This is the best time of the year for long walks, when it’s sunny but not too hot, the leaves crunch under your feet and the ones that haven’t yet fallen are brilliant colours against a clear blue sky. And then you go inside the mall and except for the Halloween and Christmas stuff everywhere, it could be any day of the year. I think when the snow flies I will continue my walks up and down the mall halls. I think I will take more pictures. I think entirely too much sometimes. My mind goes off on bizarre tangents making me think “scatter brained” is too vague a term.
Maybe it’s all the fall decorations in the neighborhood that reminded me of how Halloween has changed over the years. There used to be more trickery than treating, with pranks verging on vandalism. Every year our mailbox would go missing, car windows would get soaped, anything left out in your yard would be upended or put in some obscure and annoying place.
The “old-enough-to-be-everybody’s-grandparents” couple who lived on the farm across from our one room country school were the targets of much trickery speculation. I don’t remember if anyone ever did anything to them or their yard but we always made elaborate plans. The woman’s name was Beulah, poor thing, and there was a lot of talk about doing something crazy with the bloomers she had hanging on her clothes line. I suppose it turned out that bloomers blowing in the breeze were a funny enough thing all on their own without any help from us. Plus Beulah gave everyone their choice of one luscious expensive chocolate in its little brown cupcake paper wrapper when you went trick or treating at her house. Best not to jeopardize a good thing.
I believe they were a childless couple, so why they had a little boy staying with them one summer isn’t clear. Maybe he was a great-nephew. Perhaps he was bored and they had no clue how to entertain him and since I happened to be the same age that’s why my mother volunteered me as a playmate for him for a day. I expect I wasn’t given any choice in the matter and was simply dropped off to fend for myself. I don’t remember the boys name or where he came from, but I do remember that he never stopped talking. That was fine with me, I’ve always been a great listener.
I remember eating lunch under Beulah’s watchful eye and then feeling ill. Maybe it was food I wasn’t used to, or maybe it was just nerves. Motor-mouth wonder-boy knew exactly what to do. Acid indigestion, he proclaimed. He marched me into the bathroom and rummaged through the medicine chest for the Eno. I don’t know what else was in there, because my attention was focused on a little blue mini bathtub. It was half the size of ours and I had never seen such a ridiculous thing before in a bathroom. It didn’t look big enough for a child to stretch his legs out in, and I tried to imagine short stocky Beulah trying to squeeze herself in to it. There would hardly be room for water!
The boy ripped open a little packet of crystalline powder and poured it into half a glass of water, then thrust it at me and told me to drink it fast before it stopped fizzing. The bubbles went up my nose and it tasted like really bad pop. I drank it down and impressed my new friend with a loud belch. He told me it would make me feel better right away and that he drank it all the time. And he was right. It was like magic. The indigestion disappeared and it was my turn to be impressed. I could hardly wait to go home and tell my mother about this magical elixir called Eno.
Then he taught me the Eno song. I looked for it on YouTube today but I guess it’s older than dirt as far as tv commercials go and I couldn’t find it. Nevertheless it’s still in my head all these years later.
When you’re feeling low, ENO!
It’s mild and gentle and good good tasting,
We sang it all afternoon. I guess he wasn’t that hard to entertain after all. Best play date ever, long before they were called anything like that.
What a strange memory to have retained, complete with little blue bathtub, and nothing at all to do with Halloween, which started this trip down memory lane in the first place. The moral of this story: beware of being overly impressed by strange men giving you weird things to drink. Or, it’s easier than you might think to write a commercial jingle that will stick with someone for over fifty years.
If you go for a long October walk and let your mind wander aimlessly, you just might come home and waste an hour of your life watching old tv commercials from the 1950’s on YouTube. You have been warned.