Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween, Ghosts and Cracker Jack



I may be the only person on the planet who doesn’t like Halloween. Not one single thing about it. Not the black and orange color scheme that take up several isles in the stores for weeks ahead of November 31th and is draped around neighborhood yards. Not the greedy little kids who when you say “take one” they take one handful. Not the costumes that way too many adults seem to think are fun to dress up in and scare the heck out of me when they show up at my door. Not the Zombie Walks held downtown that grows larger every year. Not the candy itself that puts me on a sugar binge that lasts until New Year’s Resolutions are made. Is there such a thing as a Halloween Grinch like there is for Christmas? Google has an answer: Yes, there is and my picture appeared when I did the search.

So why did I go to a lecture billed as Ghost Stories? They weren’t ordinary ghost stories. These were legends and spooky mysteries that center around iconic buildings in our downtown buildings. I’ve seen this speaker before and she's good, no matter the topic. She gave an entertaining account of all the tragic deaths of people in those buildings who supposedly wanted to hang around earth to haunt the places. Although I’m not fully vested in the premise of souls sticking around, I do think my husband’s did just that for a couple of weeks. Everything has a scientifically based explanation; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it to explain why my wedding kept falling off the bulletin board where I'd hung it on a pin.

When I was a kid I liked Halloween and there was one house around the corner from me that we always hit before the rest. The elderly couple who lived there gave out boxes of Cracker Jack and I still have the plastic prizes that came in those early boxes. I’ve added hundreds to my collection since then including a tin horse drawn wagon circa 1916 that I paid a small fortune to acquire. That’s a different story for a different day but in case you’re curious I still love the collection. When you collect anything you learn interesting facts. For example I learned about how the Cracker Jack’s waxed box was a pioneer in food packaging that revolutionized the food industry and I learned how baseball became connected to their product. The story behind the latter is that a vaudeville entertainer who’d never been to a ball game wrote a song on a train and that song---Take me out to the Ball Game---with its iconic line “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack" was a godsend to the company’s sales. And before you ask, it didn’t come from any deal or compensation the entertainer got. 

Throughout 1914 and 1915 the company offered baseball cards in Cracker Jack boxes and a complete set today is worth over a $100,000. Needless to say, I don’t have a set or even a single card. If I did it would go up for sale so fast my nose would bleed. I do have several sets of the replica cards the company put in boxes (1991 through 1993) for their 100th anniversary which aren’t worth enough to tempt me to sell---a set might buy me a nice steak dinner. I also don’t have any of the forerunners to the toys put in boxes in between 1910 and 1912 which were coupons that when you collected enough could be redeemed for things like silverware, watches and sewing machines. I wish I did. They are rarer than bunions on fresh water fish.

Oh, yes, I do have Halloween to thank with my obsession with Cracker Jack. That and the fact that in the early years of being with my husband we went to a lot of antique malls and flea markets where he often found pricey things to add to his collections and, as a joke, I decided to add to my childhood C.J. toys and wooden nickel collections which at the time I could pick up for under a buck a piece. It was a game we played that took the thrill of the hunt to a whole new level. As my knowledge grew and the years went by, of course, so did my willingness to pay more. In the meantime I had a lot fun teasing Don that I could spend two hours at a flea market, spend $1.00-$2.00 and have as much fun as his $100-$200 hunt.

So ya, I’m probably more attached to my Cracker Jack premiums than I should be and it does bother me that I’m at an age where I should let go. But most of those little toys represents good times spent with my soulmate and I still can’t let go of those memories attached. And what would I do if I downsized my entire life yet again to live a minimalist life-style for another five, ten or twenty years? Stare at the sterile walls wishing I could buy back my memory triggers? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust but in between I collected too much. ©

27 comments:

  1. I used to like Halloween, more for my kids than for myself, I suppose. I liked to see my kids delighted. I didn't mind having some candy around for my sweet tooth, either. I had a closet full of all types of holiday decor, mostly Halloween and Christmas. It's all gone now, I don't miss it.

    Wish had my old Cracker Jack prizes, but they went the way of all things. I remember a porcelain thimble and a tiny porcelain cup and things gradually went to plastic, and then the insult of paper and cardboard.

    Funny thing about getting old, the more you downsize the more there is to sort through and give away.

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    1. Some of the old prized like you porcelain thimble and cup were so cute! I have a couple porcelains but not many.

      I used to enjoy watching my husband pass out candy. He works nights most of his adult life and never got to do it until after his stroke. Halloween always reminds me of that.

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  2. Oz has taken up Halloween, but I don’t like it. Call me a Halloween Scrooge, but I think it glorified begging. ~ Libby

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    1. I wondered if other countries do Halloween. I liked it better when it was Halloween just for children. The 30 year olds don't want to grow up now. I had around 80 come to the door but only 10 were taller than me, so I shouldn't be complaining. The little ones were cute and mostly polite.

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  3. Boooooooooo! Well I use to enjoy Halloween when I was young. Now, it's for the kids and I mean kids, These older ones that come to the door and expect more then I give, that bothers me. My grandchildren use to come to our home to get their special bag of goodies, no longer come. They have to go out with their friends but my wife still brings their special bag. I see if they want the bag, come and see us. Even if it's just for a few minutes.
    I believe in spirits, ghosts, angels and all of that. I also believe in other worlds and other people. If God can believe in us, He can believe in others. That's just me.
    Now this thing about Cracker Jacks. I really never got use to Cracker Jacks but I'm glad you did. I like cruising. ha,ha,ha. I had to say that.
    Enjoy your day Jean, my friend. Keep warm.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Little kids do grow away from wanting to see grandparents on Halloween. I suppose that could be a good sign that they are making friends and feeling part of a group.

      I do hate seeing the teenagers come to the door in large gangs. They actually scare me. What a great way for them to push past you and ransack a house and with the masks they wear you could never ID them.

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  4. I'm right there with you: I really truly dislike Halloween, especially how it has been co-opted by adults who seem to use it for an excuse to get hammered and wear abbreviated versions of normal uniforms.

    I have my own odd Cracker Jack story. I once had to be taken to the ER thanks to struggling to open the three-pack of Cracker Jacks. Remember how they were held together with that strong red cellophane tape that had no visible end? I picked at it, got a bit of it loose, and then decided I'd just wrench the boxes apart. Nope. Ended up with a badly sprained wrist. The ER staff were very amused; my parents, not so much.

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    1. I laughed at your Cracker Jack story. I thought it was going to end with you getting one of those prizes caught in your throat.

      Last night an adult was running up and down the street in a clown costume. A very good costume. I plain don't like adults who cover their faces for any reason. Getting scared or scaring others is not funny to me.

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  5. I love halloween and so enjoy seeing the kids. However I am sick so I for the first time in my 61 years missed halloween. :-(

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  6. As an adult, I have mostly lived in rural areas so I have missed out on the trick or treaters. I usually get lots of quarters just in case but they rarely make it out this far. With the quarters, at least, left overs aren't fattening. Wish it weren't so but at least I'm always ready for the car wash.

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    1. Coins are always a good back up plan at my house and I've had to use them once or twice. One year we got over 150 kids.

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  7. While we don't go hog wild with decorating and costumes, I do enjoy seeing other's creativity! Not one here at the condo. Last year in Maui ... 400+! Most parents came with their kids and many were in costumes that coordinated with their kids. Very cute.

    My brother would go ALL OUT and turn his garage into a haunted house. It was the talk of his town!

    Me? I'm all in for Christmas ... although we don't set out anything until after Thanksgiving!

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    1. 400! That could get expensive. Did the parents have bags for candy too? A few did here but most adults in costumes didn't expect candy.

      With little kids in the house like you have, I can see going all out for Christmas. That makes it more fun.

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    2. My Maui neighbor said 500 visitors this year! My tenant did NOT hand out candy. It is spendy (thank goodness for Costco!) but I get a lot of pleasure from it. Especially on an island where you sit outside (with a friend or two!). No adults asked for candy!

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    3. That's is mind boggling! I would like it better if I could sit outside in plain view. My doorway is sheltered and anyone could push their way inside and no one would see them.

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  8. Well, after you read my blog post, you know you aren't the only Halloween Hater on the planet--or even in the State. LOL
    I used to have a little tin box full of Cracker Jack toys. Don't know where it is now--I still have the box, but the contents are gone.

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    1. I was really glad when I read your post about not liking Halloween either.

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  9. Bunions on fresh water fish?!?
    I don't like Halloween. I'm tired of commercialization and many holidays fit into that category for me. The older I get the more I am aware of how we were all so affected by advertising. We were discussing this evening how we made tuna fish casserole in junior high school and I began to wonder if Campbell soup company might have donated the cans of mushroom soup to the schools so that we could all then go home and tell our mothers that was what we needed to buy.
    Avoidance is our policy here- we were not at home on Halloween. We live in the countryside and probably wouldn't have had any visitors but it was more pleasant to go to the concert!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I would go some place on Halloween except I don't drive after dark anymore and driving on the streets where kids are running wild is dangerous around here.

      According to any article I just found tuna casserole has been around since 1930. I was hoping to find out how it got in our schools. I didn't but what I did find was interesting. https://www.tastecooking.com/brief-history-tuna-casserole/ Now I want to make some!

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  10. I’ve always liked Cracker Jacks but only had them occasionally as a child. Had to part with things when I was young when we moved distances several times. Perhaps that’s why I’ve retained things since which I really should downsize now.

    I, too, think Halloween is for young children. Adults seem to be taking over more children’s holidays encouraged by commercial interests which I think is unfortunate. Costumes have become more elaborate and usually are purchased now rather than created more simply at home. We haven’t had trick or treaters since no longer neighborhood children beginning a few years before my husband died. People began having private parties in each other’s homes plus our city has a haunted house and goodies at our central area park attracting many kids and their parents so don’t have safety concerns. So, I haven’t had issue for years.

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    1. It used to be a rite of passage, to be old enough not to go trick-or-treating anymore. It meant we weren't little kids anymore. At our house that was twelve. The holiday has become so commercialized!

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  11. I like Halloween. Probably because it comes in my favorite season, fall. I enjoy the decorations, the weather and the color on the trees. It's all kind of a package deal for me. I am surprised at how many of your readers dislike it. The number of trick-or-treaters has dwindled to almost nothing, so trick-or-treating door-to-door is all but gone in our area. And there's always the option to turn off your lights. Then they pass you by.

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    1. I was at a Red Hat Society tea and one woman reported that she averages 400 kids! Another said she gets 200. They both live in small towns. They started coming at 5:30 here this year, before a porch light is even needed or on. I turned mine off at 7:30 because I couldn't see any kids on the street and I don't like sitting next to the door twiddling my thumbs waiting until the official 8:00 cut off. I don't blame parents for taking their kids a half hour before it's official because it's still daylight out.

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  12. Thanks for the link. And there is an article in Wikipedia!
    Leze

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  13. Oh, I have such fond memories of Cracker Jacks when I was a kid! They had great prizes, even in the 50's....but when my boys came along, the prizes were awful and the candied corn even worse! I'm glad you still have your collection. Down sizing only goes so far...

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    1. Funny thing is I really haven't had a lot of Cracker Jack over the years. Well, until the replica baseball cards came out and then I bought it like crazy to get my three sets completed.

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