Thursday, October 28, 2010

I've always loved the month of October. When I was a child it was the month of not only my birthday, but the birthdays of my two sisters as well. It started on the first of the month, which was my sister Jackie's birthday, mine was on the 25th, and Nancy's was on the 30th. She missed Halloween by a day, but still, it was close enough for an honorable mention.

Very often my mother held a joint birthday party in October, usually somewhere in the middle for all three of us. She would bake a lovely birthday cake with Halloween decorations and there were napkins and favors all in the Halloween theme. We would invite our friends and neighbors and that amounted to a lot of kids. It was the one time our mother, or the mother of our neighbor kids, the Azures would let such a bunch of kids into their houses. They were both more inclined to shoo the kids out of the house. Neither house was very large and as I look back, I wonder how we all coped with one bathroom and only two bedrooms in our small house. The Azures had three bedrooms, but two more kids as well. It seemed I could never go into the bathroom without having someone knocking on the door and telling me my time was up.

October in North Dakota was often a chilly month, but we could count on Indian Summer at least for a day or two where the school windows were open. If we were lucky, we could enjoy the breezes of October as well as the World Series being played over the school's public address system. I wasn't crazy about baseball in those days, but listening to the World Series was much more fun than doing the sheets of school work we were allowed to work on, while listening.

Our neighborhood would have been considered on the wrong side of the tracks, although all of us had lots of friends from all over town, and they loved to come to our neighborhood to hang out. We had a cohesive bunch of kids on the South Side. We played night games during the summer and on the weekends in the fall. The night games usually involved chasing through the streets and alleys and avoiding being caught and kissed. Sometimes we played truth or dare, and the dare usually involved kissing someone. I thought of all of the neighborhood boys as younger brothers, so the idea of kissing them was kind of disgusting to me, but I complied.

When I was in sixth grade, I was finally allowed to have my own birthday party and invite my friends from school. That birthday was particularly special to me. I was allowed to have a friend from school stay overnight. I received many nice gifts, but the one that stands out in my mind is the plastic wallet I got from my overnight guest. It was black with a white poodle on it. It smelled of lovely new plastic and it had a five dollar bill in it. I could hardly wait to go shopping and use my new wallet to pay for my purchases. We shopped the very next day at the Woolworth store. After pondering several purchases, I couldn't resist a small plastic woven basket with two small identical white kittens in it, called Tisket and Tasket. It was something I had been looking at all summer, and that day it became my own. My life was complete.

Halloween was a real holiday in our town. We always stayed on the South Side for our trick or treating. Our costumes were made of things we could find in our homes. I loved to dress like an old woman, with a long dress, a funny hat, powdered hair, and wrinkles drawn on with a piece of burnt wood, or even a burnt match. It was always a bit frustrating however to work so hard on putting together a good costume, only to have to wear my coat over the top, because it was so cold outside. October 31 in northern North Dakota was usually not a warm night. It was raw and windy, very often.

Our goal every Halloween was to fill the pillowcases we used to catch our treats. The biggest treasure was a chocolate candy bar of some type. Even the small size bar in those days was pretty big. It was always a disappointment to get apples, popcorn balls, or pennies. I hated the pennies the most. When we got home, our treats were our own private stash, although we did a good bit of candy trading between the three of us. Suckers were another disappointment, although a Tootsie Pop was okay, because it held the promise of the chewy chocolate center. I still like a Tootsie Pop today on occasion.

As I got older October held lots of fun, since that was the month my school usually did homecoming. That meant dates for the homecoming dance, special dresses, and football games. My sister and I found a lady in town that we adopted as our personal seamstress, since our mother had no time to sew. We designed our own dresses, bought the fabric, and Esther would create our fashions for us. We worked to earn the money to pay for them with part time jobs. It was always understood if we wanted those special things, we had to pay for them. My parents earned enough to give us a home and put food on the table, and it took all of their energy to do that.

My memories of October are rich and happy. It was a month of falling leaves and great promise. Sadly, I grew up too fast in that small town. Maybe we all did. My first wedding day was October 1. The marriage didn't last long, but it was a lovely one. My favorite seamstress and another one besides created my white crepe wedding dress. It was a long one with pointed, thin sleeves, and an empire waist. My bridesmaids had sleeveless versions of my dress in a hot pink color. We were an adorable group of miniature adults. As I look at the pictures now, we were just children. If only we would have realized that at the time... But then changing history would have deprived my life of some very important people, so I wouldn't do it, even if by some wrinkle in time, I were offered the chance to do so.