Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Reflections

Yesterday, the elementary school that's catty-corner from my house set up a big Spiderman moon jump. Cars parked up and down the street, and I assumed there was a fall fair, festival, or Halloween carnival going on.

I thought back to the early 60s when I was in elementary school. The school always had a Halloween carnival. There’d be a cakewalk, fishpond, games, lots of food, and the crowning of the Halloween Princess.

One year, when I was in fourth grade, for some reason I can’t now recall, I decided to give it a shot—a surprising choice for an introvert. The way you got to be princess was by collecting pennies. The girl with the most won. For days before Halloween, I had roamed the streets near the school knocking on doors along with a friend who lived nearby. I lived in the country and had but a few neighbors to pester. Pretty much the only way to make a go at the contest was to solicit town folks. So, right after school let out, we’d drop off our schoolbooks at the friend’s house and head out on our mission.

By Halloween, with my friend’s help, I’d collected so many pennies that I thought for sure I had won. I couldn’t really enjoy any of the games, thinking instead of winning. As the pennies were counted, it soon became evident that I had been beat by a classmate—a popular girl from a wealthy family. I don’t remember what I did exactly. I just remember feeling that it was not fair that I had pounded those streets and knocked on those doors. Rightly or wrongly, I believed my classmate’s daddy had brought her title.

Years later, I enjoy this time of year and look forward to handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. But I also know that the little things in life can stick with us and color who we become and what we choose to do with our lives. I never became the popular girl. My mother worked when many mothers stayed home. My father couldn’t keep a job as a glazier, bouncing in and out of the mental hospital. I became dependable, stuck to the rules, sucked it up, went with the flow, and made a point not to cause trouble.

I wonder today what would have happened if I had won that contest? Would I be different? A risk taker perhaps? Popular? No, I don’t suppose so. Not my style. And then I think, I didn’t turn out so bad and my life has been rich enough without the title of Halloween Princess.

But every Halloween I am reminded of how I felt that day. And I know now that the little things are sometimes just as important as the big things.

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