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Angel Alternatives

2015 October 28
by Ann L. Carter

 

 

Chinese adoption, Kansas writer

There are a number of ways to look at Halloween from an adult point of view. One is to be worried that our young children will be demonic on that day, but thinking how my daughters sometimes behaved at four or five, who could tell? Another way is to solve the issue of too much sugar, and not just with the kids. My mother thought she had a solution when she put the candy treats in the very top kitchen cupboard. Of course that meant climbing on a step stool (she was still doing this in her 90’s) to “hide” them around the 22nd of October and then climbing up again on the 23th,  24th, 25th, 26th…………sometimes it meant another trip to the store on the 31st. I’d like to suggest a third way, which is a chance to get out of a stuck role. It’s a night of mini improv for young and old where anything goes, with the only rehearsed line of “Trick or Treat”.  I did some theater years ago and had different parts to play:  an owl, a ditsy secretary, a gypsy, and a sergeant nurse at an army recruiting station (that one was a stretch for me, I’ll admit). These roles were fun partly because they were very different from the character I played in real life.

My parents saw me as an easy child—quiet, obedient, happy most of the time, and not demanding.  And as an easy child, I decided that meant I shouldn’t say no. When I first heard the story of the Little Red Hen who didn’t give her bread to those who hadn’t helped, I was both shocked and excited. Could you really refuse and still be a good person?  It seemed so and yet I couldn’t quite figure out how to make that work for me.  Later, I assumed my own children would have at least some of my qualities, even when they came by way of adoption: soft spoken, eager to please, not prone to causing any trouble…..I had quite a list.  But as the case so often is, I didn’t get what I thought I wanted but instead what I needed—more lessons that there are things to consider besides pleasing others. I first saw this clearly when Helen was almost three. She stood in the middle of the park, in the middle of a mud puddle, and jumped up and down. My first reaction was anger at the way she’d likely ruined her clothes and cost me the time to try and clean them and her. And I took it personally as well—here she was acting out against me—ME—the person who took her to that park many evenings and built endless bridges and horse stables with Doplo blocks and let her bring her potty chair into the living room and…..again, the list goes on. But as I watched the look on her face my feelings changed. This was not the action of a child wanting to make work for me or show her power over me. She was jumping for the pure fun of it. And what I felt then was envy, envy that I couldn’t have done that at her age, at any age, for fear of causing others to be displeased with me.

 

I was an Angel on Halloween

 

White robe

from a sheet,

cardboard wings

covered in gold foil

and almost as big as me,

a halo bobby pinned

above braids.

 

At six and a half

I didn’t mind.

 

“Costumes that take that much time

should be worn more than once,”

my mother’s words,

“And besides, you look so sweet.”

 

And so at seven and a half

I was still an angel,

unable to say

that I did mind,

very much,

wanting instead to be

a witch or ghost

or anything of

my choice.

 

But I’m sure I even managed to smile

for a second fitting.

“As perfect as any child could me,”

my teacher’s words,

written on a note to my mother.

And part of perfect meant quiet

with few no’s,

at least not spoken.

 

 

This Halloween,

with Helen an owl

and Rose a cowgirl,

I put on tight black pants

over middle aged thighs,

black shirt,

a favorite orange printed vest,

boots and hat.

 

Wanting to wear nothing

to suggest an angel,

hooting and yipping

with the owl and cowgirl,

 

I walked

up

and

down

my neighborhood,

 

trying out my

less than perfect

voice.

 

November, 2003

 

Chinese and Vietnamese adoption, Kansas writer

 

Helen is long past trick or treating and Rose claims she is now also too old. It makes me sad and not just because there won’t be mini Snickers and Reese’s peanut butter cups to guilt them out of. I will miss marching up and down the streets of our former in-town neighborhood, the leaves crunching underfoot, pumpkins glowing, chatting with the other parents as we remind our ghosts and princesses and whatever that kid is to say thank you. And I will miss the opportunity to give myself a different role to play as well. I’m not sure what I was trying to be that night twelve years ago, but I know it was a lot more fun than being an angel. And there, that’s possibly the best way of looking at Halloween. It’s a day when our children remind us that sometimes they do things with no hidden agenda—they do things just to have fun. And now I’m thinking I need to find my own mud puddle and start jumping.

 

Vietnamese adoption, Kansas writer

 

 

#Halloween, roles, children, adoption, Kansas writer, Spiders from Heaven

 

 

2 Responses Post a comment
  1. Mai-Lon gittelsohn permalink
    October 28, 2015

    What a lovely write Ann. I, too, need to find a mud puddle to jump in!

  2. Susan O permalink
    October 29, 2015

    Love this and miss you, Ann. I can never forget that idyllic Halloween when we shuffled through the leaves escorting our trick or treaters around the neighborhood, gin and tonics in hand, the most safe and happy world when my kids were little. Sally, Emily and Peter only?

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