Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween Costumes: Past and Present

Oh, Halloween -- a child's favorite holiday! When I was a kid, I loved Halloween. What chubby kid wouldn’t with all that free candy to feed my sugar addiction?

As an adult, I don’t especially enjoy Halloween. Handing out candy to kids who might ring my doorbell is ok; however, I haven’t had anyone come to my door in four years. Just in case someone shows, I usually scrape up something that I put in my granddaughter’s lunch like granola bars or fruit chews to hand them. I know they would be thrilled to receive such an item.

In my childhood, I lived in the country on a dark, dirt road with few neighbors around. Halloween meant my mom and dad had to come home from working all day and then haul my older brother and me to town so we could trick-or-treat. That couldn’t have been too much fun for them. They always took us to the east end of town because that’s where the good candy was dished out. Some of my favorites were home-made caramel popcorn, Hersey bars and Almond Joy.

When we got home, no one looked through our candy to make sure there were no apples with razor blades or tattoos with LSD. Actually, they didn’t have to because I threw the apples away and unless that tattoo was laced with chocolate, I didn’t pay any attention to it.

I always wanted one of the store-bought costumes to wear, the plastic ones with the mask held on your face with a tiny piece of elastic string.

I don’t remember ever getting a whole outfit (probably because it wouldn’t fit), but I did get a mask and found it to be horrible. It was hot and unless your eyes were positioned exactly like the mask, you couldn’t see anything. I can imagine it was how Jean Louise Finch felt in that ham costume in To Kill a Mockingbird.

My mom got pretty original on a couple of costumes. In the 1960s, the Beetles and other English boy bands were all wearing Indian-inspired clothing. One fashion fad was the Nehru collar on shirts.My mom found two white, polyester knit Nehru jackets, so my brother and I dressed as rock stars.  Another time, she found out how to make me a cloud by cutting arm/neck holes in a pillowcase and then using a zillion tiny safety pins to attach Kleenex tissues. The tissues that didn’t fall off became rather limp as the night went on. I don’t think anyone knew what I was supposed to be.

This is what I thought I looked like in my cloud costume.
Nowadays, kids usually don’t go door to door to trick-or-treat. Everyone is afraid of “stranger danger” and will barely let kids out of our sight, but we still want kids to have the same fun that we did as kids. Therefore, fall carnivals, harvest festivals and trunk-or-treat events are held at community organizations.

Costumes now are so clever, cute and expensive. I would never pay $40 for a costume, and why would I have to when Pinterest holds the ideas and patterns for zillions of them. This year, Stars Wars characters and Minions are tops in adult and kid costumes. Even pets are paraded around in costumes to match their owners. This year, my granddaughter wants a poodle skirt, but instead of a poodle, she wants a dachshund. Then she plans to make a matching skirt for her dachshund to wear and take her along to trick-or-treat. She is sure that she’ll get tons of candy with this cute idea.

In case you haven't gotten your costume yet, here's a chart with all of the top costumes for 2015. There's a nice variety of sweet and scary costumes. 

If you want a good laugh, check out this video of Halloween pranks. I can imagine how scared these people were, but the events made for one truly funny clip:  Halloween Pranks

Happy Halloween everyone. I hope you get lots of candy! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Southern Revitalization

I recently returned from a quick trip to visit my mom. She lives in Alabama, my home state. I say home state because it’s not only the state where I was born but also where I lived my first 22 years. It’s still where most of my family lives. It’s where I feel connected because it holds many ghosts from my past.

When I go home, I bond again to a rich Southern culture that is rarely understood by anyone except another Southerner. It has nothing to do with a Confederate flag, the Civil War, slavery, etc. It has everything to do with a good and decent way of life, with drawling speech and with kindness to everyone. This culture may be similar to other parts of the United States or of the world, and I hope it is, but since I have lived my entire life in the South, its culture is what I know.

While driving through the county roads that always need maintenance, I thought about how similar they look to all the times I have driven them before. Sure there are some new buildings along the way, but not much has changed in the rural/county areas. There are still huge pine trees, closely-managed pecan groves, long chicken houses, kudzu vines galore and acres and acres of Southern snow – cotton.

My paternal grandfather was a cotton farmer and paid people to hand pick the cotton that the mechanical picker left behind. They carried huge white cloth sacks that took them forever to fill and they worked all day in the scorching heat. I don’t know how much they were paid, but it probably wasn’t much. Once when I was around six years old, my grandfather told me that he’d pay me $.25 to fill a bag. I picked for about five minutes and left to spend the rest of the day jumping into the cotton-filled wagons.

On my recent trip, I told my fellow traveler, my 10-year-old granddaughter, all about cotton and its importance to the South. I told her that when I was her age, I learned in school about the evil boll weevil, Eli Whitney and his cotton gin, and the cotton farmer’s savior, George Washington Carver and his peanuts. I was taught Alabama history/civics in grades 4, 8 and 10, so I know a lot about the history of the state – every important part from the four major American Indian tribes and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War and slavery to the governor at the time, George C. Wallace.

I learned all of this history of Alabama and of the South, but what does it mean to be Southern? It’s not really one thing I can put my finger on, but I know it’s much more than just being born in one of the states below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Being Southern means worrying and worrying about something for a long time and finally letting go of your worry by telling yourself, “Just turn it over to the Lord.” It’s taking black-eyed peas and a peach cobbler to a church member’s house when his family member dies because food is comfort. It’s killing someone with kindness even though you don’t like the person and you don’t want her to know it, or that person knows you don’t like her and you want her a little bit paranoid. It’s going to church on Sunday or not going and toting a huge load of guilt the rest of the week.

Southern food plays a huge part of the culture. The South is synonymous for fried chicken, turnip greens, corn bread, buttermilk biscuits, fruit cobbler and watermelon. Watching Paula Deen cook is like being in my grandmother’s kitchen when I was a kid. Oh my, the food was to die for. Actually, the food caused many early deaths because much of it contained artery-clogging ingredients like lard and sugar.

The people who think Southerners are slow simply because we speak that way are far from wrong. The South is filled with many smart people who are great spokespersons for this culture. Take former President Jimmy Carter, for example. You may not agree with his politics, but he’s one of the most intelligent and highly-educated POTUSs. His legacy is not what he accomplished when he was in office but all that he did to better humanity when he left the Presidency. And he did it all while still teaching Sunday school each Sunday.

My quick trip home revitalized me. Maybe the fields of cotton have the same relaxing effect as sitting by the beach. Maybe those country roads that are always the same allow me to drive automatically so I can mentally relive past events. Maybe going home gives me the chance to visit the ghosts of my past and remember what being a Southerner is all about.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Getting Rid of My Junk/Treasures

I always love this time of year. October is a great month. Most days, the outside temperature is finally cooler, and it’s nice to be out of the house. The grass has stopped growing so there’s minimal yard work. The green leaves are turning all shades of orange, red and yellow.

I’d have to say that fall is my favorite season.

With the cooler weather here for a few days, my family and I decided to have a yard sale. I have been obsessed with cleaning since I retired. All the miscellaneous items I had thrown in the attic, the under-stair closet, the junk drawers, and the garage were closing in on me. I had to get it out!

I hate having yard sales because I never make any money. I spend weeks dragging items to the garage, deciding what’s to go and what’s to stay, asking my family if they will ever use this item, etc. I've heard of people making hundreds of dollars selling their junk, but I never have, so this time I didn’t even think of the money. My goal was to get the junk/treasures out of my house. Therefore, I sold things that cost me a small fortune for a little of nothing.  For example, a small, new Dooney & Burke bag that I paid over $100 for went for $1.00. I had given it to my daughter as a Christmas gift four years ago, and she had never used it. I had held onto it waiting for her to realize that my taste was better than hers, but alas, I finally gave up.

At my sale, whatever price people offered became the selling price.

My granddaughter made $6.00 selling 

doughnuts and lemonade that cost 
me twice that to buy.
Before the sale began, my daughter helped

place our treasures on makeshift tables.

I really enjoyed talking to potential customers, many of whom had really interesting stories. Some of my treasures brought back memories of items they had once owned that were similar or they told of why they were buying a certain item from me. I heard many tales of what careers people had and of their families. I also got to meet several neighbors who stopped by while on their morning walk.

My sale was from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., and I made a grand total of $157.27. 
Click here to find out about City Walk
At 11:15 a.m., we loaded the leftovers into my husband’s truck and took them to the City Walk Mission Thrift Store. This business supplies food, clothing, etc. to the homeless in the community. I got a tax write-off, and they were happy to get my remaining treasures.

Now I can actually walk into my walk-in attic, my garage shelves are organized, and there’s no more junk in my junk drawers. I vow to keep everything this way, but I’m living with four other people. 

I’m not so sure they will accept the challenge.