A Most Unhappy Day

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For any of us kids growing up on Flamingo Street, there were lots of happy days with just a few unhappy ones. What was the unhappiest day of all for me?

It was a tie between the day after Christmas and the first day of school. The former meant no more presents until our birthday, almost five months away, and the latter meant no more freedom until school was out again, a whole nine months away.

As an adult, that day has changed – now it’s the day after Halloween. But what makes my unhappiest day so, well, unhappy? I’ll give you a hint – it’s a whole lotta work.

Think the holiday season starts with Thanksgiving? Think again. Around our house, the holiday season starts as soon as Halloween ends. There’s so much to do it’s gonna be hard to get it all in just one column, but I’ll give it a try.

Before we can get started setting up for Thanksgiving, we must begin the Halloween cleanup — except I can’t start on that yet — gotta finish this column first.

An early morning trip to the giant hardware store with the orange roof to buy storage containers for giant spiders and decorations was in order. It was still dark out as I took the last turn towards the hardware store – then I saw it. A beacon on top of the hill, gleaming so brightly its light spilled out onto the street below. Illuminating the inside of my car, the amber light filled me with warmth. The new coffee shop with the green roof was finally open and beckoned for me to come inside! But, staying on task (a rare thing for me), I resisted its pull and drove right on past to the hardware store’s parking lot.

After literally walking into the sliding doors because they didn’t actually slide open, I realized the store wasn’t yet open. Seems someone forgot about the time change. That’s how I found myself enjoying the ambience of our new coffee shop for the next hour.

A hot drink and two refills later, I made it back to the hardware store, and soon my car was filled with storage containers. Heading home for the big Halloween cleanup, I remembered we needed a few things from the grocery store and pulled into the parking lot.

Lucky for me I did because all the candy was on sale! A bunch of bananas, one gallon of milk, and four large grocery bags of candy later, I was on my way back to the house – until I realized I was almost out of gas. Luckily for me, the gas station was right next to the post office. We needed a book of stamps. Never too early to start sending those Christmas cards. And yes, I know the grocery store sells stamps, but I had already left.

Leaving the post office, The Wife called asking if I could pick her up a box of Christmas blend coffee. It was back to the coffee shop with the green roof on top of the hill. Not only did I get her a case, but like the good husband I am, I also got the last two pumpkin scones of the season. Then it was back to the giant hardware store to swap out my car full of storage containers. I’d forgotten that The Wife had mentioned they should be clear. The ones I picked out were black and orange.

It had taken almost three hours, but I finally made it back to the house and started the task of taking down all the decorations. Here are a few things I’ve learned from Halloween 2020.

Disassembling a twelve-foot, free-standing skeleton named Fred and finding room for him in the basement takes more time than it did putting him up on the front yard. Having five six-foot spiders are four too many. Spider webs all over the bushes, mailbox, and lawn furniture are much harder to clean up than it was to put out. A single carload of clear, plastic storage containers is not enough when you’ve been buying Halloween decorations for an entire month.

It had taken all day, but by dinner time, Fred, all his giant spider friends, and our new upside-down dead guy, were all neatly stored in the basement. As I closed the door and turned away, it was truly the unhappiest day. So why was I smiling? I was thinking about all that has happened over the last four weeks.

For the last month, our two granddaughters painted sixteen pumpkins plus selected all the decorations and helped put them up inside and outside our house. They stuffed sandwich bags full of candy and filled four huge bowls. On Halloween night, they were dressed by 4 p.m. as Iron Man and the Good Witch, then later switched to being twin Grinches.

Together we sat on the front porch loveseat waiting to greet all the kids from the neighborhood. Sipping hot cocoa, we enjoyed seeing all the many costumes creep across our yard, illuminated by the full moon on the clear night. By 8 o’clock, the giant blow-up spider was turned off and baths were started, and soon after, our little angels in their Grinch PJ’s were asleep in their beds.

The unhappiest day of the year is when Halloween finally ends, and the clean-up begins.

So, what is the happiest day of the year? For me and The Wife, it’s any day we get to spend with our granddaughters. And this year, that day was the entire month of October.     

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]