Goblin days

Page One hundred eight

Thursday 28 October 2010       tesseracts in Turners

Oh long ago, somewhere in the mists of primeval something, I gave birth on Sunday 28 October 1979 to a female infant. The only such creature I’ve ever produced. I did not give birth without a whole sideshow of western medical assistance, I’m sorry to say, and even that circus nearly failed to do its job correctly. Enough to say in this spot that I don’t have particularly joyful memories of this birth.

So let’s go to later, which is my focus in this post. Later meaning one year later, and the four years that followed that one. Because this child had a birthday so close to Halloween, I, the Halloween-loving mother, couldn’t resist making the yearly birthday party a Halloween party too. I had felt in my life the lack of festive enough birthday parties. In saying this I don’t mean to paint my own mother as a shirker. She had three kids with three birthdays every year, and she was a person who was not terribly domestic in some things. We had small parties with a few kids, some pin the tail on the donkey and drop the clothespins into the milk bottle, cake and ice cream, and that’s enough. They weren’t horrible parties, by any means, but something particular in Asperger’s-creative-sensitive me had always felt let down somehow, felt that birthday parties should be a bigger deal.


So what did I do for my little one’s parties? I went berserk, of course. I was poor and couldn’t hire clowns and jugglers and storytellers, but I made the biggest frigging bash I could with the little bit of money I had, and with help from relatives and parents of little guests.

I’d start in September, or even late August, buying things. Napkins, tablecloth, candy bags, plates and cups all matching, all in the same Halloween theme. Then balloons. And party favors. And ingredients for the treats to be made. And candy. And sewing the costume for a couple of years. Guest list. Halloweeny invitations.

The guest list was always a long one: relatives, neighbors, and others whom we knew out in the world. Thirty, forty people always, because most of the adults stayed for the party. I meant it that way, as a family party. Almost every adult would bring something to add to the food supply. These events went on for three, four, five hours before the last guest departed. It was a feeding frenzy that seemed to be appreciated by all. There were no planned games: after the gift opening and cake and ice cream, the kids were turned out into the yard to run around, play on the swings and big wheels and whatever, and then my father would hitch his large barrow to his riding mower and give all the kids “tractor rides” around the neighborhood. There was much picture-taking, much shrieking and laughter, great costumes, a little crying, and lots of sugar-highs. All kids went home with little Halloween bags full of more sugar.

When each of these five parties for the first five birthdays was over, I was exhausted and sick and broke. But satisfied, in a way that’s hard to describe. Satisfied that there was plenty of food and plenty of balloons and plenty of play and plenty of presents. Satisfied that I’d extended myself to make my kid’s birthday a very special bash of a day. Satisfied that, though I was a single mother and had little money, my parents and I together could make a big event of this fatherless child’s birthday.

Last year the fatherless child’s father, who denied being her father till the day he died, committed suicide. His parents had recently died as well, and now my daughter, this child who never got one hug or one present or one kind word from her father, will inherit a hefty check from her father’s family’s assets. Once in a very great while, what goes around comes around. She’ll have something from her father at last, something that will help her out in her life. Something I never had the finances to give: a big check. And she got the phone call informing her of all this from his family’s lawyer on October 14 last year, two weeks before her birthday. All unknowing, her father at last gave her a birthday present.

And the parties? If we had continued to live there with my parents, I’d have gone on giving those Halloween bashes until child said she wanted something different. Nevermind exhaustion and sickness and expense. There weren’t too many times in the year when I could do something really shining like that. And I find that as the years have passed, every October I think of those parties and miss them. Miss the time when I could make a shining day for my kid. Miss the costumes and tractor rides and happy shrieking. Miss my father. Miss his house.

She’s 31 today, and I have less money than ever, can’t spend on the birthday the way I did in those days. I console myself with the memory of the five big bashes long ago in the temporal, autumnal mists.

(part of the book Being Toward Death)

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Frohen Geburtstag



 (poem and crow from greeting card; doll at www.signals.com)



Page One hundred six                                                                                                 

Turners Fails


“And my soul from out that shadow… Shall be lifted – nevermore!”
                                                                   ~~  Poe



For decades, October was one of my three favorite months. That began to change a bit in 1993, with the death of one of my cats. October was greatly darkened for me in that year, but I had a whole twelve months to wrestle with that, and when October 1994 arrived, I was ready to love it again; if not to full capacity, then at least pretty close.

And then another cat died. The second one hit me even harder than the first. October suddenly felt like some kind of a curse I couldn’t erase from the calendar and have done with. When the last few days of September came around in 1995, I felt October anxiety creeping in. But it was all right that year. Not until 1998 did the October curse rear its head again, and it was another cat. Mauled to death by a dog on Halloween night. It’s a long, sordid story, which I’ll no doubt write more about in another place (it’s yet another event brought about wholly by ignorance and ugliness of certain denizens of Turners Falls).

In 1996 a rabbit who was honorarily part of our family, vanished. And then 1999. Two animals  dead in a week, a rabbit and a guinea pig. October 2001 another rabbit. October 2002 another cat. I had so many animals in my first 55 years that I’m sure there were many other October deaths that didn’t glue onto my memory cells, but once I did start having them stick there, October became, gradually over nine years, an anchor around my neck.

And also in October ’98 was the return to Turners Flails, on Sunday the 11th. Moving to this wasteland for the second time. I and my animals had escaped for 13 months, back to the east, back to my home, and I had wanted very much, once having quit this place, to stay quit. But I couldn’t find a place I could afford out there, and my daughter found one in the right price-range here,  and very much against my will and against my fears of the crud in this town, we were back here again.

There were some good October memories, to be sure: the birth of some birds in 1994 and some rabbits in 1996, and my daughter’s birthday every year too. But as the number of October deaths mounted, the dread of it did too.

No animals of mine — that I know of — have died in October since 2002. But, there are eleven animals who were stolen from me in 2008 whose death dates I’m not allowed to know, and there could certainly be an October involved somewhere in that nasty scenario.


All of which brings me to October now, and the two before this one that I spent with my life and my way of life ravaged, without my animals and without large pieces of myself. This is now the third October spent that way, and the unbelievable weight that October puts on my heart increases every year that I live it as someone very different from the person I was for 55 years.

October 2008, my first after the ravaging, I lived outdoors in this hellhole commonly referred to as a town. I’ve discussed this elsewhere in these blogs, and will no doubt do so again, because the sheer cussed meanness of the fact that absolutely no one in this phony Christian town took me in and tried to help me continues to turn to bile in my throat. October 2009 I lived in a rented bedroom in Greenfield. October 2010 I’m in Turners again, waking and sleeping yet again in the town where I had my animals, this time indoors, this time with a rental unit of my own again after two years of no such thing, and a rental unit so tiny and so screechingly aggravating to my claustrophobia that I can by no means apply the word “apartment” to it.

I’m still the ghost, and finally we arrive at the right month for ghosts. I haunt the pathways of my memories. I walk in tears past various places where my animals and I once lived. I walk the canal that I walked with my cats for years, and walk alone: a ghost among many smaller ghosts joining me in that place. I walk the riverbank that was once the nature spot of me and my dogs the same way. I walk and haunt in a strange mixture of joy and gripping sadness. Joy that I can feel us, feel our walks together, feel our shared lives, so strongly in these places. And the shattering when I look about me and see no one there. I abhor the people in this town, and yet cannot leave it. My heart isn’t ready (will it be ready ever) to leave the places where I lived and walked and shared life with my truest fellow creatures: my animals.

October 2010 is a heavier, sadder, bleaker October than I’ve ever known. I can’t describe that anguish of the heart to you. It’s too hard for me to pin down accurately with words. You would have to have had a comparable loss, and a comparable level of cruelty from other people, to know inside you what I’m talking about.  

The last word, as the first, is for Poe:                                                                                    

“Is there – is there balm in Gilead?…

Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’

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(blank books and oak necklace at www.gaelsong.com. Leaves are real, from a special tree. Pumpkins and raven from greeting cards.)