Trick-or-treating on Halloween inevitably becomes the backdrop for much reflection about my childhood and the ways it differed from that of my children. I can recall dressing in any variation of cast-off dance recital costumes and joining my brother, who had done the same with sporting uniforms, to spend the night trolling our suburban grid for candy.
We never trifled with under-layers or jackets or umbrellas because this was Arizona in October. We had to be much more concerned with bringing a Gatorade or a saline drip to stave off dehydration than a chill.
We would head out after an early supper and return only after the usually creepy old men on the block appeared even more creepy at the door with their robes open. My own children, by contrast, dress in costumes that are preconceived for months only to be completely shrouded by jackets. “Look, you’re a zombie slayer! Of the Alps!” I squeal to my son. “You’re a cheerleader! For basketball season in the Upper Peninsula!” I declare to my daughters. We stumble on brittle toes up our street, pausing at the corner to determine whether we have the fortitude for one more pass before turning home.
The kids tear into their candy in front of a fire, instead of by the pool as my brother and I had years ago, while parents check the forecast, fearing how cold the weekend soccer game is going to be.
What we couldn’t have predicted was that the soccer game would be snowed out just two days after Halloween. Sure, they warned of it — in that sing-song way the weathermen employ when using words like “snowy mix” and “wind chill” in the fall, like they just want to keep us on our toes for the impending winter. They weren’t kidding this time, though. The snow flew. The winds blew. Then the trees blew, too. Utility poles swayed and upended as power lines slithered ominously over roadways.
Hunkering down takes on a new significance when you’re hoping a maple isn’t going to join you in the living room. No one could have been taken by surprise when the region went lights-out as the bulbs had been straining to stay awake from the moment the winds gathered. Pleas for spare bedrooms, some oven space, a charge or a shower unspooled over Facebook for all — of those with charged phones — to see. My own disaster plan, which started and ended with “Witness Protection in Mexico,” was on the verge of implementation when the nucleus of my home surged back to life. Many others trudged on in misery — and mismatched shoes — hoping the power company would restore some order and peace to their lives.
While I quite literally find nothing humorous about living without the conveniences and services we expect from life in 2014, I have developed a good list of methods to get the things you need from others in the wake of disaster:
— 911? I’m wondering if there is a misdemeanor I could commit that is punishable by three to five days in jail?
— I know you’re a believer in co-sleeping with your kids, but how do you feel about co-showering with your neighbor?
— Remember that casserole I made you when you had your baby? I spelled out “nothing’s for free” in pepperonis under the cheese. Now, about that guest bedroom.
— YMCA? I realize I owe you money for not finishing that youth karate class, but you also owe me for athlete’s foot, so let’s just refill that coffee maker and call it even.
— Arrange the downed branches in your yard into the words “SWF ISO Hunky Arborist.”
— Dear Facebook friends: We so appreciated your support of our family when we decided to rescue our two-legged poodle mix from the ravaged Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. We have provided her with love, food, shelter and prosthetic limbs over the years. But if we don’t have a place with heat and some food other than Cheez-Its in the next 30 minutes, we are going to have to sacrifice her for the sake of our protein. Private message me!
— The “BFF” means your best friend is frozen. Help me, or I’ll tell everyone about what you really did on that trip to Daytona.
— What’s that you say, Hannaford manager? You’ll have a new supply of drinking water at 2 p.m. No problem, I’ll wait. At 2 p.m. tomorrow? No problem, I’ll wait.
— Of course I will need to test drive every single one of these sedans and their heating systems on your lot. How else could I make an informed decision?
— Hi everyone! Throwing a party tonight at my house. It’s BYOG — bring your own generator.