Halloween is over. Done.
Our 13th annual Halloween open house is over. The morning after the party, I was too tired to put the toilet paper back on the roll.
Our Halloween party does not change from year to year. Frankenstein hangs by the door, Mr. Pumpkin Head is on the wall by the entertainment center, and fifty-or-so witches fly from the ceiling. I love our simple Halloween hand-me-down decorations.
Cole carved our pumpkins, and I harvested the seeds to salt and roast. Naturally, I had to hunt for the candles I bought on sale last year.
We always have chili on Halloween. Joe always made the chili. Our nephew Titus made chili for us last year. Titus wins chili competitions. We were honored to serve his chili. This year, I made the chili; we all know I don’t cook. I attempted the chili because I was armed with my mom’s chili recipe and because my brother-in-law the gourmand was attending the party. It gave me confidence to know that if I blew it, not only would he tell me but he would also fix it for me. Imagine my surprise at the end of the evening when the chili pot was almost empty and the compliments were flowing. I kept looking upward smugly and saying, “Ha, I can make chili.” Joe was amused. I think.
The evening was filled with friends, family, Cokes in glass bottles, chips and dips, free-flowing candy, and a martini bar with blue cheese olives. A caricature artist drew pictures, and the kids played ping-pong and video games and bounced on the trampoline. The adults discussed politics, music, kids, and the weather.
Below a large picture of Joe—we call it his “Moses picture”—is where Joe’s ashes sit in a box labeled “The remains of Joe Ruscitti.” A great Halloween costume, don’t you think? Cole and I made sure there was a dish filled with a few pieces of his favorite chocolate and some pumpkin seeds. A picture frame played a slide show from Halloween’s past. A water-writing board sits on the entertainment center; where you can write words with a paintbrush and water, and the words disappear moments later. Before the party began, Cole had written, “Hi Dad.” The shadow of his words remained.
The next morning, walking across my sticky floors and stepping on candy wrappers, I took my bottle of Coke into the living room and missed Joe to the depths of my being. I looked over at the entertainment center and watched as the photo frame played our slideshow of the past.
As I watched the slideshow pictures, I realized that if Joe were alive, he would have been asleep in our bedroom and I would have been annoyed: annoyed that I was up, facing the clean up alone and annoyed that he had too much to drink the night before. I would have had a list of things that were not getting done. Much later, Joe would have stumbled out of the bedroom, unaware of my anger, and dawdled over to the coffee pot, completely uninterested in clean up or in starting the day. As the coffee brewed, he would have started to talk about the party while making sure all the bottles of vodka and gin had their lids securely attached. He would have wondered if I had thrown out the corks for the leftover wine.
I would have followed him with determination as he took his coffee back into the living room, ready to go over my plans for the day. Taking a sip of his coffee, he would have casually draped his arm around my shoulder and started to talk about the party, the people, the conversation, and the kids, and I would have suggested he finish his coffee and help me clean up. Bewildered, he would have wondered what the hurry was—why the hurry? Slowly, I would have been lulled into the conversation, and soon I would have popped open a Coke added my observations about the party, eaten some candy, and agreed that a nap might be a very good idea.
My floors never stayed sticky. Halloween wrappers were eventually picked up, and glasses and dishes were eventually washed and put away. It’s often difficult in the moment to give up our to-dos and our lists, but when it’s all said and done, it’s amazing how very little they matter. How often do people remember that the dishes did not get done? How often do they wish they had spent more time talking and napping together?
I walked over and wrote on the water message board, “Miss you, wish you were here.” As I watched my writing slowly disappear, a piece of candy rolled my way. I unwrapped it and went to take my nap.
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