Hollow-een For Some (But Not Others)

Taken, obviously, during our snowstorm of the month, and I was so busy trying to include the new bat on the fence that I didn’t do the cats by the mailbox any justice.

As a semi-reputable photojournalist, I recognized the moment when I saw it. But then the “semi” part kicked in, and instead I am going to have to use 1,000 words to paint the picture for you.

Oz and I have a get-to-work routine that really isn’t. Some days we walk here at home and drive to a parking lot a block or two from work. Some days we drive to the parking lot and then walk away from work a few blocks before heading in. Once we parked at Lake School, as we were routinely doing before the weather got hot last summer, but as any semblance of time management has slipped away, that was taking too long and we haven’t made it routinely back to our routine.

That leaves the other days, when we park at Dierdre and Bruce’s house and walk five whole blocks before getting to work. At lunch, we walk the five blocks back and drive home. I would like to find something that offered more exercise and somehow involved my bike, but most days this year making it to work at all feels like an accomplishment.

Halloween in downtown Gunnison is generally a Big Deal. Not necessarily beloved by all, including yours truly, but a Big Deal. The street is blocked off off by the police department, and enough kids for two Gunnisons fill it for two and a half hours after school going door to door to all the businesses. They come in swarms, they and their parents, many of whom seem even more excited than their kids at the chance to dress in costume.

New parents, so excited for their first Halloween, dress their unknowing and uncaring babies in snuggly onesies that look like bumblebees to kick off that family tradition where the parents help themselves to their children’s candy.

It’s a huge bumper-to-bumper event that didn’t seem remotely wise in the time of Corona, so it was cancelled. The chamber of commerce instead handed out Halloween pictures for businesses to put in their windows, and kids and their parents could, at their leisure any time this past week, mark down all their sightings and turn in their completed papers for a chance at a drawing sometime today.

The city’s recreation department ordered 700 bags from us and solicited donations to fill the bags with candy and toys. The participating businesses have their names printed on the bags, and it’s a clear sign of the times that there are only 10 businesses who made the $200-500 contribution. [Pat’s did, but only because we had a pile of leftover toys built up from previous Halloweens.]

Those are getting handed out to participants in today’s pumpkin patch, for which you had to make reservations in advance. Vann didn’t hear about it in time, so when he went to sign up daughter Mahthilda for it, all the spaces had been reserved. We got a handful of bags for sponsoring, so she still got her loot, such as it is.

But for Dierdre and Bruce (you thought I’d abandoned that completely, didn’t you?), it’s Halloween as usual, which means going all out on the yard decorations. And every year, “all out” gets more all out.

It started with two giant inflatable black cats whose heads turn back and forth. Then a dragon with a light-up belly landed on their roof, looming over the front door. This year those have been joined by a bat on the fence, a winged cat on the ground and another cat on the roof, plus something I just noticed hanging in a tree.

The other day, as Oz and I walked past the giant cats who hiss thanks to the air pumping them up, Oz was rather taken aback by one of the kitties and not sure whether he wanted to attack or run. Now that we’ve done it a few times he’s more likely to ignore them, but they still give him a little bit o’ the Halloween willies.

Yesterday, however, we came out of an alley near their house only to see a woman crouched down in front of the same cat that gives Oz fits. She seemed to be studying it very intently, which struck me as a trifle odd but okay for a minute or two. But she kept crouching, kept studying the cat. I thought maybe she was on her phone and had paused in a really uncomfortable position to carry on her conversation.

But — and feel free to use this as a metaphor for life — we kept walking and my perspective changed completely.

She wasn’t just a woman; she was a mom. The mother of a toddler, a toddler completely entranced by the big puffy black cat. That’s the photo I recognized as pure journalistic gold and still didn’t take, the backs of the two of them, facing intently into the cat that would have been looking right into the camera lens.

I did think about it, but whereas a reputable photojournalist would always have a camera within ready reach, the semi-reputable among us might have their hands full with dog leashes, magazines and the “man purse” with the zippered pocket containing the cell phone/poor excuse for a camera securely zippered closed.

I figured by the time I juggled everything in my hands, unzipped the camera, pushed my sunglasses down my nose so I could see the screen and tried to take a photo, the mother would have turned around to see what the strange man behind her was doing — and it just got more Halloweeny from there. So I passed on the photo of the month, very sad to be doing so because it would have been the best bit of photography you’ve seen in this blog possibly ever.

But it did cheer me considerably to see these two, enjoying Dierdre’s cats as perhaps no other passerby has, completely enthralled in their moment of happenstance.

I do have to confess that I did not miss at all the hoardes of children flocking downtown, but Gilly (still with us, at least for now) seemed terribly sad that it was such a warm, lovely day to be out in costume downtown and no kids in sight. I had to send a consolatory e-mail as well to Ranger Don, the man who volunteers to hand out our toys every year because everyone on staff refuses to participate in the chaos.

Don loves every minute of the downtown trick or treat, and he called a full month and a half in advance, very regretfully, to tell me he couldn’t participate this year because of health concerns. Yesterday I e-mailed to tell him it wasn’t so much that he missed out as everyone did.

Or almost everyone: Gilly, still rather melancholy that her carefully-tended flowers out by the front door had finally given up the Halloween ghost, found two small children out with their guardian, dressed as dinosaurs. We still had two unclaimed treat bags from the city, so Gilly got to parcel those out to the young dinos. Treats, no tricks. (Although the bags did contain tangerines, which to my mind is more of a cruel trick than a treat.)

As for me, I got to go through my toy assortment — I do like toys — and hand them off to the city; did not have to deal with the downtown overload; no longer live in the Palisades where I imagine there will be more trick-or-treaters than there should be tonight — and I got to see a toddler and her mom take in the real meaning of Halloween: giant inflatable black cats.

Sounds like a win to me.

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