Earworms, Halloween, Babbit and Picking Up The Pieces

I’ve been suffering from an earworm infestation recently. Earworms,those snippets of songs you get into your mind and can’t get out. For people of my generation, Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You Is Easy because you’re beautiful” lyrics may come to mind when we think about earworms. If you have a kid at home who likes Degrassi High the words, “Maybe there’s a shark in the water” is likely to come to mind.

There’s a blog called something like “Picking up the pieces...” that I’ve been stumbling across a bit recently and every time I see it mentioned, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Carefree Highway” comes to mind:

Picking up the pieces of my sweet shattered dream
I wonder how the old folks are to night

This morning, I read the latest on Facebook from Sarah, a friend who recently lost her father. Yesterday, in the middle of the night, she wrote

Massive flight delays, flight changes, hotel vouchers, and one LONG middle seat flight later, I'm in Phoenix.

Eight hours later, she posted

Westward bound, to San Diego and Dad's funeral mass. Gonna be a tough day; feeling very grateful for the support of family and friends. And hugs. Always grateful for hugs!

Then, earlier today, she posted another the lyrics from a song that has also seemed to be an earworm for me recently.

"And He will lift you up on eagles' wings, bear you on the breath of dawn-- make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand."

I remember singing this at many funerals, most recently my cousin’s. I also remember the way it was twisted in a stunning production of Richard 3, and depending on my mood either version becomes my earworm.

When Sarah’s father died, she posted

Our cowboy just rode on to more peaceful pastures. Godspeed, Dad. You will be missed each and every day.

On Thursday, State Rep. Mike Lawlor wrote:

Its happy hour in heaven. Eileen Purcell McNamara Lawlor had a great run. She loved her family and her friends. She will certainly be missed.

When I wrote about my uncle’s passing, a friend commented about how Roger was always the perfect gentleman. Somehow, I could easily see him waiting at happy hour ready to offer Eileen a drink. I imagine Flo Woodiel being there as well, along with Kim’s mother and grandparents. A year ago, a friend named Carol ended her battle with Leukemia as did Irv a year and a half ago. I imagine them there and perhaps even Rocky, my high school classmate that was murdered thirty four years ago this October.

So, it was with an eagle’s wing’s earworm that I took my daughter the the Beecher Road Parent Teacher Organization’s big fundraiser of the year, the Halloween Hoot. Fiona quickly found her posse and ran off to the haunted house and other attractions. She is old enough to do that fairly well, but I felt it was important to stay at the school in case she needed something. We agreed that I would sit in the corner of the cafeteria where I could quietly sit and read.

A while ago, I had loaded an eBook of Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit on my cellphone. I sat down and read for a while. Babbit’s growing disillusionment with the American Dream and the vacuous lives of himself and is friends mingled with the hymn about death and the Halloween Hoot.

I looked around the room. These are good people in a small town. Many were focused on their little cats, cows, ladybugs, witches, or princesses. There were several Mario’s this year joined by a sumo wrestler and a taco. The taco costume was pretty cool. The kids all seemed to be having a great time, except for one toddler who had been overstimulated and was melting down. If the parents got a chance, they would exchange a few simple words with other parents. Some were in mourning because the Yankees lost last night. Others talked about getting pumpkins or even politics.

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings...

Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, or All Saint’s Eve, comes from the combining of two traditions. One is Samhain, a Gallic harvest festival. It is celebrated at the end of the harvest as the border between this world and the otherworld grows thin. All Saint’s Day, in Western Christianity is November 1st. It is a day to remember the saints who have gone before us. A hymn that I’ve always loved from All Saint’s Day is For All The Saints.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,

So, the Halloween Hoot: I sat in the corner, reading George Babbit’s disillusionment with the world around him. I looked at the good people around me, and thought how I could likewise be disillusioned. Yet at the same time, I was aware of the thinness between this world and the next, of how we are all born astride the grave, and the earworms crawled in, the earworms crawled out, the earworms played pinocle... No, another earworm.

Fiona returned to drop off her bag of goodies and run elsewhere. The Super Mario’s blithely ran around the cafeteria. Maybe Babbit is right, or maybe there’s a shark in the water. Maybe we are all just picking up the pieces of various sweet shattered dreams.

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