Monday, November 3, 2008

November, again

My Halloween kicked off, at work, by reading C's heartbreaking post, marking one year since the stillbirth of her son, Callum.

Then I went downstairs to the food court to get a tea. And ran smack dab into the kids from the building's daycare centre, dressed up to the nines for Halloween, and being escorted by their caregivers (all wearing funny hats & headdresses) on a tour of the merchants in the concourse for trick-or-treating. With a gaggle of beaming, camera-toting mommies & daddies tagging along.
I've worked in this building for 20 years, and this is an annual event, so I'm not sure why I was so taken aback by the sight of them. It just had totally slipped my mind as something that I might encounter this morning.

I was also taken aback by my reaction. I was more than just teary-eyed, as I have been some years, at the sight of them (& the sound of their excited, childish voices). Great big tears rolled down my face & blurred my vision as I tried to get money from the cash machine, & I gasped as I tried to choke them back. I had to find a quiet corner (where hopefully nobody I knew could see me), wipe my eyes & try to compose myself before going back upstairs to my desk and my colleagues.

I went to the bathroom & there was a pink stain on the toilet paper. AF arrived, a trifle early for me, on day 29. Well, that explains it (at least in part).

Came home & handed out treats to the 101 tricksters who landed on my doorstep, including the little girl next door, who was our first visitor -- dressed as Sharpay from "High School Musical." (I HAVE heard of HSM, although the significance of Sharpay escapes me...!) She went out later with some of her friends. I kept wondering whether she & Katie would have gone out together. And thinking back to other Halloweens, as we've watched her grow up.

Her very first Halloween, when she was about six months old (and Katie would have been on the verge of turning one), her parents dressed her up like a flower & sat her in her swing in the hall by their front doorway to greet the trick or treaters. I remember laughing & crying at the same time when I went out on my front porch to light the candle in my jack o'lantern & saw her. She was adorable.

The next year, she came over for her very first trick or treating, dressed as a bunny. She was so little she could barely climb up the front steps. The next year, however, when she was 2.5, she was a little cowgirl. We were the first house she came to, & she wasn't quite sure what this was all about. I put the candy in her bag & she looked at it, & looked at me & said, with surprise and delight in her voice, "Oooohhh!!" lol About a half hour later I saw her tearing up a driveway down the street, with her mom running after her. I said to dh, "She caught on fast!" lol

Our nephews have always lived too far away to come to our house for trick or treating (and we were never invited to go there to be part of their fun -- I suppose their parents -- and we -- always thought we'd have kids of our own to take out for Halloween someday...), but cousin/neighbour's wife used to bring their two little girls over. I would have special baggies made up with Laura Secord chocolates in it for them (honouring the memory of kind older neighbour of my childhood, who used to spoil my sister and me, and a couple of the other neighbourhood kids, with big baggies filled with chocolate every year). Being 17 & 15 now, they are too old for trick or treating & haven't been over in years. (I remember the huge disappointment I felt the first year they didn't show up at my doorstep, & I was left, literally, holding the (candy) bags.)

Of course, some kids don't know when to quit, it seems. One of the last bunches of kids I shelled out for before closing up shop around 9 p.m. was a group of five great big hulking teenaged boys. After they left, dh said, "When your voice starts changing, I think it's time to stop trick or treating," lol. I added, "Yeah, & when you can't put down your damned cellphone long enough to say 'trick or treat' & hold your bag open...!!" That was a new one for me!!

*** *** ***
Halloween, of course, is closely linked to All Saints & All Souls Days, which Mrs. Spit wrote movingly about this week. And to the custom in some countries, particularly the Latino ones, of Dia de Muertos -- Day of the Dead. The company I work for has a sizeable presence in Mexico, and one of my Mexican-born colleagues circulated a PowerPoint presentation to on Halloween morning, explaining the customs surrounding Dia de Muertos.

Ten years ago, when Katie & my grandfather died, our church held a special service for All Saints Day on the Sunday afternoon closest to Nov. 1. Dh & I attended. Families were asked to call in advance if they wanted their loved one remembered in the service leaflet, & I had their names added. We lit candles for them and heard their names read aloud. It was tremendously moving and comforting.

Hearing the name of a dead loved one being spoken can be a powerful thing. Three years ago, in October 2005, dh's uncle passed away in Italy. As is their custom, his family arranged to have a mass said for him at the church one branch of his family regularly attended, close to where dh grew up. It was Nov. 1st -- All Saints Day. It was a rush for us to get home, have a quick dinner, change and drive back into the city in time for the 7:30 service, but we made it. The church only about a third full as we sat down near the front and began talking to other family members as they drifted in.

Several members of dh's family took part in the service, giving readings and leading prayers, and one of his cousins stood up at the beginning and said that, on behalf of [dh's two surviving aunts here in Canada], they wanted to dedicate this mass to the memory of their brother who had just died, as well as their parents and three other siblings who had passed away. Then she started reading their names -- including that of dh's mother -- the mother-in-law I never knew. I felt a lump rise in my throat & tears in my eyes. Dh took my hand & I squeezed it. He said he too was struck with a wave of emotion as the names were read aloud. And he silently added Katie's name to the list.

At the end of the service, we got up. To our amazement, the pews behind us were packed. Some of the people were no doubt faithful parishoners attending mass as a matter of course -- but most were relatives, cousins, friends, paisan from the old country -- and there are many who live here in the Toronto area -- who had heard & come to offer their support. I wondered how many people would have come to Katie's funeral, had we not opted for a private, immediate-family-only service.

*** *** ***

So now it's November... "the cruellest month," as I blogged last year. All the things I found depressing about November then still hold true now. With the time change, we've been plunge into darkness. It's dark when we get up and dark when we leave for work. It was still light when our train pulled out of Union Station shortly before 5 tonight, but almost dark by the time we arrived home around 5:30.

Some day, it will be light again. Until then, I guess I'll just muddle through as usual...!


  1. hugs, hugs, hugs to you.

    I too hate the darkness of winter. Do you guys have a botanical garden with a temperate or tropical glasshouse?

    I am thinking of getting a lightbox...

  2. Beautiful and sad post, Loribeth. Thinking of you as we wait for the light to return.

  3. No words. Just tears. Literally. :(

  4. Very powerful post, LB. Can't find the right words, but I feel sad that you have that sense of loss with you every day. In a way, I can understand it. At times, I feel the loss of someone who was supposed to be there.

  5. oh Loribeth... every time you write about that gal next door... it just breaks my heart, and yet it also makes me glow, how you watched her grow up; how you can even write about her, how you are a part of her life and she, a part of yours.... big big ((hugs)) to you.
    The light will be birthed again.

  6. I hate the dreariness of winter, it's so depressing - and for so many more reasons than the lack of light. I think I'll double up on vitamin D pills this year...or move to Australia.

    Thinking of you, Loribeth. Beautiful post. XO.

  7. I went to church (Catholic mass) on Sunday & our priest told us about an extra mass in the evening, a mass for those who have died this year and all our loved ones who have passed on. I was so fortunate to be able to go, and one of the people I thought of was Katie. Although I have never met her, or you, you are in my heart. I also have 2 IRL friends who each lost 2 little ones in m/c. I had tears in my eyes at several points in the service - a time and place to grieve, I guess ...