Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Between the lines

The broad supermarket windows are papered over with Halloween coloring-contest entries, and while the clerk bags my spinach, EggBeaters, bagel, frozen yogurt, I listen to several little kids bouncing up and down in front of the display and claiming their own handiwork. "That's mine," one girl says, glowing. "Ten years old," she emphasizes, underscoring a talent she hopes we realize is beyond her years, and when I collect my groceries and go over to look, I see that she has written the same next to her name on the form. Maddy! 10 years old! Maddy has embellished the line drawing of trick-or-treaters further by inscribing one of their plain paper bags with "BOO!" and some possibly bat-like squiggles in dark-green felt-tip. And time obligingly collapses, thirty years accordioning down so that for a second I can feel it too: that pride and validation, the fifteen minutes of fame that come from seeing your careful crayoned submission scotch-taped above the rack of Presto Logs and the food-drive barrel.

Outside half a dozen kids are swarming over the hay-bale corral of pumpkins in front of the store, selecting the perfect victim for a jack-o-lantern. I glance at them and one of their weary dads looks so much like my uncle that I do a double-take right there in the parking lot, almost speak to him before realizing, stupidly, that no, he looks three decades older than that nowadays, and don't we all. It's his birthday today, and my mother's too. Happy birthday, Unc. Happy birthday, Mom.

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