(A Loolie tale)
Pinterest image from Teresasews (available on Etsy)
Loolie has old photographs spread on the big trestle table in her dining room when I stop for a quick visit, on my way home from yet another conference. They are shots of her and Kerri on Hallowe’en–which is also Kerri’s birthday. Lools has always thrown a big masquerade birthday bash, and their costumes were the wonderful centerpieces at each event. They have been Snow White and the Wicked Stepmother; they have been Lizzie Borden and her mama, complete with axe. They have been Lorelei and Rory. They have been any combination of mother and daughter pairs in between, from sweet to scary to outright crazy.
The parties always serve up hilarity and wonderful food, goofy games and funny tokens. They’ve become an expected event. But this year, Kerri, away in Cleveland at grad school, busy and immersed in studies and new friends–THIS year, Kerri is not coming home. This year, Kerri has a boyfriend, Joe,–and a date that conflicts with her mother’s party.
The Ghost of Hallowe’ens Past is haunting Loolie big-time this year.
“I’m putting together a box of goodies for Kerri,” she tells me, ” a ‘BOO-ti-ful Box.’ Of course, I’ll send gift cards–that’ll be the BOO-ty.”
Loolie, looking down suddenly, slides the photos around on the table.
“It better,” she says darkly, “be the ONLY booty that girl is shaking this year.”
I think of Kerri, 23 and on her own for the first time in a wonderful but somewhat sheltered life. I think of Loolie, simmering in her own worry 200 miles away. They’ll work it out, I know they will; but I want so much for them to be on the other side of this necessary wrench of separation.
“Tell me about Joe,” I say. Loolie snorts.
“JOE!” she simpers, mockingly. “‘He’s such a wonderful teacher! The kids all love him!’ I am sick unto death of hearing how wonderful JOE is. Joe damn well better appreciate how wonderful KERRI is.”
She slides me a photo of a young man with dark curly hair, glasses, and a round face.
“Look at that baby face!” she sputters. “He better not be an immature pup. He better not hurt my girl.”
“Are you going to have a party anyway?” I ask, just to divert, and her face gets a little cloudy.
“I don’t know,” she says. “I should, I know. I may be,” and she raises one eyebrow in my direction, “being a little bit–hmmm–childish about this whole thing. I’m thinking about a party.” She looks down at her hands, fingers splayed out among the photos of yesteryear. “Meantime,” she says, “if you can think of anything to add to the BOO-tiful box, give a holler.”
I leave not long after, wanting to get home before the early sunset.
TJ, Peggy, Jeanne, and I, knowing how hard this first big tradition change is for Loolie, get into the spirit of the Bootiful Box and send contributions and suggestions. TJ knits up a pair of orange and black slipper socks, which she bills as BOO-ties. At my favorite used book store, I find a beautiful hardcover volume–walking tours of Cleveland, with glossy photography and tips about museums and libraries, galleries and gift shops, and descriptions of neighborhoods worth a visit. A BOO-k, of course; I send that off to Loolie.
She texts me back a picture of her progress. Everything is wrapped in newspaper and tied with black grosgrain ribbons. She’s made orange felt flowers to tuck into each knotted bow. “Had to reach for something edible,” she types, “so I’m making peanut BOOtter cookies. Her favorite, though.”
She has the gift cards and books and booties, a box of festive kleenex (for BOO-ger season, she explains), and a package of those caps kids used to put in toy guns (“BOO-m!” writes Loolie. I didn’t even know they still sold those things.) The photo shows me the package is getting full, but Loolie says it just doesn’t quite feel DONE.
She buys an old tin at the Goodwill store, scrubs it, and paints a Hallowe’en motif on the lid. She lines it with waxed paper and piles in a fresh batch of peanut butter cookies. She makes a card with a photo of Kerri’s face peeking out from a ghostie body. “Happy birthday to my BOO-tiful daughter,” it reads.
She decoupages the mailing box with torn newsprint. She prints out a special, spooky mailing label.
I don’t hear from her for a day and a half, then she calls. She sounds cheerful and delighted with herself and the world.
“I found the last thing to put in Kerri’s package,” she says, “a bottle of booze. Here, sending you a picture right NOW.”
My phone dings and I hold it it out to see a picture of an old olive oil bottle that looks to be chock-full of slips of paper that boldly say, “BOO!”
“Bottle of BOOS!” chortles Loolie. Get it??”
She goes on to tell me that she’s decided to hold her party, after all. What the heck, she says, Hallowe’en being on a Saturday night, it seems a shame to waste the opportunity.
Even though I won’t be able to attend, I am so glad. It will be fun for Loolie and fun for her guests, and I am glad I won’t be spending the evening wondering if my old friend is sitting in the dark with a glass of wine, yearning. This is very good.
We talk about her decorating scheme, and what she’ll wear (she’s thinking something Game of Thrones-y), and then she slides in a question, oh, so nonchalantly.
“And did I tell you,” she asks, “that Kerri and Joe are coming to visit on Sunday?”
Nope, I’m pretty sure I would have remembered the news that Kerri was bringing Joe (ah, Joe–you innocent lamb!) home to meet her mama. That’s news of import, and so is Kerri’s costume decision.
Kerri is dressing, Loolie tells me, as a female Roman centurion. She’ll craft a flowing toga and sport a laurel leaf wreath and wrap the sides of her chair to be a chariot. And, Loolie tells me with great glee, the chariot will be pulled by Loolie’s friend Patsy and by Joe, sharing a horse costume. If I wonder, she tells me slyly, why Joe is suddenly in her good graces–well, here’s the reason. It’s not every day a guy willingly offers to be a horse’s ass for her daughter.
We say goodbye a little later, with Loolie promising to forward me the photos that Kerri has promised to text her on Hallowe’en night. But I can already picture the girl, face shining, adroitly sheeted in her makeshift toga, waving her bottle of boos and grinning at friends. They might be far apart on her birthday, Kerri and Loolie, but there’s no doubting their closeness.
You’re a good mom, Loolie, I think to myself. Inspired, I head to the basement to dig out some plastic pumpkins. I’m suddenly feeling a little festive myself.