Things I Find on My Walks #3

Things I Find on My Walks #3

According to an eyewitness, hereby known as Camphor Tree, the plastic Hanger in the above photo was carrying a beautiful orange silk dress when all of a sudden the Wind blew the dress to the ground.

Yet, when questioned, Wind said he knew nothing about it. “Sounds suspicious, if you ask me,” he added.

Meanwhile, a passing Car said it wasn’t an orange dress at all, but a pair of men’s gray slacks that had been placed precariously on the hanger. Continue reading

Halloween Dress-Up Revisited

Halloween Dress-Up Revisited

I never dress up for Halloween. After all, the very idea makes me cringe.

Not since my childhood days when every costume came in a box with a cellophane lid so you could see the mask and decide if that was the costume for you. And I’m pretty sure, no matter what costume you chose–cowboy, witch, princess or maniacal clown–it was made of some cheesy, flammable cloth that came in only size and was guaranteed to make you look like something the cat ate. Continue reading

A Latina’s Memory of Halloween

Growing up in Queens, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. Heck, it’s every kids’ favorite holiday. The mountains of candy. All the planning that goes into choosing and creating a “spooktacular” costume. The hayrides and visits to the pumpkin patch, in search of the biggest, orangiest, most perfect pumpkin, then taking it home to carve.  Gathering around the fireplace to listen while your father reads aloud Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, and fills your head with ghost stories, guaranteed to scare the bejezus out of you.

Wait. Almost forgot. My family didn’t do any of this stuff.

Don’t forget, my Latino parents were new to this country and didn’t have much. Which is why there were eight of us living in a tiny brownstone in Queens. Besides, they’d never heard of Halloween before.

So, in my house, we were lucky we got to do Halloween at all. And, it was done on a shoestring. There were no Halloween decorations, no carving Jack O’Lanterns, no spending weeks and weeks making an elaborate costume.

My little sister and I, getting ready to go trick or treating. I’m wearing my Cinderella costume for yet another year, while my sister is disguised as a little girl. Very clever, Regina!

We didn’t buy any candy except for that which we were giving away. It would sit in a grocery bag by the door waiting for the trick-or-treaters, and God help the kid in my house who’d try to snitch a piece before the festivities began.

And, the only pumpkins in our house were the cheap, plastic kind that you could buy at the Five and Dime store. They were supposed to be used to collect your treats in, but if you ask me, the black handle was so thin and flimsy, it would often break off before the night was out.

On Halloween day, my teacher would give each of us little boxes, reminding us of the importance to collect pennies for UNICEF. “Trick or Treat for UNICEF,” was what we were supposed to say, though, half the time, I forgot to do so.

I had the cheesiest costume. Back then, costumes came in boxes that had cellophane covered lids, so you could see the mask. There was always a mask, made of hard plastic with a thin piece of string around the back to help you hold the mask in place. Wearing the mask made it hard to breathe or see. Plus, that string could snap, and fall off, causing severe pain in the process. My mask broke the first time I ever tried it on. Ouch!

Not being able to afford the cost of a costume, my mother bought one for me when I was five, in a size way too large, so that I could wear it year after year, all the way through fifth grade. Of course, what I picked to wear at age five, a Cinderella costume, was embarrassing to wear by age 10, and, no matter how I wore it, there was no mistaking it: I looked like a dork.

But, that didn’t matter, because Halloween night in New York was generally very cold, and my mother would make me wear wool pants under my costume dress. At first, I wore my coat under my dress, but when that was no longer possible, I had to wear it over the costume, making said costume no longer visible. Which, made me look just like any other dumb kid freezing to death.

In sixth grade, when I finally had the chance to be something else for Halloween, I decided to be a French painter. Why French? I don’t know. I wore a beret, a red and white striped smock, and carried an artist’ pallet and brush. But, my accent was all Queens, which is why no one could figure out that I was supposed to be French.

At the end of the night, my brothers and I would dump our candy stash on the floor and separate the wheat from the chaff. In other words, the good candy from the stinky.

The Good:  Almond Joy, Snickers, Mr. Goodbar and just about anything else chocolate. Sugar Babies and lollipops were keepers, too.

Stinkers:  Mary Jane’s, Tootsie Rolls, Good and Plenty, waxed lips, and black and orange taffy.

In junior high, Karen, a classmate, invited the whole class to a Halloween party. It was my first such party, replete with bobbing for apples, spooky music, and pumpkin carving. The only thing missing was a hayride, but we lived in the suburbs, for crying out loud, not on a farm.

A friend and I were 14 years old the last time we went trick or treating. All it took was for one adult to answer the door, size us up, roll his eyes, and say, “Aren’t you kids, too old to be trick or treating?” That was the year I hung up my beret for good.

Flash forward many years:  My son was three the first time I took him trick or treating. It was wonderful to see the excitement in his eyes, and the joy from getting more candy than he could ever possibly eat.  At the end of the evening, as we were walking back home, I said to him, next year we’ll start out earlier.

Which made him stop in his tracks, turn toward me with utter shock his eyes, and exclaim with utter euphoria,

“You mean this is going to happen again??”

So, tell me. What are your childhood memories of Halloween?

Happy Daylight Savings Day!

Hooray! It’s that time of year again. Time to wish you and yours a Happy Daylight Savings Day. Here’s to our annual tradition of falling back one hour, and thus catapulting us into the beginning of the holiday season. (At least it used to be the start, when it fell before Halloween.) So let the spending begin!

This cavalier channels Fred Astaire when he walks across the parquet floors. (photo by J. Aquino)

To be precise, today is the end of Daylight Savings Day. Which gives me pause. Another year already? Where did the time go?

And, by the way, have you thought about what you’re going to do with that extra hour, now that it’s been given back to you?

Frankly, we don’t respect this important occasion enough.  If you ask me, the end of Daylight Savings should be considered a national holiday.  Why? Because it’s not everyday you’re handed an additional hour on a silver platter. Not good enough a reason? Then do it for the farmers, the folks whom we started daylight savings for in the first place. Don’t ask me why, but it’s something to do with the harvest or, so they can wake up in time to milk the cows.

Still not good enough a reason? Then do it for me. Because, when all is said and done, I could sure do a lot with an extra hour.

Yet, why stop at falling back only one hour?  Once—just once—would it be too much to ask if we could fall back an entire day instead? I mean, think about what all of us could do if we got an extra day!  Because I’m nice, I thought I’d share with you a few suggestions:

  • Get an extra 15 minutes sleep before your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (I’m not mentioning any names) awakens you.
  • Finish reading Chapter Three of that book you’ve been reading for two months now.
  • Bake chocolate chip cookies and use up the bag of semi-sweet chips you bought three years ago (swearing you’d bake more but never actually did).
  • Replace the fluorescent light in the kitchen that went out last summer, so that you can see what you’re doing when baking the cookies.
  • Put away all your Fourth of July decorations and start getting out the ones for Halloween.  (Sure, Halloween is over but you need to get your money’s worth with these decorations. I’m just saying.)
  • Submit the last of your tax forms for 2010—no more excuses!
  • Remember what the repairman said back in August, about needing a new furnace, and call to have it replaced before the cold weather hits. (Oh, wait, the first cold weather snap was yesterday. Yikes.)
  • Clip the dog’s nails so he doesn’t sound like Fred Astaire, tap dancing away every time he walks across the parquet.
  • Hem your black work slacks so they don’t look like a wedding gown train when you walk through the office, and so you don’t keep tripping over them when taking the stairs.
  • Use this day to start regularly attending Zumba class, so that the instructor doesn’t ask you each time you do show up, “Oh, first time?”
  • Organize the bedroom closet so that you don’t pull a Dagwood and a Blondie, by having everything tumble out of it each time you go to open the closet door.
  • Get rid of the rat traps that you set around the garage in September, as it’s probably safe now, given that, the rat has finally hightailed it out of dodge.
  • Catch up on your magazine reading, including all the issues of Vanity Fair—from 2009 and 2010, and ask yourself, why do you keep renewing your subscription?
  • Make an appointment for your annual physical, which is now two years overdue.
  • Watch some of the 40 hours of programming taking up space on your DVR. If you ask me, it’s time to watch or just delete the news you recorded in July.
  • Take this opportunity to stop being a slacker mom and send your daughter a care package. After all, she’s been away at college for two months now and you’ve sent her nothing. Zippo.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more we can all do with an extra day.  So how about it? Are you willing to sign my petition to fall back an extra day and to make it a national holiday? If so, what would you do with the additional 24 hours?  Don’t think too long about it. After all, the clock is ticking and as my pal, Jack, would say: Time is money!