Here Be Mobsters: 13 Ways of Looking at New Jersey, Part 2

November 2nd, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized

Lady Lasagna costume, Dosi USA Inc

Lady Lasagna costume, Dosi USA Inc

All Is Quiet on All Saint’s Day. You wouldn’t have confused our Maplewood street for Greenwich Village on Sunday night, but the kids gave it their all. There wasn’t anything much scarier than the house down the block, decorated with a crossover SUV artfully arranged to look like it had crashed into a port-a-john and killing the skeleton within it. (No blood; plenty of dry ice.) Nora chose to ring in All Hallow’s Eve dressed as a bat, and no question she was a lot cuter than the actual dead bat I’d found on the floor of our basement a year earlier, reporting to Rachel: “Well, the good news is, it’s not a mouse.”

The evening began as stock-photo-perfect: dozens of kids and parents, nobody getting hurt, the sky darkening into an authentically spooky pink-streaked indigo. Nora wore her colors (well… black) proudly for her first Halloween of real significance, joining her next-door neighbors, Strawberry Shortcake and a bumblebee, and a girl from down the block, iCarly. I nodded and laughed at this one, feeling like President Obama on The View when he chuckled gamely at a Snooki joke before confessing, “…I actually don’t know who Snooki is.”

Nora got about two dozen houses into her candy basket before bedtime approached. Rachel and I made our routine observation borrowed from the Dyson vacuum marketing campaign—”She’s experiencing loss of suction”—but back home, Nora and I handed out a little candy, then read a couple of genuinely creepy library books in front of a nice fire—hey! a fire I built! Myself! Nora was asleep within five minutes of heading to bed.

That was just after 8, and then things took a scary turn. Halloween, as everyone with school-age kids knows, is closely followed by Election Day, which for many coincides with School Bake-Sale Day. Our co-op’s reasonable tuition is paired with this devilish pact, signed by parents every year at the crossroads at midnight. We’ll teach your children well. They’ll be happy and healthy. Just provide your signature, your check, and two homemade baked goods—one sweet, one savory—to sell to hungry voters. All well and good. Although it turned out the sweet and savory had to be at the school Monday afternoon, not Tuesday, as we had thought.

Rachel, as always, had done a masterful job with the prep-work, and that saved us from blowing our deadline. And Mark Bittman was a true sherpa, leading us through his unchallenging lasagna. We were chugging up K2 right alongside him until we hit our first snag. Now, I don’t know how long it takes you to make a béchamel sauce, but Bittman says it takes him less than 20 minutes, which is precisely how long it took for us to figure out we’d wrecked ours. And that might’ve been funny in the afternoon. But after 10 p.m. on a Sunday night, two rapidly aging parents found the matter taking on far greater import.

I don’t think that I can take it, ’cause it took so long to bake it, but the two trays of lasagna were cooling their boots in the fridge no later than 1:30 a.m. Which gave us two full hours of sleep before Nora would awaken and call out for her parents, as she’s been doing every night lately. Yes, somehow, we’re back to that. And that’s how I finished my pagan celebrations this year, and observed the wee hours of All Saint’s Day.


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