by Ann C. Averill
Halloween costumes, my mom made them all. Second grade, a hot pink gypsy skirt with black rickrack at the bottom and clip-on hoop earrings that I hoped made me look like dusky Mrs. Tuthill, the only mom I knew in my 1960’s suburb with pierced ears. Third grade, a glittering green tunic over pink tights, a tight bun, and a magic wand like the one Tinker Bell waved over Disney’s castle. Fourth grade, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier, in a brown cotton shirt fringed at the bottom like buckskin and a dime-store coonskin cap. Marie, my fourth-grade best friend, powdered her face funereal white and lay down in a Salvation Army wheelchair as a corpse. I marched behind, lamenting the fact that our teacher let another kid, who happened to show up as a grave digger, push my friend in the Halloween parade.
By fifth grade I was a hobo like all the big kids. No more mommy-made costumes. Just Dad’s ripped flannel shirt, a pair of work pants stained with WD40, and a crumpled fedora. Finally cut loose to dash through the dark with the pack, I buzzed every doorbell to catch the mother lode of free candy pouring from every front door: Baby Ruths, Snickers, Pay Days, Milky Ways, whole Hershey Bars, Almond Joys, Coconut Mounds, Mary Janes, Mike & Ikes, Good & Plentys, Jujubes, Tootsie Rolls, Fireballs, Sugar Babies, and Sugar Daddies – until the bewitching hour when the last lady of the house turned off her porch light and said, “Isn’t it getting a little late?” with nothing left in the bottom of her bowl but a few puny lollipops and a roll of licorice Necco Wafers.
Reluctantly I dragged my loot home and organized it on the living room rug in preparation for serious sibling trading.
Next morning in math, sucking on a Red Hot, how I grieved the return of plaid dresses, saddle shoes, and cafeteria ravioli as my teacher droned on about finding the lowest common denominator.
As a second-grade gypsy, I suppose I wanted to stand out from the crowd like exotic Mrs. Tuthill. Little did I know that’s why she fled the Nazis in her native Hungary. As Tinker Bell, I declared that ordinary life wasn’t good enough. I wanted to wave my wand and fly to a world where goodness always triumphed, and magic never ended. As Davy Crocket, I marched behind Marie’s pretend dead body, a prescient mourner unable to fight off the breast cancer that would one day bring my bosom friend to premature death. As a hobo, perhaps some pre-pubescent dawning whispered we are all alike, homeless beggars before a gracious God.
Of this I’m sure, how I loved that one hallowed eve when every child, dressed in their hopes or fears, could walk straight into the heart of the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Ann Averill is the author of the e-book, BROKEN, 180 DAYS IN THE WILDERNESS OF AN URBAN MIDDLE SCHOOL, based on a true story. She is at work on a memoir, BREADCRUMBS, A BABY BOOMER’S PATH TO JESUS. Check out her blog at email@example.com.
“Angel of Mercy” is an excerpt from Ann C. Averill’s upcoming memoir, BACK TO THE GARDEN: A BABY BOOMER’S SPIRITUAL COMING OF AGE. She’s a former teacher who hopes she’s been an angel of mercy in some measure to her students. Ann lives in the paradise of Western Massachusetts.