Monday, October 27, 2008

I Confess: I Don't Like Halloween

The only thing I like about Halloween is that it marks the start of my favorite time of year. I love the late fall—for what it’s worth in Florida—and I’ve always been more of a Thanksgiving and Christmas girl.

I didn’t mind Halloween when we were in the military and lived on base, because the trick-or-treating there was very tightly controlled, allowed only during a two hour window. They never allowed it to run late enough that with each passing hour, the trick-or-treaters grew bigger and older and even scarier than me.

With the two hour limit on the Air Force base, I usually didn’t have to worry about running out of candy, but still I couldn’t resist rationing the stuff. “Here’s a Tootsie Roll for you, a Hershey’s Kiss for you, and for you I have a lollipop. See you next year!” One year, after I dropped a single piece of candy into a teenage girl’s pillowcase, she mouthed off at me with, “Wow! One whole piece of candy! Whoo-pee!” Since I didn’t wake up the next morning to find the car egged and toilet-papered, I felt I got off lightly.

And then there was the little girl who came to the door with her mother, who was pushing a baby in a baby stroller. The girl had her own pumpkin bucket, and another sat on the hood of the stroller. After I dropped the candy into her pumpkin bucket, she said, “You have to give some to the baby, too!”

What a scam! That baby wasn’t even teething yet, and by the time he was old enough to eat the candy, it’d be well past its expiration date. At the time, my oldest son and daughter were toddlers and not old enough for trick-or-treating, while Mr. Lucky was in the living room, slouched on the sofa with the remote control clenched in his hand. He didn’t have to do anything except wait for the two hour limit to expire, so he could eat whatever was left over.

The mother stood behind the stroller, staring me down and daring me to challenge her in front of her children. Back in those days, I was still a doormat, and since this was military housing, for all I knew her husband outranked mine. Without a word I dropped the candy into the pumpkin bucket on the stroller hood, biting my tongue to keep from saying, “Tell your husband he’s welcome.”

Indeed, when I closed the door, I told Mr. Lucky about the little girl exhorting me to give candy to her newborn sibling, and he said, “Ha! No way it’s for the baby—it’s for their dad. Trust me, he’s sitting at home in front of the TV this very moment, waiting to collect his share.”

Just like Mr. Lucky.

Call me neurotic; I know my insistence on rationing the candy is downright irrational. I tell myself I’m only trying to make it last, so everyone who rings the bell will get something. But no matter how much we stockpile, I always worry about running out after twenty minutes. Mind you, I'm also the same person who thinks half a tank of gas is as good as empty.

Mr. Lucky, on the other hand, will lavish the trick-or-treaters with giant fistfuls of sweets, like a returning conqueror flinging spoils to the cheering masses as he rides by in his chariot. He also believes in holding back at least one bag of candy for himself.

One year I did give a few extra pieces to a little girl simply because I thought her costume was so original and amusing. She wore a pair of goggles and an empty toilet paper roll attached to her nose. When I asked what she was supposed to be, she replied, “I’m an aardvark!”

Kids, that’s how you get more candy from grumpy, tight-fisted Mrs. Lingefelt.

I don’t understand myself. You’d think I’d be more excited about this whole business of dressing up in freaky outfits, scaring the hell out of people and shaking them down for chocolate.

After all, it’s what I do every day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

How I Got My Husband To Take Out The Garbage

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that if you do not put out your garbage the night before pickup, the garbage collectors will come before dawn and you will miss having your garbage hauled away until the next pickup day.

Or at least it’s acknowledged by everyone in the world except my husband.

I would ask him the evening before to take out the garbage, and as he sat staring glassy-eyed at the TV, the remote control firmly in hand with thumb gorilla-glued to the channel-changing button, his mumbled response was always, “I’ll do it first thing tomorrow morning.”

Inevitably, I’d be jarred awake at 5:30 am by the ominous rumble of a big truck, and the thunderous thunk of the mechanism that scooped up the garbage and mashed it in the back of the truck. By the time I leaped out of bed and dragged our garbage can to the end of the driveway—wearing only my nightgown, mind you—the garbage truck had already passed our house and was far down the street, a trail of empty upturned garbage cans in its wake.

And Mr. Lucky? I'd return to bed to find him still happily snoring away.

To his credit, he’s not without his reasons for wanting to wait until morning to take out the garbage. These range from fear of nocturnal scavenging by raccoons, possums, and the FBI, to his assertion that I’m really married to a reverse vampire who will spontaneously combust if he ventures out after dark.

When the Crown Prince was still living at home, he always took care of the garbage can—in fact, he took care of everyone else’s garbage cans, too, and had a bit of a reputation as the neighborhood garbage Nazi. Some of the neighbors appreciated his helpfulness; others were not so amused and filed the appropriate complaints with the board of the homeowners’ association instead of talking to his parents. But since he moved out, the garbage detail fell to me.

Like him, I always take it out the night before, which means the garbage is never picked up any earlier than 4 pm the following day.

Then one night recently, I opened the garage door to take out the garbage can as usual. The driveway was occupied by two vehicles—the Chrysler minivan, and Mr. Lucky’s recently acquired, much prized Chevy Cavalier--or as I call it, The Other Woman.

I suppose I could have tried to maneuver the garbage can around the minivan, then hauled it across the front lawn to the curb. Or, I could’ve squeezed around the Chevy and the low-hanging oak tree on the other side of the driveway, and dragged the garbage can over the neighbor’s front lawn. But instead I took the path of least resistance—the gap between the two vehicles.

It would’ve been a smooth, straightforward passage if not for the side mirror on the Chevy. As I pulled the garbage can past, it grazed the mirror and knocked it askew.

I reported the incident to Mr. Lucky, who said it was okay because the mirror was supposed to be adjustable.

“Yes, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be that adjustable,” I said. “It looks as if it’s just hanging there now. I think I may have seen wires, but it was too dark.”

But because he’s a reverse vampire, and after three hours of channel surfing was still clinging to hope at 11 pm that he might find something on TV worth watching, he said he would look at it in the morning.

So it was that in the cold, gray light of dawn, my dismayed husband found the mirror, still in its heavy casing, lying on the driveway between the Chevy and the minivan. He was like the emperor from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale—not the one who thought he had new clothes, but the one who lamented his broken, mechanical nightingale.

And like all emperors everywhere, His Imperial Majesty was most displeased. It could not be repaired; the whole thing had to be replaced because—in his words—I had wantonly destroyed it in a fit of jealousy against his Chevy. Well, why can’t I have new rugs and a change of oil, too? Haven’t I always been reliable? Don't I start up, get into gear, and go right away every morning, without having to warm up first? Hasn’t he gotten great mileage out of me?

But the important thing is, now HE is finally taking out the garbage at night. I can no longer be trusted.

Note to Self: Next week, knock off Chevy side mirror with lawn mower.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fiona's Anniversary

It's that other day, the one without the cake and candles.

Dear Fiona,

It's been eight years. We've now had your little brother longer than we had you.

You know he still doesn't talk. Sometimes I'll find him looking at your pictures, and he'll tap on them until I say, "Fiona. That's your sister Fiona."

Sometimes I go strolling with him around the house, and we look at family pictures. I'll ask him, "Where's Fiona?" and he taps on your picture.

He was three years old when you left us, and we have no idea how much he remembers about you, or if he remembers anything at all.

But he does know who you are.

The rest of us--your dad, your older brother, and I--still remember. Oh, how we love to remember!

And we still miss you.

We love you, Bunny Buttons!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Results of My Autumn Quiz

Your Autumn Test Results
You are a playful, spirited person. You have a limitless imagination and amazing creative talents.

When you are happiest, you are calm. You appreciate tradition and family. You enjoy feeling cozy.

You tend to be afraid of change. You are never ready for things to be different.

You find love to be the most comforting thing in the world. You feel at peace when you're with your loved ones.

Your ideal day is active and full. You like to keep busy with your favorite things, and you appreciate a routine.

You are nostalgic. You can't truly appreciate something until it has come and gone.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

EEEK! I'm the Mother of a Twentysomething!

My oldest son, the Crown Prince, is now twenty years old.

Meanwhile, some of my high school classmates are grandparents. I’ve taken to wearing reading glasses on a chain around my neck. I cannot name a single song or artist on the Billboard Top 40. Someone born the same year as yours truly is running for President of the United States. Someone born the same year as my husband is running for Vice President on the opposing ticket. And just the other day, Mr. Lucky adjusted the settings on his computer to a larger, easier to read font.

Add it all up and I’d say it’s officially official: I’m getting old.

I’ve never had a birthday that made me go, “Wow! I’m getting old! What happened to my life?”

But my firstborn’s birthdays always have that effect on me—especially this one. Why?

When he turned thirteen, I was aghast at how time was racing by. Mr. Lucky shared my dismay at the knowledge that we’d become the parents of a (gulp) teenager.

Granted, because of his autism and developmental delays, the Crown Prince probably didn’t have a typical adolescence. Oh, there was the rebellion—suddenly he didn’t want to get out of bed and go to school, and sometimes I’d have to call Mr. Lucky at work, and summon him home to make that boy get out of bed and go to school. He didn’t want to play on the computer or Sony Playstation anymore; instead, he just wanted to “hang out” at the end of the driveway and watch the rest of the world go by. He ate like a python. And his little brother had become a pesky nuisance who never should have been brought home from the hospital.

At the same time, we didn’t have to deal with driver’s ed, and higher insurance rates for the car. He never required an elaborate stereo system that made the whole house shake with something he’d call music, but which his father and I might consider noise. He likes the music his parents like.

We never found cigarettes or booze or bongs or condoms or WMD's in his possession. The closest I came to finding racy pictures in his room were his father’s photography magazines. We didn’t get hysterical phone calls from tearful girls begging him not to break up with them. Nor did we have to worry about him falling in with a bad crowd, or what sites he was visiting on the Internet, or where he was at three in the morning.

He did get to dress up and attend a prom for special students, and while he never turned out for school sports, he does enjoy bowling.

I can’t help wondering now if Mr. Lucky and I had it easier than most parents of teenagers, at least with this particular child. We still have one more to go.

If the present is anything to go by, that’s going to be a lot of fun.