Who Goes With Willy Wonka?

I saw her get off the treadmill, soaking wet with sweat as she sat down to pray. She was in a hurry because,  as usual, she procrastinated too long and now had only ten minutes to shower and get ready. She always wanted to be more spiritual but seemed to often only remember after exercising when she needed a few minutes (she did not have) to rest. She was ignoring her dogs who were patiently waiting by the treadmill for her, hoping that the headphones and blue Nike shoes meant they were going for a walk. 

I knew my dogs were disappointed, in the same way, I am afraid I have disappointed my kids this Halloween. We have a basement full of Halloween decorations from my daughter's Bat Mitzvah Halloween party two years ago, and I did not have the energy to put them out this year.

It is the first year my son did not ask and a few times; I gaged my kids to see if it bothered them. "Should we put up the Halloween decorations or is it too late?" I asked my kids. "Sure" and then my daughter followed with "but a lot of people on our street have not put out their decorations." It seemed to me that every front yard on our street was decorated, but it made me feel better when she said this.

We were not ready to let go of our annual Halloween costume shopping. They asked to go to the very popular costume store that is more of a destination and event outing than our usual trip to Party City. I initially said no and blamed it on being out of the way and too crowded, but mostly because the last time I was there I was looking at costumes with my husband.

Grief is in details like the lighting outside on a cloudy day and the first colder temperatures of fall that felt as it did two years ago when I met Jay for a mid-day rendezvous during the week without the kids to shop for costumes for the Halloween party. I don't remember noticing such details at the time, but in hindsight, memories take on senses giving them a vague dimensionality. It tricks you into thinking if you try hard enough, you can walk back into them.

He wanted to be Willy Wonka.  She wanted them to dress up as a couple. "Sonny and Cher," she said or "Johnny and Roseanne Cash."  I don't think he understood. "But it would be so fun to be Willy Wonka," he said on the occasions when this came up in conversation. "Who should I be then?" she asked, "Who goes with Willy Wonka?" He did not have an answer.

He went as Dracula, and I was a witch. It was not quite a couple but close enough to where I was happy. It felt romantic to shop for Halloween costumes without the kids. I called my mother-in-law after we parted ways as I drove home “you will not believe how handsome your son is going to look in his costume.” I felt like things were going so well. I wanted to be in love and looked for every reason I could find. On this day, I was head over heels for Dracula. "You are the hottest Dracula ever," I said to him more than once.

Who goes with me when at age 6, my father suddenly dies from a heart attack? I was the youngest of five and I was his girl. Who am I when I walk back into my first grade classroom after losing my dad. I rub ice cream popsicles on my face to make my friends laugh, hoping to hide the little girl whose ears will not stop ringing. Who takes care of me when my mom works full time and has recently gone back to do a second residency at the hospital?  Who looks after my mom when we have no family in town and close friends of my parents come around less after my dad dies, until they almost completely disappear from our lives, showing up only for the occasional holiday or special events.

He may have been Dracula and not the Johnny Cash to her Rosanne, but he went with her and she had been looking for that for so long.

I am a creature of habit. Jay and I bought a treadmill before we had kids and we used it often. Jay and I did the same pattern in ten minute cycles: 4 minutes fast, 2 slow, 2 fast, 2 slow, repeat 4 times. I still stick to our 10 minute pattern, always have on headphones & listen to a podcast. I sometimes pray when I am done and I usually have on worn workout pants & mismatched socks since no one is watching. Well, that is, no one but Junebug and my dogs. She goes with me now, and the dogs follow close behind.


"I Was Walking Far From Home" by Iron & Wine