Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Memory Lane

After a quiet family party the weekend before, Halloween was sort of subdued this year. Morgan and Kelly spent their last October week in Casper with the WWQ & PCA, and I didn't even go to City Hall to terrorize children with the Oogie Boogie costume. Late in the evening Bear and I took a walk downtown, and as we passed Kate's on Main Street a drunken, smoking Sue hailed us to admire her costume, which was thrilling. Sue is tall with short blonde hair, so imagine her in a grayish or pale green belted sheath and cropped jacket, with torn stockings and patent crocodile shoes and bloody scratches on her cheeks. She had crows Velcroed to her arms and shoulders and one bobbed menacingly from its perch on her head, anchored by a headband. Tippi Hedren in The Birds.

Kate's hosted several Barack Obamas and the Wendy's girl (who had a goatee) and Denny's wife Stacey was in chaps that must have been used because Bear sniffed her shins relentlessly. Bud was not costumed but was thoroughly saturated. We visited about the plant and what it's like without him (I had to mumble and slur a bit myself right there, because it's really not all that different) and he promised to come up for coffee sometime the next week, which he did on Monday morning when Jeff and I were alone. He stayed about ten awkward minutes and bolted without even taking the box of his belongings we've collected from his office.

After leaving Kate's, Bear and I walked through a misty rain into the courtyard at the County complex where the new campanile is, and it was obligingly playing a lovely and haunting rendition of Moonlight Sonata. We passed a few trick-or-treaters, including a princess-ballerina-angel-monster and several incarnations of Indiana Jones. We went home and were forced to hand some of Kelly's hunting snacks out to the pair of chubby, apparently uncostumed boys who ambushed us as soon as the door closed. They must have been watching the house.

It seemed to me to be the mildest Halloween in recent memory when one considers the weather. November has so far been bearable, with cold rain or light snows that don't stay and nights just dipping under freezing. The surface of the lagoons wrinkles like crepe but by noon they're satin again. The automatic solar-powered gate that was installed in August began malfunctioning in September, so we're back to opening and closing the old one, and in the morning if my fingertips are the least bit damp and ungloved the skin freezes to the metal.

How there's any moisture in the air to frost my windshield I don't know; it's so dry. My hair is frizzy and stringy and splitting and my face is flaky and red and raw, and I miss San Diego and the constant soft mist of moisture in the air this time of year. It used to bead up on my trombone bell and sparkle in the stadium lights at football games or our latenight field show rehearsals or the holiday parades on Harbor Drive or Coronado. (I wound red ribbon around my slide after Thanksgiving and left it on until after New Year's.) People who complain that temperate places "have no seasons" either aren't very observant or don't appreciate subtlety.

I have a project in the works that makes my heart race and a whole winter of captivity in which to make it happen. I keep browsing jobs but we all know there's not that much out there, and I'm still being selective. So it goes. Sigh.

M and I spent the weekend at Mom's going through a few containers of our childhood toys, most of which we hadn't seen in 17 years. There was a lot of exclaiming and even more hilarity. Mom kept everything, partly because I made her and partly because she always seemed to wind up having to pack everything herself and she probably didn't have time to go through everything the way she would have liked. So we still have all of our Barbie Dolls and My Little Ponies and Legos, and there are other pink plastic things you'd recognize, including my favorites, the CareBears, and the collectible resin or plastic or rubber figurines that came in fast food kids' meals, mostly Disney.

There were other things, however, and we had to squint into the cloudy memories to see why certain things were so enthralling and important to us. A tiny pair of plastic dentures, not more than half an inch wide. A red rubber "Faucet Queen" with a switch to change from stream to spray. A small plastic baby bottle charm we stuffed with cotton to make it look full of milk. A little blue Post-It notebook on which one of Dad's cabbies had drawn a flip-book scene of a man running, jumping, and diving into a tub of water.

We found a few of Mom and Uncle Jerry's toys, a small rubber hammer and rolling pin, blocks and a plastic steer with weighted, hinged flat feet and a ring in his nose and he walked when you pulled a string tied in the ring. We found a lot of hardware I probably filched from the garage and things people had given or made for us. We found things we had separate memories of and things that called up the same moment in time for each of us. I remembered the set of nesting Tupperware buckets we used at Bear Lake but M didn't remember them at all. We both remembered the Barbie stage set I played with on the train all the way home from California one Christmas. I couldn't believe the quantities of plastic. Everything was smaller than I remembered. I found a crocheted chain tied into a circle that was probably the first thing I ever crocheted, probably on Grandma Onita's slipcovered couch in the apartment behind the Kemmerer Hotel, which came down a few years ago. It was built in 1910.

I worked Veterans Day alone (which suited me just fine) and it seems odd that there are only two days left in my workweek. Too bad I can't spend those alone, too. I get so much done and I never seem to be angry.


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