In the time of the chimpanzee, I was a monkey

I was at Wal-Mart the other day, picking up our usual stuff, cleaning supplies, vitamins and some light bulbs when I wandered down the Halloween aisle. I’m drawn to that stuff, always have been, though I haven’t really gotten in on the adult Halloween Party bandwagon, it’s more of a trip down memory lane for me now. In the middle of the Freddy Krugers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Angry Birds and Sexy Kittens was an adorable little Monkey Suit.

I’m four or five, ready to go. My first real costume is on, and has been for hours. It’s a monkey suit, complete with a nice long tail. We got it from Sears, and I can still smell the monkeenewness of it, the faint plastic, the elastic that got caught in my hair as I put the mask over my face, the “soft” at the end of the tail. It was a great costume, and a great holiday at my house.

Mom and dad were lots of fun then, we bought a record called “Spooky Creepy Sounds from the Haunted House,” or something like that, and my dad would run an extension cord out of a window and hide the record player in the bushes and let it go on repeat during the trick or treat hours.

A light post sat quietly at the end of our driveway three-hundred and sixty-four days a year, but on October 31st a scarecrow would lay at the foot of the post. Unsuspecting kids would start for our door, enticed by the creepy sounds coming from the bushes, go to the door, get a spider dropped on them from one of the upstairs windows (cleverly set up with a retractable line) and if they survived and made it to the door, they would be greeted by a ghastly apparition, my mother, sometimes with a stocking over her face and a hooded, leopard velour cape over her head.

Some kids actually managed to get some candy, and it was never the cheezy little bars, we went all out, giving some really good treats, full sized Reeses Peanut Butter Cups or Butterfingers, sometimes we would put a few together and wrap them in a baggie, but it was always worth the trip. Of course, once the trick or treaters bounded down our front steps with their bounty, the “scarecrow” at the lantern would come to life and scare the bejeses out of them. My father could always lie still for hours, and he put that skill to good use come Halloween.

As we got older it was more fun to stay home and enjoy the night rather than run around the neighborhood acting like a bunch of fools, egging cars, waxing windows and terrorizing the little kids. We did plenty of terrorizing right at home, thank you very much. Dad let us be the scarecrow now and then, and we would fight for the honor. As time went on, people were on to us, but they would still make the trip, parents making sure the new ones got a taste of some real Halloween fun.

It was silly, goofy in a great way, a bit inappropriate at times and completely insane and out of character, but it helped connect us as a family, and now, all these years later when I see a little monkey suit at Wal Mart I’m right back in the jungle with the people who matter most, and who live forever because they were not afraid to let loose now and then, and show their kids how to have a little fun. Remember, times were different then, parents were authority figures, not to be questioned, and not at all concerned about their kid’s feelings or self esteem. They raised us they way they saw fit, and goddammit nobody would tell them otherwise.

Yesterday, I wrote about my mother’s unfortunate experiences toward the end of her life. She had a rough time of it, that much is certain, but after her stay at Butler Hospital, and once properly diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder and put on proper medication was making remarkable progress, putting her life back together, enjoying her family and gaining some independence. The last time I saw her standing she was boarding a plane at Green State Airport heading to North Carolina to spend a week with my sister Susan and her family. It was quite an adventure for her, and I’ll never forget the way she looked as she walked down the boarding ramp, the airliner waiting and a new life ahead of her.

She had a massive stroke a few days after she arrived, and never walked, or talked again, and died in a nursing home eight years later.

Every year I break out the Leopard Print cape, and feel the softness of it, and pull it over my head and scare the kids who dare come to my door on Halloween. It’s in the cedar closet in my basement, where it waits all year long.

Memories cannot wait, they must be created every day, because we just never know what the future has in store. Life goes on, we go away, but the impressions we make last forever.

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