Message in a Box
I hauled the plastic bin marked "Halloween" out of the attic yesterday, just before it was time to get the boys from school. When they saw it, they fell on it like a trio of raccoons on a picnic cooler. You'd think it literally contained Halloween.
This will be the first seasonal holiday we celebrate in our new house, the first time we get to play dress-up with it since moving in. The familiar trimmings were welcomed with joy, like opening the door to find a cat that went missing long ago. The mildewed scarecrow and the plastic jack-o-lanterns link this new Halloween to all our Halloweens before.
While I was trying to figure out where the old things belonged in the new space, my middle child pulled out a shopping bag of stuff I'd bought at the day-after Halloween sale at Target, last year. There was a set of vinyl placemats, three spooky t-shirts, and a little bobble-head witch. I had forgotten all about it, but God, it took me back in an instant.
I love that sale. Overnight, all things Halloween are marked down to a song. Through the years, I've stocked a suitcase full of the same premium costumes I had to steer the kids away from the week before. Decorative knick-nacks I couldn't justify buying at full price are suddenly yard-sale priced. If you've got twenty-five or fifty dollars to burn, you can pick up enough stuff to trim the whole house next year.
I remember deciding I could spend ten dollars. It was a splurge. We were fighting desperately to keep our house, and we were losing. Patrick's freelance income for the month of October was two hundred and seventy five dollars. We'd exhausted our credit and savings, and were overdrawn emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
It was a very hard time. You'd have to peer far into the spaces between those six short words to know just how hard.
In a flash, the boys were in their new shirts. I bought them all a size large at the time. I think they were two dollars each. They fit perfectly.
"Can we put out the placemats?"
"Of course!" The boys set the table with the bright plastic mats and paper plates I'd bought on sale the year before last. We all stood back to admire the purples and oranges against our lime-green dining room wall.
"Look how it all goes together," I said, to myself, as much as to them. "When I packed this stuff away last year, we didn't know we'd be unpacking it in a new house, on a new table." I thought then that giving up that house would be one of the worst things that could happen to us. It was the last thing I wanted.
"It's perfect!" somebody said.
"It is," I said, amazed. I remember being drawn to the colors in the placemats, though they existed nowhere in our home at the time. I believe in the lives of houses, that it is they who do the choosing. The squares of lime and orange catching my eye through the fog like a distant flare, signalling the way forward, the way home.
Labels: lack and plenty