My home is decorated for Halloween just as it always is. I have a skeleton hanging near my front door and some fall colored lights scattered over the branches of one of my plants. A little witch greets visitors from a wreath on the door. A string of ghosts light the sidewalk leading to my porch and a cute little guy named “Spooky” welcomes all who come in search of treats.
There will be no tricks from me this year, only a large tub filled with sweets for the children who decide to visit just as they always have in spite of the virus. I will be missing from the festivities. I usually don a costume of some sort or wear a silly t-shirt and hang spider earrings from my lobes. This year I will not take the chance of bringing illness into my home by greeting the little ones as they come. I will have to depend on the honesty of children in taking only a handful of candy from the tub so that others will have some treats as the night’s festivities occur.
I really do not know what to expect. I am unsure that I will have the hundreds of visitors who normally come my way. It will be very different and I will miss all of the joy and delight that this annual celebration always brings. I usually purchase bags and bags of chocolates and sweets of every kind and spend a long evening smiling and laughing at the unadulterated cuteness of the children. By the time the crowd has thinned and my supply of treats is almost depleted the teens show up, often wearing their school colors and demonstrating their impeccable manners. Who knows what this year will bring.
Everything has been so very different and yet I have managed to have a subdued but lovely time during the last crazy months. I suppose that my childhood and my mother’s influence taught me how to be flexible and how to find joy in the smallest of things. My mother quietly struggled after my father died but she hid her worries well. We might not have cookies in the house or sodas but she would turn a batch of cinnamon toast grilled to a delightful crispiness into a luxury. She even knew how to make a drive across town feel like a grand adventure. When times were tough she was as flexible and creative as Play doh and she taught us that we might not always have our way but we had the power to control how we felt.
When I was teaching at KIPP Houston High School we had a principal who regularly signed off on her emails with the phrase, “Plow on!” I must admit that I did not like the metaphor in conjunction with education. It made it seem to me as though teaching and learning was back breaking, unexciting work. I even told the principal how I felt. Now in this year of 2020 with so many horrors all around I find myself understanding her rationale for using that phrase. Sometimes in life there is a job to do that may even become difficult but we have to keep plowing on to create something beautiful. Sometimes that job of plowing provides us with a purpose bigger than our own desires. It actually makes life more meaningful and bearable.
There is a time for some sacrifice in every person’s life. From time to time that sacrifice becomes a common goal for all of society. I think that is where we are now as a nation, but when I see and hear so much grumbling and refusal to honor one another I worry that we as a people have become too self centered, too focused on our own selfish demands, tone deaf to the needs of our fellow citizens. Sadly some among us express their wants with a demeaning kind of crassness that was once the domain of playground bullies. Now it is commonplace in the mainstream to insult people with whom we disagree with epithets and sometimes even threats. How this was translated into so much divisiveness in a time when we should all work together is beyond me.
I do not mind at all if people choose to follow a different way of doing things from my own. I have walked a different kind of pathway for most of my life. Still, I would like to see us all show more respect to one another than is presently the case. If I say that I have found a way to please the children who will come to my door hoping for a treat on Halloween night, I do not need to be engaged in an argument about all of the ways that my plan is wrong. I am not afraid, so do not think that of me. I am simply choosing to be cautious, maybe more than some and less than others. We each know our own limitations. If someone worries about their children grabbing candy from a giant tub of unattended goodies on my porch, then I would expect them to simply pass by my house. I respect their concerns just as I hope that they respect mine.
I would like for all of the second guessing and judging and anger to end. I am fine and from what I can see so are those who are responding differently to the pandemic. I have found a tiny slice of happiness even in this very distressing year of 2020. I have created ways to enjoy each day just as my mother taught me to do. I have maintained my connections with people from afar and that is not as bad as it may sound. I have changed my ways for the time being believing that my adjustments are temporary. I have released myself from routines that were not necessary to guard my health and happiness. I have found a way to make my life good for now. Just as my Mama told me I know that how I feel is my choice. For now I intend to happily plow on.