to tote her equipment and Roland the basset hound (Jeff introduced Rolie as the “basset-lisk” but said they couldn’t find a basilisk costume that would fit him, long as he is) and as many friends and family members as can be persuaded into the plush interior. The latest version is a glossy 20-passenger bus with just enough room to bring the bulk of the party guests from Rock Springs. Due to popular demand (Amanda persistently suggested it), the theme this year was Harry Potter. Morgan sent out invitations so cleverly authentic that some people thought they were junk mail and nearly threw them out. Decorating was easy; I just painted several panels of dungeon-like stone on brown kraft paper and hung them around the room, set tall candlesticks with lit taper candles on the table, and set props around the room like fake books and Grandma’s old trunk and a twig broom. I made wands out of large wooden beads and dowels, and painted table runners and wood grain on the kraft paper I covered the tables with, which made cleanup easy. Most of the clan obligingly came in costume, except deceptively stoic Mac (a nationally honored wrestling coach and referee), who Mom cajoled into modeling Kelly’s bad-guy garb since Kelly was late. Mac got way into character (I think) and tried to choke me. Had there been a costume contest, the honorable mention would probably have gone to Jeff, who came as the gentle giant Hagrid, complete with bushy wig (he didn’t need to fake the curly red beard) and frilly pink umbrella. After an afternoon of catching up, we stuffed the family full of sugary, pumpkin-rich fare and sent them on their way in the massive coach.

On Sunday morning Morgan and Kelly left for a week in Casper for the WWQ&PCA conference, so I took Cordale home to his mother that evening. We had a good journey with lots of confidential gossip about girlfriends (he’s eleven) and much speculation regarding the damage some suicidal wildlife could do to the front end of my Cadillac. I pulled out the digital camera in Kemmerer and bade him shoot to his heart’s content, which passed the last hour nicely, and he got some good shots of the ruins on the Carter Cutoff and a shepherd’s camp in the golden prairie sunset. I dumped Cord and his medications and costume off with his mom and his happy chocolate lab Kisses, and somehow the Cadillac calmly ate up thirty miles of freeway and I was home before I knew it.

On Halloween I dropped by City Hall in costume an hour before closing to harass the kids attending the downtown businesses’ trick-or-treat event. The general response to my short silver hair (a long red wig I cut and sprayed to simulate Madam Hooch’s short, sharp shag) was amusing. I’ve already publicly vetoed the idea of super short hair, but it’s nice to know I could pull it off if I had to, because both family and friends exclaimed that it looked great. After leaving City Hall I intended to take a pass by Kate’s but discovered Bud’s truck parked the block before, in front of Domino’s Pizza, and I spotted him as he dove through the thronging costumed kids into the empty spot next to his GMC, looking overwhelmed and agitated. Thinking perhaps he was chaperoning his grandsons, I pulled the Cadillac in sharp and made to run him down, in jest of course, but he shot me a dirty look and climbed into his truck alone. Afraid he was angry, I jumped out and ran over to tap on his window with my wand before he could pull away, and I wish I could describe the expression on his face when it dawned on him who was trying to run him over. He had obviously already had quite a few at Kate’s and my costume was too much for him. He put his head on his steering wheel and laughed until I thought he was going to have an aneurysm. I explained the disguise and we gossiped about passersby and bitched about some new EPA regulations until the pedestrian traffic began to thin and I figured it was safe for him to drive home.

I typed up the monthly reports this morning and after a pleasant lunch at Michael’s with Susan, I took the afternoon off to complete some submissions to the American Diabetes Association’s holiday art call, which had to be postmarked by 5:00pm. I jumped in my truck to mail them and found my starter dead; at 250,000 miles things just start to go on a vehicle. The nice thing is that parts for an ’87 Raider are fairly cheap, and I have happy access to free labor by one of the best mechanics in town (and it doesn’t even take much sweet-talking). It was a brisk but beautiful evening so I strapped my violin to my back and jog-walked the five blocks to orchestra rehearsal. The old part of Evanston is really quite pretty close up, and from the sidewalk I could see into cozy homes and organized garages. I smelled wood smoke and aspen and cottonwood leaves and sometimes supper cooking, wet cement and blue spruce and diesel exhaust and fabric softener. I felt safe and sort of sentimental until Camille Saint-Saëns’ frustrating Bacchanal from Samson and Delilah (Lord, that’s a lot of accidentals), and afterwards the mood came back on the more leisurely-paced walk home.

I am relieved tonight and sagging into familiar things like my crumbling walls and my bed and the navy blue leather seat of my big white car. I love to be busy but sometimes when the demands are done I feel like a deflated balloon, limp and wrinkled. I’ve clenched my teeth so much in the last month that my mangled left jaw is giving me problems again, popping so loudly when I yawn some mornings at the break room table that Jeff and Travis and Bud will stop what they are doing and stare. I don’t know what can be done about it; surely something. But it will have to wait until tomorrow, along with everything else.

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