Thursday, November 29, 2007


"Know the quantitee of thy crepusculis," Chaucer admonished in the 14th century.

Now, I don't pretend to know what Chaucer had in mind when he said this or whether I'm even interpreting Chaucer the right way (I'm as far from a Medievalist as you can get). But I like the idea of knowing the quantity of my crepuscles.

Lately, crespuscles have been a lot on my mind. The crepuscle of my six years as a graduate student, the crepuscle of the seemingly never-ending work for the past two years on my Monster, the crepuscle of my pre-professional life, which will end in July 2008 when I start my tenure-track job, the crepuscle of this fence-straddling place I inhabit between professor and graduate student. These are some of the more obvious crepuscles I see approaching.

Today's actual crepuscle was breathtaking. The pink-orange edge on the horizon had a neon-sign intensity that demanded attention and prompted musings about the significance and the meaning of crepuscles.

I've decided that my favorite time of day is the crepuscular hour, when the sky and the sun put on their final give-us-a-standing-ovation show. I think the dogs really like it, too, if not for the same reasons.

I think they love it because they can still see enough to be able to bark at and pull hard on their leashes when they make out the camouflaged deer in the encroaching darkness. I don't think Geni likes to go out once it's completely dark; she never wants to walk as far in the darkness as she's eager to do when there's still a degree of visibility.

Visibility and knowledge helped me this morning, during our early walk, when the dogs noticed something moving among some cars near a student dorm. I thought it was a cat when the two dogs got all excited and started pulling on their leashes, ears pointed and noses twitching.

But it was nothing as innocuous as a cat. It was a humongous skunk that ran faster than I ever thought something that fat could move toward the other side of the street. Afraid that it might come our way, I pulled the dogs away despite their uncooperative attempts to break free so they could go after what to them must have looked a particularly big cat. The ramifications of that encounter, I didn't even want to consider.

Trying to avoid a close encounter of the very-bad kind with a skunk, during my walk with the dogs near the woods of my college on the hill, is one of the things I won't forget of this year, which continues to careen toward it's own coming-too-fast, coming-too-soon crepuscle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Creature of habit

Thanksgiving break over, the dogs and I are back in the apartment in the woods, settling into our academic-year routines, the ones that belong to our lives in the small college on the hill.

A colleague asked me recently whether I minded this divided life, this living in two different locations, this dividing myself into two each week. I do miss my husband and the cats when I'm here, and I would rather not have to haul so much stuff back and forth (I was a gypsy in another life so that's wishful thinking, indeed!).

But I don't actually mind this dual life, this half the week in one place, half in another. It serves almost as a metaphor for the two parts of my professional life this year: the dissertating and the teaching. Not that the twine never meet but that it's mostly about dissertating while I'm home and mostly about teaching while I'm here.

This separate, if related, duality of purpose in my weekly schedules has certainly altered my life. I, like the dogs, am a creature of habit and, basically, for the same reasons. Probably unlike the dogs, I sometimes do wish that I didn't have to do a certain thing at a certain time (today, for instance, I would've rather taken a nap in the afternoon, like I did during break week, instead of holding class). But, like the dogs, I really appreciate the constancy, the reliance, the solidity of structure and routine. Nowadays, I and the dogs, have two different schedules depending on where we are.

I find it intriguing to rediscover how much a creature of habit I am because my intellectual and emotional lives are so much about shaking things up, about constant discovery and self-discovery. But, in the same breadth, I realize that perhaps I love the habits I have created as a frame around my life because the picture itself is always changing, always in flux. I like that thought.

Today, my college-on-the-hill routine was shifted for one of the best reasons there can be. I had a long, wonderful chat with one of my best students this semester. What was supposed to be a talk about majors and advisors and revising papers and academic things turned into a this-and-that discussion about what we are impassioned about, about our responsibilities toward ourselves and others, about changing the world and ourselves, about the fun and burden of being a lone wolf, howling her song in the wilderness for those who will listen and follow.

Vanity, thy name is teacher: I was inordinately pleased to hear that she enjoys my class because she's so bright and so well read and she is challenging in the way that only the very best students are, the ones who push our boundaries as teachers and thinkers and people.

Before I knew it, the chat had become a one-hour-and-a-half conversation and evening had settled upon the hill and was pressing against the windows of my small lit-up office. The student apologized since I'd told her I needed to be home before dark but I told her not to worry.

"It's my two elderly dogs that I need to get home to," I confessed.

Although I got in later than expected, the dogs, as always, were thrilled to see me and immediately forgave me. Rusty was a little anxious that I was late so he needed coaxing to eat his dinner. Like so many times before, I found myself having the patience of Job, holding little bits of his food to his mouth until he got the knack of it on his own. As usual, once his appetite stabilized, he cleaned out his plate. Geni, of course, ate all her food and wanted his and mine and all I have in the refrigerator.

I had something quick to eat and we were off on our daily evening walk. I guess I could mind that my life is so predictable in so many ways but, as a person who doesn't like the concept of surprises (I am the one who wants to know the end of a movie or a novel before deciding to see or read it), I cherish the nearly clockwork routines of both my lives.

Perhaps it's also because my life for so many years was what happened to me despite the fact that I had made totally different plans. Perhaps now that life is -- gracias a Dios -- just as I would have it be, I also am able to appreciate that stability.

That's another gift I share with the dogs, appreciating the today, the here, the now, so that, with only minor variations, we can do it all over again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Action of thanks

I like our translation of Thanksgiving Day, our Día de Acción de Gracias, because it adds the word "action" to the concept of giving thanks.

As those who know me know, I am thankful for so much:

For my health, which enables me both to enjoy and to face anything that comes my way;

For my handsome husband, who continues to be the best thing that ever happened to me and who gives me a better life than I could ever ask for;

For my parents, who have always been the wind beneath my wings, and who taught me to have faith in myself and to be a hopeful person;

For my siblings, who have gifted me with wonderful nieces and nephews;

For my frail 97-year-old grandmother and my 80-something grandaunt, and my uncle and titis, who always make me feel loved and important;

For my friends, who are few but constant, and who are always there for the good, the bad and the fun;

For my small college on the hill and my students, who help give my life purpose and joy;

For my peludos, who bestow on me a love that is uninterested in my failings and limitations, and who always give me reasons to laugh;

And for all those anonymous or even forgotten people who, in one way or another, have helped shape me and the life I lead today -- for good or ill.

I remember, many years ago, when the therapist who helped drag me from the edge of the precipice of self-pity, said that one day I would give thanks for the disease that ravaged my body and nearly ended my life.

I stared at her as if she were delusional. But a few years later, I came to understand what she meant, and saw that she was right.

Even the worst moments in our life, the ones that seem endless and unfair and unbearable, once they are overcome, or at least coped with, can turn into lessons that mold us into better human beings, as well as contribute to our arsenals of strength.

It's true that not everyone translates such experiences into those lessons. I have seen people go through devastating events and come out not better, but worse, or the same, as before. I, however, refuse to remain unchanged, unimproved, untransformed by life.

That's why, at least for me, it's not enough to just say thanks and feel thankful.

We have to act on that thankfulness by contributing something, however small, to improve our collective time on this earth.

We also act on that thankfulness by keeping our life on the track that the universe meant us to have, the road toward our own spiritual fulfillment and growth.

We act on that thankfulness, too, by saying what we mean and meaning what we say and acting on both our meaning and our words.

Ultimately, it is our selves that we must love, appreciate, care and be grateful for before we can ever feel or receive such gifts from anyone else.

With being thankful, as with anything else, actions speak louder than words.

Have a Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Herding cats (and dogs)

Some mornings, like this one, none of the animals cooperates with me as I attempt to herd them all to their respective dishes and special-diet foods although I am coffee-less and feel like I have telarañas en el cerebro, as my mami says.

Rusty, who is getting more ancient by the day, doesn't seem to know what to do with the plate of food in front of him. He stares at me, anxiously, as if asking me to remind him what he's supposed to do. Thus, I take a fork and fork-feed him his food, until he remembers how to do it himself (sans the fork, of course).

Uncharacteristically, Darwin doesn't want his food although I try two different kinds of canned food (truly the most expensive grocery item I buy, another proof of how I spoil these cat brats). He just won't eat what's in his plate. But, of course, he pushes Magellan off her plate because he wants to eat the exact same thing in hers.

I have to herd him away so she can finish eating and then I have to hide his mostly uneaten plate so she can't find it. Magellan, bulimic that she is, cannot eat too much food or she'll grace every other floor of the house with a disgusting pool of puke.

Meanwhile, Geni has scarfed down her food in record time, like we're never ever going to feed her again, and is looking yearningly at Rusty's still unfinished plate. She'll get to lick his, once he's done (well, once I'm done fork-feeding him). But she's overweight and has a pot belly so I have to make sure she doesn't eat like there's no tomorrow so that her no-tomorrow doesn't get here earlier rather than later.

To that end, the cat bowls have to be placed on top of one of the dining room side tables, so Geni can't eat what's left. Rusty also must be herded away from the cat bowls because his always hungry brain will lead him to eat all that the cats have rejected but his sensitive stomach will lead him to puke it up all up, in various disgusting pools located near or far Magellan's own.

No wonder my husband misses me so much (a little more than normal, I'd say) when I go visit my parents in Puerto Rico. Taking care of a herd of four animals, each with his or her own set of different needs, medications and instructions (and each equipped with a willful streak) is a full-time job, indeed.

Still, after breakfast, the dogs and I go on an extra-long walk and when I see Rusty's smiling, goofy face and see them bounding down the streets as they get to smell and mark spot after spot after spot, I feel infected with happiness, which I guess makes it all worthwhile. I imagine that's how mothers often feel about motherhood.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mission possible

Achieving what may sometimes seem impossible, or at least improbable, is a great feeling. I bet that for the crazy people who scale Everest or for the insane teams of Europeans who raced to be the first to plant their flags in the inhospitable Antarctica way back when (most of them perishing in the attempt), it's that rush of achievement, of winning against all odds, that makes those missions impossible so seductive.

My mission, to finish a 400-page dissertation and to become one of the handfuls of Latin@s (never mind Puerto Ricans) with a Ph.D. in the States (or anywhere else, for that matter), isn't as heroic or as insane as risking your life to be the first to do something globally amazing or life threatening.

But, today, as I've just typed the last page of a 105-page mamotreto that is the first chapter of the dissertation (but the second I have completed) I feel (a little) like someone who has scaled the highest mountain or has planted her flag on the sun (in a totally non-colonial way in my case, of course).

It's true that this is just a draft of what my department chair proudly described as a "phone book" back when it was 90 pages long. And it's true that this now goes to my advisor who will surely tear it to pieces and find all the places and ideas that need reworking, rethinking, or just plain discarding.

Still, right now I can feel every cell inside of me having a party. I can imagine my brain cells, which are especially exhausted, embracing each other and doing high-fives and loudly singing rancheras of victory.

I can actually hear those tiny cells in my brain singing that fabulous ranchera, "El rey," about an overly confident man who may have nothing, but still feels like a king.

Con dinero y sin dinero, hago siempre lo que quiero
y mi palabra es la ley.
No tengo trono, ni reina, ni nadie que me comprenda
pero sigo siendo el rey.

Una piedra en el camino, me enseñó que mi destino
era rodar y rodar, rodar, y rodar, rodar y rodar.
Después me dijo un arriero que no hay que llegar primero
pero hay que saber llegar.

I guess that's the greatest truth, no? You don't have to get there first, you just have to know how to get there.

Thus, today is a day I'm planting a small flag of victory on the map of my life. Or, at least, I am going to celebrate it as if I was "El rey." Technically, this means I am halfway done with my Monster. That, in turn, means that the fat lady is practicing her scales, getting to ready to sing.

And when she sings, she'll sing me a ranchera of victory. Soon enough, soon enough.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fat flakes of snow

This morning, as the dogs and I made our way through the streets of our college on the hill (it's just as much theirs now as it is mine because they've basically marked every nook and cranny of the place as theirs), fat flakes of snow began to drop on us from the sky.

When snowflakes are big and heavy they splatter, like the large drops of a tropical rain in the forest. The dogs prefer snow to rain, of course, because it takes longer to get them wet.

I remember when we first moved the dogs to Ohio and I was anxious to see how they would react to their first encounter with snow. Being island dogs, snow wasn't a thing that they'd ever even imagined. But when that first day came, shortly after they'd arrived here in February 2001, it was as if they'd known snow all their lives. It must be their wolf brains, surely, which remember snow, even when they'd lived all their lives as Caribbean dogs.

They're totally acclimated to Ohio winters by now. Well, except that Geni doesn't like it when little balls of snow wedge in her not-made-for-snow paws. If that happens, she just stops and sits, mid-walk, and raises her back leg (the one usually affected) to signal the need for one of us to get the little snow ball out so she can continue.

Their favorite pastime in late fall is to wade into large piles of dead leaves. They can't very well do that in our small city streets because those piles have meant someone has spent time and effort collecting all the leaves in a pile for removal. But here, in the forest on the side of the roads we walk on, they have free rein and can wade as long and as deep as they want.

When they do so, they look as if they're pretending that they're swimming. Rusty and Geni both hate water and wouldn't wade into the real thing if you paid them, but a lake of leaves is another thing altogether.

Rusty, especially, likes to wade in and mark almost every other dead leaf (I think leaves, like perfume bottles, must encapsulate smells better than bare ground does) and then do his Alpha dance. He scrapes his front and hind legs hard on the ground several times, scattering leaves everywhere, making chewing motions with his mouth and boasting a look that says, unequivocably:

"This here is all mine, mine! And you'd better believe it!"

Mid-November in the forest is still pretty. While most leaves have dropped and the ground is a carpet of yellows and browns there are still a few bushes near the back of my apartment whose leaves have turned from a dull green to a luminous yellowish pink. They lit up the landscape like lanterns, especially on a gray, cold day like today.

Now, back in the little apartment in the forest, the dogs are pooped and happy. Geni is curled up in her favorite spot, awaiting the warm throw rugs that are drying after their weekly washing. Rusty is cleaning his paws and doing other general grooming on his bed by the large red chair where I like to sit and read.

The walk done, the morning of a busy day stretching ahead of me, it's time to get back to the eternally pending business at hand and dissertate.

Monday, November 12, 2007


There's something sweet and sad about how Fall writes a memoir of its passing in leaf language.

Like the hand prints in cave paintings, the leaves leave an indelible imprint, a memoir, a recordatorio of their passing.

It's almost as if the leaves knew that their organic form becomes dust but that by sketching themselves on the pavement, they achieve momentary eternity.

Their ghostly outlines are heartbreaking in their perfection, in their promise.

I always thought New England falls were the best. But I have to say that Fall in Ohio is just as breathtaking.

As winter approaches, colors merge and greens and oranges and yellows blend into browns and purples and blacks.

Soon, the feast of colors will be over and we'll face the return of the long, long winter.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Disco Shakespeare

Midsummer's Night Dream is my least favorite Shakespeare play so when my husband informed me that we were going to attend a high school disco version, I nearly wept.

But we were going for a good cause. My husband's best friend's youngest son was playing Lysander and we attended in support of his art.

A month or so ago, I also attended my first ever Friday night high school football game to support this same kid's band performance at half-time, which was pretty nifty. The bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed cheerleaders were incredibly annoying, though, and my mumbled feminist critiques caused my husband to warn me that I was going to get us expelled from the game. While no such thing happened, I won't be going to any more high school football games. And I sure am glad that I don't have a high-school aged girl who wants to be a cheerleader.

Surprisingly, the play tonight was sometimes delightful. The play itself remains boring, stupid and long as hell, but the disco version was actually hilarious at moments and I couldn't help but remember with a certain degree of fondness my own stint as a disco queen when I was in college, a gazillion years ago.

And there was a lot of creativity in the idea of making Shakespeare more accessible by disco-izing him and it was obvious that the kids were having a ball. Some were actually excellent, including my husband's best friend's son, who acquitted himself admirably as a credible Lysander.

The drama teacher decided to keep Shakespeare's dialogue unmodernized, noting in the play's program that this was so because his words are "hallowed." But I found myself disagreeing somewhat. If you're going to modernize Shakespeare to the point that you set him to disco music, then keeping the Old English version seems contrived.

Plus, while some kids, like my husband's best friend's son, learned his lines well and enunciated them perfectly, other kids ran through Shakespeare's words like they were a foreign language, and they couldn't be understood, even when they were speaking English. One girl, who played one of the female leads, had a voice so high that we couldn't make out her lines.

"I think the bats are the only ones who can hear her," my husband's best friend said, and I concurred, thinking that the director should've helped her lower her voice a few notches, at the very least.

Being in a high school auditorium also reminded me of my high school graduation play, which I wrote and directed. I loved that experience and, because something was going on with our high school's auditorium (I think it was flooded after some heavy rains), we got to stage our play at the University of Puerto Rico theater. I was thrilled to direct my play in a real, wonderful theater, with as much mystique and beauty as that one has.

That was the last of my theater career, though. Well, the one on the actual stage. A lot of what I do as a teacher is theater, especially when I act out scenes of the books we read. I do modernize them a bit for my students, re-staging the dialogue as if the characters were contemporary people. My students crack up when I do that and it allows the actress in me a moment in the spotlight, so to speak.

Still, I won't go as far as teaching Jane Eyre or Heart of Darkness to a disco beat. I have to admit that while the idea of a Disco Shakespeare sounded preposterous at first, the actual event was a lot more fun than I thought. Kudos to the teacher who thought of setting Shakespeare to the beat of Donna Summer!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Indian trails

Biking on a perfectly maintained trail next to the quiet gurgling of a river with an Indian-sounding name on a perfect November day. That's how my husband and I spent most of our afternoon today and it was memorable.

When all was said and done, we'd biked almost 10 miles, which for most committed bikers is a pittance, but which for my motorcyclist husband (who didn't feel as in control of the much, much lighter two-wheel cousin of the motorcycle as he does on his almost 500-pound bike) and for absolutely non-athlete me, it was a true feat.

Near the end of our journey, my husband tackled one of the highest hills in my small college and waited for me at the very top while I walked, bike by my side, because there was no way in hell that my tired legs (or my less than capacious lungs) were going to pedal me up any hill at that point.

A bike borrowed from wonderfully friendly professor colleagues allowed my husband to enjoy one of the longest bicycle rides he's had in 20 years. As for me, my trusty $14 bike acquitted herself wonderfully in the endeavor, especially after my husband fitted it with a pretty new white basket where I carried my water bottle and, later, the few groceries we got after the ride at the village market for our dinner.

The trail, at the foot of the hill atop which the college sits, cuts through corn fields and nearly pristine tracts of land and was built on top of what used to be the railroad's right of way in another century. There are still old wood telegraph wire poles along the trail, which are spooky in their ancientness.

Because of the Indian-sounding name of the river, I thought we were surely on what used to be Indian lands and at the end of the trail my conjectures were confirmed when a large sign explains that the area was known as "Little Indian Fields" because it was first populated by the indigenous settlers of this land. The marker, of course, does not mention those indigenous peoples by name or nation, but does provide the names of the first Euroamerican settlers and the dates in which they arrived.

I shuddered a little because I thought I could feel the presence of those gone by so long ago, especially in the eerie silence of the trail, where not even the river or the birds (except for the loud-mouthed crow, of course) or the wind riffling through the trees could be heard.

By the time we made it back to the apartment, which is on top of another hill, our legs were sore and pulsating with the effort and we were both winded and exhilarated (although I had gotten a little whiny earlier when my husband decided to take the longer way home).

Tonight, during a college-wide activity (to which we drove), a professor colleague told us that the trail goes for another 8 miles in the opposite direction.

"You should do that next," he said.

"I could never do that!" I exclaimed.

"Sure you could!" he answered.

While I do appreciate his vote of confidence (since it would be 16 miles round trip), I'm definitely going to wait until my muscles have forgotten this bicycle ride before I embark on the next one. Although, now that I've had some time to rest, it sure does sound like a great idea.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Shades of winter

Today, as the dogs and I made our way back to my college on the hill, our little car was pelted several times with the first snow showers of the year, that strange mix of rain and snow that is neither and it's both.

I'm good about soldiering on and facing whatever comes, not wanting to waste time with melancholia or wishful thinking. But there's something about those first few flurries and snow showers on a gray November day that basically sets the tone for the next four long months of winter.

And there's something about winter that invites my Caribbean soul to yearn.

Still, snow showers isn't snow. And 30-degree weather, which has set the old heaters in this small apartment to groaning, like old men being woken up from slumber, isn't minus-15 or minus-20.

So I'm not complaining (really, I'm not).

Today, and appropriately so for November, we had our first shades of winter. But, heck, there's still plenty of colored leaves on the trees (more still on the trees than on the ground). Not for long, though.

Thus, I say Fall ain't over until Winter's fat lady sings and all the leaves fall off the trees in one fell swoop.

Monday, November 5, 2007

On intellectual honesty

Birthday celebrations are finally over (well, nearly) and my mami is back in our tropical patria so I've spent the past two days ensconced down here, in my little basement office, typing away and producing what I hope will be about 45 pages of new, field-expanding work.

What I'm working on now will be added to another 40 or so pages already in existence to finalize the first chronological chapter of my Monster but the second chapter I'll have finished so far this year.

The more I work on this, the more I wish I was faster, smarter, clearer, sharper in my thinking and my writing. The words fail me or repeat themselves annoyingly or play tricks on me and say what I don't mean and mean what I don't say.

But I know that the important thing is to force those little black letters to make their indelible marks on the paper. Once that is achieved on my part, the process of revision and consultation with my committee will take its course. The excellence, if it's there (and I sure am flexing my brain muscles hard to that end), will shine through eventually.

Right now, the words, the thoughts, the creativity needs to get on the page or else all the thinking and pondering and reading is pretty much worthless. I've come to realize that it doesn't matter how excited I am about my project, if it doesn't make it onto the page, if I don't force myself to give up "Heroes" and "Journeyman" and even "Ugly Betty," so that I can sit my ass on this chair for hours on end, it's as if what I have to say didn't actually exist.

And I want it to exist, I will it to exist. I want my Monster to see the light, to come alive, to breathe and to scream a los cuatro vientos that I have created Her. I want my Monster to -- as I hope it will -- rock my field and serve to place my name among those who are thought to have something interesting and new to say.

I remember once being surprised when someone described me as "driven." At this moment, I really appreciate that I learned early on in my life to be driven and, later in life, how to be driven in a good way. Unlike my driven youth, when I was trying to achieve impossible perfection, I don't obsess and give up all pleasure or make the Monster my Calvary. Now, being driven means knowing when to work and when to play, although most of my play time now is for shorter periods of time and the greatest of play times is being postponed until next year.

After my defense in June 2008, I'm going to learn quilting, and photography, and I'm going to get myself to a spa in the desert and get a hot stone massage. How different my life is going to be, I told my husband last night, when my dissertation isn't always pending, and hanging over me, and when I'm not always working on it to get it finished.

That's when my husband said he admired me (very high praise from him, indeed) because I work so hard every day. "That's a good thing about both of us," he said. "We're both intellectually honest. We mean what we say and we act on the things we say."

Neither of us understands people who say they believe in something or describe themselves as a certain kind of person but then their actions point to the complete opposite of what they say.

At any rate, I like to see myself in those terms, as intellectually honest. And, honestly, as much as I have a passion for teaching, I also have profound love for sitting here and putting my thoughts on paper and for getting my intellectual gears churning. It's not that I don't find ways to procrastinate -- heck, I even scrubbed the tub yesterday (which I absolutely hate doing) rather than come back downstairs -- but I won't allow distraction to prevail.

I definitely look forward to the day (sooner rather than later, I hope!) when I don't have my Monster hanging over me. But something tells me that I might just miss the darned thing. After all, it sure has a way of making an honest woman out of me these days.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

One of the finest ever

Yesterday's Halloween was among the finest I've had in recent memory.

Unlike previous years, when I've bought industrial quantities of candy to feed the mobs of children and adolescents who invade our small city streets on Halloween, this year my mami, my husband and I dispensed a small, sane amount of candy to the handfuls of tiny tots who prowled the outskirts of my small college on the hill.

Because of its miniature scale, the experience was even more delightful. Our neighbor's little girl, dressed as a pumpkin, kept coming over to ogle and point at my large, orange, electrically illuminated pumpkin, which glowed in the window as darkness fell.

She also pointed to one of my candle-lit luminaria, which has the smiling face of a friendly white ghost. When her mother asked her what ghosts say, she puckered her lips to whisper the cutest "boo" I've ever heard.

Kids dressed in all kinds of costumes came by -- a Ninja, a Spiderman, a Dragon who refused to wear his dragon head and his friend, the Knight, and a Piglet who spoke Spanish and asked us to comment on her pretty, shiny bracelet.

"Estoy muy elegante," she said, as her mother -- who is a colleague in Spanish -- my mami and I did all we could to stop ourselves from laughing too loud at her self-assurance and her obviously eccentric sense of fashion given that she was dressed in a pink-and-white outfit with ears and a glowing green necklace.

Another set of kids came by and they were all dressed as various kinds of dead people. When I complimented one on his white-faced spookiness, his friend came up to me and said, with pride: "I'm a dead soccer player!"

When they had moved on, my husband wondered just which soccer player he had in mind...

After they'd visited the other apartments in the complex, one kid from that group came back toward us bellowing in a clear tone of indignation: "Don't go to that apartment, all they gave me was a banana! Can you believe it? A banana!"

"That's good for you," my mami, true to form, pointed out.

"You can use it with your breakfast tomorrow," I said, thinking that he could have it with cereal.

"I have eggs and bacon for breakfast!" he said, obviously clueless as to what he could possibly do with the banana.

After about an hour of dolling out candy and greeting colleagues and neighbors, the trick-or-treaters were gone and another Halloween was about to end. Not so soon, though, since I dragged my poor husband and a student up to the south side of the campus to hear the security staff tell ghost stories over a camp fire and hot chocolate and apple cider.

The stories were spooky, the night was windy and perfectly eerie, and we were all appropriately creeped out (well, at least I was and so was the student, as she told me today) when we made our way home late that night.

I didn't have a very restful sleep since I kept praying that no ghosts would show up to visit and then chastised myself for thinking that way (since there's no better way to summon a ghost than to wish it wasn't near you). But it made Halloween appropriately Halloweeny.

As Halloweens go, this one was one of the finest ever. That shouldn't be surprising, though. Another student told me today that this small college on the hill is supposedly one of the most haunted places in the U.S. No wonder...