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 Boo (Bat) Mitzvah Halloween party two years ago, and I could not find the inspiration 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.

She was too worried about making her kids happy. She could not stand the thought that they might struggle in ways I did.

I told my kids we were not going to the Halloween store. My reason being it was out of the way and crowded this time of year. But I caved, as I often do, and we went to the Halloween store. Someone said to me it is the little moments that hit you and there they were as I walked into the store yesterday.
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 but just far away enough from the truth. 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 your father suddenly dies from a heart attack age 6? I really was daddy's little girl being the youngest of five. Who goes with me when your mother, who works full time, has five kids to take care of and no family in town? Who goes with me when many friends of my parents disappear with my father? Who goes with me when there is little community to support my grieving mom? 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 I use it often. Jay and I did the same pattern for as long as I can remember in ten minute cycles: 4 minutes fast, 2 slow, 2 fast, 2 slow, repeat 4 times. I always have on headphones, I to listen podcasts, I sometimes pray when I am done and I usually have on out of style work out pants and/ or socks that don't match since no one is watching. Well, that is, no one but Junebug and my dogs. She goes with me now, you see and usually my dogs hop along for the ride too.


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