Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Cycles (Promises)

Every year at a certain time I do the same things, because I promised I would, and I try my best to keep my promises.  Though this year it will be different in some ways, it will be no different for me.

Every year around Halloween I send out cartoons, I decorate our house with spooky stuff like spider webs, lighted pumpkins in the bushes, and ghosts hanging from the trees.  I don’t get into the ghoulish stuff but I do like to celebrate the holiday. Every year I light a contained fire in a mobile metal pit on the driveway, stock up on beer and wine, create a Halloween playlist on my computer, and welcome our neighbors to stop by for nice visit.

There was a time when we all were younger that we walked our kids around the neighborhood trick-or-treating.  Keith, my neighbor, and I pulled a wagon so the smallest ones could ride if they needed to and we had a place to keep a cooler.  Eventually they didn’t want us hanging on them so we just sat and watched the kids dressed as lions, superheroes, and characters from whatever was popular in the day, marched by. We gave out candy and just enjoyed our company and that of the other parents who were maybe somewhere else in the cycle, but liked a rest and a beverage as the munchkins ran the block.

I have lived in the same house, alongside the same neighbors for 18 years now.  In the last few years we have seen less and less costumed creatures coming to the door.  Our children have all grown up. Some of them have moved away, and some are more interested in high school parties than tin-canning on doorsteps.  It is the nature of the Halloween cycles. Still, I do what I what I always do because I promised I would.  Good news is that it’s turning again. 

August, the small boy who only speaks Lithuanian, but is learning English in preparation for going to school, is very excited to show me his costume. I like August because he always brings me twigs he has found. I treat them as treasures and he smiles when I put them on a special shelf in my garage studio.  Little Lockheart will stop by too. We played in the leaves the other day, which for me was the best part of enjoying a nice Autumn day. She is a curious and interesting girl. I’m anxious what she will be.  I love just sitting and talking with my neighbors by the fire but I hope we get even more kids coming around this year

Meredith, my daughter and I carved pumpkins tonight. Karen, my wife, did the dirty work of helping her scoop out the guts while I was at a late meeting, trying to complete my quest to save the world. She is seventeen and requested a power drill so she could do something interesting.  It turned out very good. I carved my pumpkin into a more traditional jack-o-lantern but it turned out OK and I didn’t need stitches.  One of my promises kept ... that I would always do that with her.  I also promised her that I would always decorate this week and I will do that too, because it makes her smile. Same reason we go every weekend after Thanksgiving to eat Taco Bell and buy a Christmas tree.  Some traditions must not be broken regardless of the turning of cycles.

A lot of people know that I celebrate Halloween pretty religiously, which seems like an oxymoron. What not everyone knows is why I do. It has to do with a broken promise.

When my oldest son, Ben, was seven he was very happy because he believed he had come up with the best Halloween costume ever. He would not tell me what it was and made me promise that I be home from work in time to see him in it.  I promised him I would. Despite best efforts I was not there. We had a situation at work and I did not get home until very late.

I picked Ben up at a friend’s house and he was already out of costume. He buckled himself into the backseat and leaned his head against the window, disappointed.  I said, “Hey, I heard you dressed Benjamin Franklin, had a kite and everything. That’s very cool. Mom took a lot of pictures. I can’t wait to see them.”   He just said, “You promised.”  I said, “Ben, I wanted to be here but I just couldn’t.” He said, “That’s OK, I’m getting used to you breaking promises.”  At a red light, I put my head on the steering wheel and tried not to cry about letting my son down.  When we got home I helped him out of the car with all his gear. I knelt down and I said, “I won’t miss another one. I promise, and I mean that.”  He hugged me and said, “Ok, Dad.” 

Ben is 22 now and even though he is getting ready to graduate college in months and move on with his life, I have not yet broken that promise that I will always be home on Halloween for him, his younger brother, Matthew, and his sister.  Cycles change and children grow up and go away, but while they may not be there with me in person, they will always be me on this day and I will continue to keep promises made.

This brings me to my final promise around this particular holiday.

The people at the building are very kind and generous. They have come to expect me and make it easy for me to do what I need to do.  I walk to a spot I like in the big room. A book and a candle sit waiting for me.  I think and pray for awhile, I read and then I walk to back.  I light the candle and then light three others.  I light one in gratitude for all the things and people that I have, one for those who are struggling, and one for those that I loved, who made an impact on my life, and I lost, especially my parents and others in my family tribes.  Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day.  I made myself a promise a long time ago that I would always keep this tradition.  This is a Halloween cycle that will never change and will remain unbroken.