THE HAPPIEST HALLOWEEN EVER

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Sometimes I am really worried about the young people growing up in today’s impersonal world. Often it seems as if they have little compassion, are involved in things that are questionable, and spend way too much time on video games while not spending enough effort on interpersonal relationships. Tonight, I am pleased to say I am going to have to re-consider those impressions.

This Halloween Andre chose to forego the usual costuming and instead he decided to be the one to hand out candy to all the kids in the neighborhood. I remember years past when Trick-or-Treating was very hard on him. Too much commotion, too much noise and too many scary things. Yet, tonight he wanted to be part of the action; just from the safety of his own front porch.

This evening I heard constant giggling coming through our door from the little kids as they came up to the front porch where Andre was sitting, candy in hand, excited to hand it  all out. Andre talked to every child and had a running commentary going with everyone who approached. There wasn’t one person who came to our house that he didn’t  talk with and befriend. And then something magical happened.

To understand Andre, you have to understand that he has only been invited to one or two birthday parties in his entire life. While kids at school are mostly kind, he has never had much of an out-of-school relationship with anyone. His rapid speech and his way of relating to others due to his autism has made attracting and maintaining friends difficult for him and so I was amazed by what I saw as I opened the front door by chance.

There on the porch stood five gangly boys all of whom had been in Andre’s class last year. They were the popular kids, the ones THE OTHERS all wanted to be like, especially Andre. I watched as each one of them came up to him saying “Hi Andre” while giving him a teenage boy pound on the back usually reserved for young men on the football team.  All seemed glad to see him and each told him that they missed him. But the most profound moment came when one of the boys looked Andre in the eye and said, “School isn’t the same without you. You taught us all so much.”

And then they left.

“Did you see that mom? All my friends were here. I can’t believe it. Wasn’t that great!”

Yes, Andre, it was great and for more reasons than you will ever know. For those boys restored my faith in today’s teens. They are good boys with great hearts and an ability to make everyone feel liked and included. But most of all, I came to finally understand that there are all kinds of friendships, and while Andre’s are certainly different from mine, to him they are every bit as valuable. Even if those friendships occur just for a few minutes at a time on a spooky Halloween night.

Times Past

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I still remember the things my parents did for me that my children or the kids in my neighborhood will most likely never experience. Sometimes that realization makes me sad. Some of this disconnect from my past stems from where we currently reside but some of it is due to the change in times. It seems strange to me how so much of the innocence I experienced of 50 years ago is gone and seems unlikely to return. Things like:

My father standing out in the bitter cold, night after night, pouring water over a homemade ice skating rink. Sliding the water here and there to make sure that the surface was even in thickness and perfectly smooth like glass. Then after several days of hard freeze he would lace up my skates while my wobbly ankles would cross precariously as I put one foot in front of the other, my blades slowly carving up his masterpiece.

Watching our black and white television where killers or carve-them-ups were not allowed to enter our household. Cuss words were unheard of too. The only things on television back then were shows which presented people trying to do their best and to help one another. In short, they showcased families/individuals who loved each other and the positive in life.

My parents pulling us through the streets on sleds to see the Christmas lights that decorated each set of eaves as the snow fell over them; creating a colorful shimmer that I remember to this day. Then, should we complain of cold (which we always did), my mother would magically pull out a thermos of hot chocolate to warm our bodies and our hearts. Such a simple way to show love and concern.

My grandmother making homemade mittens and scarves while my aunt sewed us outfits for Christmas. In addition, my mother always sewed my halloween costume (once out of old drapes) whereas I have yet to sew one. Most kids today have never experienced the thrill and the patience while waiting for the perfect outfit to emerge out of odds and ends that litter the sewing machine table.

Most of today’s kids will never hold an ice cream social, a play, and sell trinkets to earn money for charity. Back in the day, my mother would gather the squirmy and oh-so-hyper six-year-old neighborhood kids together for rehearsal everyday for the entire week prior to the performance. Then we would sell tickets to the big event to all the neighbors. Afterwards, my mother would load all the thespians into our dark blue Rambler station wagon and off we would go to the charity of choice to deliver the money we had collected. Being that this was in the days before digital photography I have grainy superimposed pictures to remind me of these times but I do remember the sense of pride and accomplishment I felt for doing something to help others. It’s something that appears to be lacking from the experience of many kids these days.

Crisp fall days during which my parents took us to the Franklin Cider Mill where we watched the apples being pulverized by the turning of the water wheel and where we ate fresh hot powdered cinnamon donuts on picnic benches while the cool wind blew the sticky sugar off our treats.

Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s the grocery aisle was a real treat. I remember picking my breakfast cereal not for taste but for the records by teen heartthrobs David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman or the Monkees that were on the back of the boxes. How glorious the sound after taking the time to carefully punch out 45’s from the cardboard box. Decoder rings and invisible pens were also prized possessions.

Once upon a time science was  new and exciting and at the forefront of our lives. When discoveries were made it was a time for everyone to rejoice along with renew our sense of national pride. In 1969 when I was just a kid I remember my mother waking me up to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.It was really late and our black and white television was fuzzy with the pictures being beamed back to earth. Now big discoveries are so common place that it seems as if the breath-taking excitement just isn’t there anymore.

Riding our bikes within a five block radius and exploring the world like children are suppose to be able to do without fear of injury or death. No wonder so many kids these days are afraid of failing…they never got the chance to try the little things that instill confidence.

Knowing all the people at the stores where we shopped. Back when I was a kid there was the crooked old man (Mr. Banner) who ran the milk store where milk was kept in bottles not cartons. There was the butcher who always smiled at me as he wrapped my mothers picks in white butcher paper. I also knew the liquor store owners because they had a penny-candy section that upon occasion I was allowed to peruse. The Chinese couple (The Kims) at the cleaners were favorites as was the old French lady who made the sweetest potato bread I had ever tasted. These days, unless you live in Europe, those relationships are missing from our children’s lives and its such a shame because these are the people who taught me that people who were “different” than me and my family were loving, kind and interesting. It was they who inspired me to seek out individuals who might teach me a thing or two as I journeyed through life.

These and so many things shaped me as I grew up into the imperfect person that I am but without these experiences I am convinced that I would have thought that the world was a harsh and lonely place; a place that so many of today’s kids believe the world to be.  A life without happy, positive and inspiring memories is hardly a life at all. And that is why I worry about so many of our youth of today.

The Qualities That Make Up A Good Man

images-8When you are going through a “maybe-divorce” I think that sometimes it is easy for forget the good parts of the mate who may no longer want you in their life. In fact, I suspect that many people, just like me, often begin to concentrate on the negative so if the divorce does indeed occur, they have at their fingertips all the reasons that their partner was a jerk, asshole or just plain incompatible. It is easy to think of all the wonderful things about your mate when everything is sunshine, rainbows and consists of great sex in the middle of some exotic location. It’s when things get unpleasant that remembering those positive attributes gets tough. So B, this is for you, and even though you won’t know it exists, I guess I kind of believe if I put them out in the universe you will know they are there. Maybe these ideas will also bump into a few men who need a primer on just what a good man is.

  1. You love our kids and would do anything for them even if it means watching My Little Pony 250 thousand times.
  2. At this point in the game, I still believe you would save my life no matter what the cost to yourself. Clark Kent has nothing on you!
  3. You work hard to bring home a paycheck which makes our lives easier.
  4. You are encouraging to our children and to me. Whether it is a pat on the back or a shout out from the stands we know you believe in us and what we are doing.
  5. You believe in us. You help us find those qualities in ourselves that make it possible for us to succeed.
  6. You treat your extended family well. You are good to your brothers and sisters. You were a wonderful son to your parents and grandmother. You can talk to my father when he and I fail to communicate.
  7. You are careful with your words. Most of the time you think before engaging your lips…a very sexy quality in a man and one that I often lack!
  8. You have worked hard to keep people employed. I have always admired how you have done your upmost to keep your employees employed during tough economic times. I know how you worry about how the impact of unemployment will effect their families and do everything to protect them.
  9. You take care of the yard every week. Even though you didn’t want a dog you still pick up the poop…if that doesn’t say love than nothing does!
  10. You will iron my clothes if I am in a hurry and I ask. Now if I could just put you in an apron while doing it you would fulfill a major fantasy of mine!
  11. You are involved in many groups that help kids and people in need. That makes you admirable in my book.
  12. You have a spiritual side that I envy. I wish with all my heart I was on that ride with you.
  13. You are adventurous and willing to go that extra mile to peek around a corner to see what is there. Thank you for taking me around the bend with you.
  14. You like to travel. We have stumbled on weird places that have brought us so much laughter over the years. Remember the old swingers resort that Expedia sent us to or the goat grill in the backwoods of Yugoslavia? Those were some great times.
  15. You used to read a story to put our children to bed even though you were tired after a long day. I loved listening to you showed our kids you loved them and because you took the characters from the book into our bedroom. ‘nough said.
  16. You are balanced. Even though you have a company to run you still put us at the top of the list of things you have to do. That is sexy!
  17. You give respect to most everyone you meet. The ability to connect with so many people of diverse backgrounds and interests speaks volumes about what you are made of.
  18. You are good with our money. Thank goodness one of us is!
  19. You have a great sense of humor No one can make me laugh and lighten the load like you.
  20. You have good manners. I am waiting for that invitation to a White House  dinner so you can be my arm candy and make me look good with your ability to charm everyone you meet.
  21. You have shaped yourself by finding traits in others that you admire and then adapting and incorporating them into your life. I love how you have made other men your mentors, men like your Uncle and Andy, and were thankful to learn from them.
  22. You have a sense of gratitude. Nothing is worse than a pompous man. You thank those around you and lift them up while doing so.
  23. You have a positive attitude. You manage to enjoy the unexpected, even when it’s not what you wanted originally
  24. You have goals and ambition. Ambition leads to qualities such as discipline, creativity and persistence which all lead to success.
  25. You are comfortable in a variety of roles. You can be Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Friend, Boss, Trustee and you are comfortable in them and wear them well.
  26. You are wise. You learn not from the experience itself but from reflecting on the lessons that you learned from it. You also know how to balance common good with self interest.
  27. You try to do right by others.
  28. You often put others wants ahead of your own which make those others feel valued and important.
  29. You share your time, money and love with us and children around the world.
  30. You work hard at being a thoughtful and skillful lover putting my sexual needs first regardless of whether or not you get the dividend at the end.

Yes, there are also some important qualities that need to be on this list. Patience (Which you do have oodles of), compassion, bravery just to name a few. Did I say honesty? Oops…honesty! Yes, definitely honesty belongs on this list. But all in all, if every man was like B the world would be a better place!