El Dia de Los Muertos and More

Honor’s 17th birthday cake by me, Grandma

Well, it’s Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, and the trick or treaters have slowed down, a mom or dad with every single kid or group.

In the fifties no parent ever went out t or t’ing with their kids. If you were too stupid not to get run over there were plenty of other kids in the house to eat your dinner. I’m pretty sure the Irish or Italians in the town I lived in invented trick or treating just to get all the kids outta the house for some peace, time to put another starter in the pot. Can you imagine eleven kids, twelve? My parents were weirdos with only five. No one took babies out to beg for candy or to appear adorable in those days. You could go trick or treating if you were old enough to demand it, at least in my family. My mother put costumes together last minute and gave us each pillow cases. I only remember being made up to look like Aunt Jemima on the syrup bottle which involved making me very fat with a pillow on my belly. It wasn’t fun, with black shoe polish on my face and a pillow under an old raggedy dress my mom dug out of her rag bag. I wasn’t pretty or cute, but I was crazy for the candy.

We might have had six kids instead of five, but my mother had a secret after-lunch abortion which I may have been, at age ten or so, the only one privy to. We’d gone shopping and the two little brothers and one baby sister were in the backseat, one of them asleep. I was honored to be riding shotgun as my sister must’ve been at a friend’s. My mom parked on the street and said, “Now this may take a few minutes, but just make everyone stay in the car.” Nothing new—I was often a car babysitter. When my mom came back, she said something like, “Well, that’s settled. I’m not having that baby,” apparently talking to the steering wheel, “that wasn’t so bad,” she added, giving the wheel a good pat. At that point I was staring at her for some kind of information I could relate to, and she told me the story in brief. “The doctor said ‘Mary, do you want this baby?’ she told me looking at my face very briefly, ‘and I (my mom) answered ‘No’. So he said ‘Hold on; this is going to hurt a little’  and it was all over.” That was that. I didn’t say anything. I’d been slapped too many times for saying a wrong thing, so I often opted for silence.

That doctor’s visit discussion was the entire extent of my sex education. She never mentioned anything having to do with my vagina or hers again. Oops, I amend that. When I was 29 years old, she mentioned some very inappropriate dating she was doing—but we won’t dwell on that. That was the 70s and sex was an open question and all answers were fair. And that same year she had been adamant about me using my rights to have an abortion; that was a tough one, but her counseling encouraged me. If my own mother was going to be so negative about me having a second child, when she judged me an inadequate parent already, I didn’t feel very hopeful. I was barely able to raise my one child on my own. I would wait eleven years before having my second, and insisted that the second child’s father would be a husband. I don’t think either of us regretted our abortions.

Nobody had parents go most anywhere with them that I knew of, to trick or treating or to movies or roller skating or abortions. We didn’t know which women were chosing abortions at the same time we were, legal or otherwise. I didn’t know anyone who died from one, but we knew that women did. My mother’s doctor did a good job—simple and quick. I cried during my third abortion knowing that I’d give up sex rather than have another. And then, the world changed, and there I was riding along in my station wagon while my kids ran up to houses to beg for the oft forbidden candy. My husband did the duty at home.

This year, the trick or treaters are very young, not too many hordes of tweens or teens or old grandmas desperate to get more sweets for their grand-kids. It impresses me every year that the kids are polite. They thank me for giving them candy and wish me a good night. I especially loved the home made Frieda Kahlo. The eyebrows were perfect; she even had the attitude. I loved the halo of roses fanned out high on her head band and her jacket barely revealing her tiny waist. Lovely, as her mama stood proudly in my driveway.

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