I love beets. Pickled or plain they please me. I like the greens too. My husband professes a dislike for beet greens, a fact which I can’t quite get my head around. This winter, sing the bags upon bags of beet greens in the freezer, we shall find our way to his stomach by so many circuitous routes that when we are gone he will miss us. I smile knowing at some point he will read this and think himself forewarned. Determined do I rise to the challenge.
I did up beets for the freezer this week. Beets aren’t like beans, rinsed and tidy. Beets come with dirt and grit and infinite red juices. I can only wipe the oozing red pink from the counters so many times without remembering my mother over a boiling pot of pink.
It was Halloween, a definite NOT holiday for us. My mother the minister’s wife had helped the church get an All Saints Day party off the ground instead. Kids were asked to go as a character from the Bible. My mother suggested I go as Lydia, the seller of purple, and promised to make me a purple tunic. By make, she meant dye a sheet and towel the appropriate color and wrap it around me. I can still picture us standing in the aisle at the drugstore reading directions on different colors of purple Rit dye.
At home in the kitchen, my mother stirred my sheet in a canning pot of water and dye, less than impressed.
That’s not purple, it’s beet red. Could have made this color myself for free, she said.
We dried the sheet and towel, and dressed me for the party. All along the way she muttered about throwing in a few beets for free and $5 for something that could hardly be called purple.
I didn’t mind the wrong colored garments so much as being twelve and wondering if I really belonged anymore at something for little kids, but being twelve turned out to be an advantage. The woman assigned to run the evening, leader of all games and parties, upon whom all eyes would be fixed at all intervals requiring direction . . . being twelve, it was hard to miss the horror in my mother’s eyes when they saw each other. My awkwardness changed to absolute delight as our host’s bright red lips and ample bedecked bosom jiggled over to greet us. A fifty something, slightly overweight church lady host, enthusiastically dressed as Rahab, the prostitute. I gazed at her very fine impression of a hooker and felt glad indeed to have agreed to come. Thirty years later, I’m still slicing beets and smiling.
So Mr. 13 is bowing out of the celebrations this year. I got involved in the brainstorming last night with the girls. Ms. 5 was adamant that they wanted to be something scary. Ms. 8 listed off all the scary things they could think of, which would, incidentally, have given them nightmares about each other for a week. Luckily, they went to bed cheerfully diverted. Not sure what the forecasted rain will do to their plan to be professional violinists . . . but really I am only posting on this because of Mr. 10.
The formerly mad scientist announced yesterday that he was going either as a ninja or a spy. Both seemed to involve track pants and a hoodie pulled down over his head. From there the general malaise deepened. I offered suggestions. My husband heard the ten or so rejections and came down to try and help as well. I thought he and I were rather persuasive on the merits of being, a) one of the men in black, b) a s’more or c) Indiana Jones. A and C involved inquisition from Mr. 10, followed by excitement and enthusiasm about how he could pull it off. A lot of time later, still no decision. Exasperated, I give Mr. 10 one minute to make a decision – because how hard is it to choose between a man in black, Indiana Jones, a ninja, or spy?
“Got it!” he said thirty seconds later. Sly grin. Arms folded across chest. “I’m going to be an Egyptian Writer.”
Mr. 10 has a bacteria infested very large and perfect feather that he found in the field this summer. For some reason, I had not thought of a costume based on this. The Egyptian Writer plans to have his feather and a scroll covered in hieroglyphics . He will be sporting the flesh coloured pants from the hand-me-down bag that we have marvelled over but never worn. He also plans to fashion an Egyptianish toga type covering for his top half out of the blue sheet that ripped en route to the wash last week.
The boy brings new meaning to that whole verse about being in the world but not of it.
This year the ten year old has been invited to trick or treat with a friend in town. I wonder if that will change things. He is merrily collecting items to transform himself into a mad scientist. What people in town will think, I don’t know. I am denying my urge to rush to Walmart and fix it before it breaks because there’s nothing wrong, and everything right with this boy combing our house and garage and work bench for props. Currently, my mad little scientist would only be happier if he was going as a piece of poop or a fart.
My annual dread is fast approaching. Before the kids went to school, I solved it by turning off the lights and playing games in the basement to end October. Since then we have 1) ignored the non-holiday in other ways 2) dressed up and gone out to get ridiculous amounts of candy from people who are obviously very insecure about seeming cheap.
Halloween seems so overblown to me that I feel the need to wave the flag of moderation . . . but really is it candy and costumes that drive me crazy.
On candy, my children eat freely the first night and can only get through a tenth of it at most. They don’t want it for days after that . . . then what? How am I supposed to sleep at night thinking about their little immune systems processing all that sugar, cavities forming in triple time. What happened to getting ONE piece of candy at a door? Or an apple?
On costumes, I love kids dressing up, but nobody does that. Everywhere, people are wearing freshly purchased costumes that will rip quickly and end up in the trash. Occasionally, someone is wearing something hand sewn by Grandma or Aunt Betty, but no one, I mean, no one, is wearing a costume imagined, designed, and assembled by the actual child wearing it.- – – Ok, there are four of them . . . but they are all mine. If Halloween was about creativity and pretending, I would be there. Handing out whole wheat, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in moderation, but I would be there.
Instead, it is all so plastic. Buy, get, need, want, gotta have . . . more candy, slicker costumes
Sometimes I wish someone would tell my kids how much they don’t get it. How much their costumes look so extremely homemade by 8 and 10 year olds, with touch ups from a 5 & 13 year old . . . Then I could say forget it and stay home. But no one has said a word. Old ladies and farmers have complimented the get-ups and asked for explanations. All parties seem pleased with the interchanges I can’t quite hear from the car.
I live with children who have yet to notice much beyond the beautiful of the world around them and I’m not sure it’s time to change that. The possibility of expanding their audience once a year to showcase their creations to complete and total strangers delights them. The fact that I throw away their candy slowly over weeks irritates them but not enough to diminish the joy of one of three days in the year when I declare, “CANDY FREE-ZONE,” for a few hours. I assure you that those words are danced to as wildly as any tribal dance anywhere.