Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween Hijinks

My mom has always had an interesting outlook on life, and in most things has been able to look on the problems and hardships in life with humor and grace. She taught us to laugh at ourselves and with each other, and we've all grown up with a pretty active (if warped) sense of humor.

I suppose it is because of this that there are times when I'm not sure if the things she comes up with are coming from the Alzheimer's or if they are just ... Mom.

I called Mom last Friday afternoon to remind her that we were leaving town for the weekend, and to make sure she had all our contact info written down by the phone in case of emergency. When she answered, she was bubbling with excitement. "I've got my bucket and it works!"

"Your bucket?" I asked. (I've found it's real easy to play dumb when you have no idea what people are talking about.)

"For the trick-or-treaters!" was her eager reply.

My mother lives in a townhouse complex that has seen better days. And while there are a number of other long-time residents and still quite a few families with young children, the neighborhood has experienced both a decline in property values and the addition of elements that can cause anxiety and apprehension in some. Burglar bars and padlocked gates are now common sight, and many are a little wary about being out and about after dark.

Mom loves the neighborhood and tries to keep in contact with various neighbors, and she has continually expressed that she is not afraid to live there alone. But she is always very careful to lock her gated patio and her doors by dusk, and I often call her in the evenings (especially on days that seem more confused than usual) to make sure she has locked up for the night. In the past, she has often just turned off her lights on Halloween evenings so she wouldn't have to open the door after dark to trick-or-treaters.

So on Friday, Mom came up with a scheme that would allow her to give candy out to the neighborhood children without worrying about the dangers of opening her door at night. She found a bucket and a "something to tie it to." (As far as I know, she doesn't have any rope or cord in the house, but I was afraid to ask for more details.) According to her plan, she was going to sit in her rocking chair in her second story bedroom, leaving the window open. When trick-or-treaters came to visit, she would put some candy in the bucket and lower it down to the kids. In her mind, the kids would get a big kick out of this, and we wouldn't be worrying about her opening her door to strangers all evening.

I really didn't know what to say to this plan. Her upstairs windows do overlook the front of the house, but they are not directly above the front door. Instead, she would be lowering her candy-filled bucket down on top of a row of low prickly shrubs. But she didn't see this as a problem — she could always swing the rope a bit to get it into the children's hands. Or their parents could help out. Or something. (We won't even get into the creepiness factor of an old lady with frizzy gray hair sitting in a poorly lit upstairs window, lowering buckets of goodies to unsuspecting children.) We were about to leave town, and all I could do was to quietly hope none of the neighbors would call the loony bin to come and haul Mom away.

When we got to our motel later that evening, I called Mom to check on her and make sure she had locked up and was doing okay. She had and she was. She sounded a bit tired, but that's normal. Then I asked if she'd had any trick-or-treaters.

She stopped to think for a minute, and then I could hear the smile in her voice. "Oh, yes, and it was so much fun. I had one or two kids come fairly early. Maybe as many as a half dozen or so, I don't remember. I lowered the candy down in my bucket, and they had lots of fun trying to reach it and get the candy out." (I'm guessing maybe she forgot to swing the bucket away from those prickly leaves.)

At this point, though, she paused. When she resumed, she sounded a little puzzled.

"For some reason, I don't think any more kids came by after that very first group. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was just too cold for trick-or-treating this year."

Of course, this was the warmest Halloween evening we've had in several years, but I didn't bring that up. I'm just glad the men in the long white coats never turned up.

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