Tag Archives: Rituals

The Sunny Side of Darkness


Halloween has taken such a beating it’s barely recognizable these days.

I have great childhood memories of Halloween.  I was one of four children and mom helped us make our costumes every year.  We were ghosts, cats, superman, whatever we could dream up and put together with a minimal amount of sewing.  One year my brother begged and begged to go as a gorilla.  Of course, he wanted to use mom’s fur coat as his costume.  That didn’t happen.

As teenagers, he and I rigged up a great scare experience for trick-or-treaters.  We lived in a two story house.  My parents’ bathroom window was right over the front porch steps.  There was a small roof ledge there.  So we made a ghost and tied a rope around its neck, long enough for the ghost to hang almost to the top of the front steps.  Then we brought the portable record player into the bathroom.  We hooked up a small speaker and put that on the roof ledge just outside the window.  Mom had a great Halloween sound effects album – creaking door noises, moans, screams, etc.

With the lights out, record player on, and the window open we waited for our prey.  As little children would come up the front walkway, we’d put the needle on the album, turn up the volume and then, just as they got to the first step, we’d throw the ghost out the window and it would land right in front of them.  They’d scream and turn and run back to their parents waiting at the curb (nursing their mixed drinks).  We had a blast!  I think we had candy left in the bowl that year.

I have a co-worker who loves Halloween and she has gone all out this year decorating her office.  As she explained to me when I asked her, “Why?” – her home is in the woods and she has a long dark driveway.  Her children are grown and out of the house and no one comes for trick or treating anymore.  So she is celebrating at work.

There are spiders, 18 skulls of various shapes and sizes, gravestones, bats, ravens, a hanging lady, webbing, and scary people pictures on the walls.  Best of all, there are 3 cauldrons of candy – one with candy corn, one with mints and one with mini candy bars.  Staff love it!  They have brought their children and grandchildren by to see the decorations.  Coworkers who never poked their heads in her doorway come by to say “hello’ and get a piece of candy.  It has been a much needed morale booster.

Do you do something fun or crazy for Halloween?  Share!  We still have time left for fun before November 1.

Friendship and Food

Sullivan's Island 2012

Marfe, Melanie, Amy, me and Carol

Every year I get together with four of my dearest friends from college for a long weekend of catching up.  Scattered from Chicago to Vermont, and Alexandria to North and South Carolina,  we’ve managed to carve out 4 days a year for over 25 years.  We descend on the Sullivan’s Island, SC home of one of our group in late spring.  Sunny but not-too-hot days are perfect for whatever we may want to do; this year it was kayaking and a palm tree painting adventure.  The warm, slow evenings are our favorite, because this is when we drink wine, talk a lot and cook together.

Historically a bunch of planner types (we have lightened up over time), we usually pick a theme for the food fest before we arrive.  However, this year we decided on a smorgasbord approach – bring a recipe or two you haven’t made and we’ll experiment on each other.  With enough variety on hand you can toss out the losers.  Drink enough wine and it all tastes good!

Dinner is served on the second floor piazza as darkness settles over the marsh.  Music, laughter and the noises of insect nightlife can go on for hours.  Old memories are summoned and new ones are made.  The still waters of long standing friendships get deeper.

One of our all time favorites was the coconut cake, delicious on a warm summer evening (or any time of year).  Invite someone over and enjoy!

Coconut Cake

3   12-ounce packages of frozen coconut

2 cups of sugar

2 cups of sour cream

Mix well and chill overnight.

1 box yellow butter cake mix (a bit better if you add about ½ tsp. almond flavoring to batter)

Bake the cake according to the directions in two 9” layer pans.  Split the layers.  Cover with icing made day before.  Gently wrap and put back in the frig for 3 days before cutting.

If you can’t wait 3 days, that’s ok!  Just give it a little more time in the frig so the icing really soaks in.

What Knits Us Together


I went to a funeral service last week for Larry, the father-in-law of a good friend.  It was a pretty typical funeral service with one exception:  the folding and presentation of the US flag.

Larry was a World War II veteran.  I’ve been to a couple of funeral services for WWII veterans, but this is the first time I have witnessed this presentation in person.

Because of the heat, the family chose to have the commitment, usually done at the graveside, inside the church as the closing of the service.  After the last prayer, the ministers remained silent as a naval officer in dress whites walked down the center aisle and stood at the head of the casket, where the flag’s canton of blue containing the stars lay.  He saluted.

Then came a sailor, also in dress whites, down the center aisle.  He took his place at the foot of the casket, at the end of the red and white stripes.  He saluted.  It was totally silent in the church.

They grasped the ends of the flag that covered Larry’s casket and stepped to the front side of the casket.  They folded the flag once; then again.  Then with purpose and care, the sailor began folding the flag in a triangular pattern, moving toward the officer.

As he got close to the field of blue and stars, he stopped, clearly unhappy with the work he had done. He unfolded the flag twice.  He gently but precisely worked the fabric to get the stars aligned in the proper way.  Then he refolded the triangles.  The officer tucked in the end of the flag, just so.  The sailor then held the folded flag for the officer’s final inspection, at which point the officer saluted.  He then took the flag from the sailor, who saluted, turned to face the congregation and quietly strode back down the center aisle.

The officer took the folded flag and walked over to Larry’s widow and family.  He removed his hat, leaned over to present her with the flag, and spoke a message to her on behalf of the President.  He put his hat back on, faced the congregation, saluted and then made his way back down the center aisle.

To be a witness to such a tribute was deeply moving. We are a more informal society these days; in some situations, this has been a good thing.  But it was inspiring to see this formal act of respect and remembrance.  I appreciate that the sailor cared enough to redo the folds, to do it “right”, because “doing it right” matters.

Do you observe any rituals?  If so, hold them dear.  Take the time and make the effort to continue.  Make sure the children, the grandchildren, the in-laws are a part of it, even if they whine and complain.  If you don’t have one, start one.  Our rituals are part of what knits us together as a family, a membership, a nation.

And to the two naval representatives who gave of themselves in service to our country and to Larry and his family that day, thank you.