I was too chicken to call Maggie, so Mom did. Sure, she'd be glad to help. I was not looking forward to this Halloween.
The day finally arrived, and miraculously we had everything cleared out of the living room and the spare room.
We had a lot of fun that morning making decorations. Elizabeth had the most fun of all getting paint everywhere. For a two-and a-half-year-old, her pumpkins didn't look all that bad. It was nice to see Maggie hadn't lost her artistic flair after being cooped up in an office doing computer graphics for a year.
"Oh, I've been doing a lot lately. I'd like to show you some things next time you're in Richmond. I'm experimenting with something new."
"I'd like that," I smiled. And I meant it. Things were going pretty well, but we all couldn't shake the feeling that this was Friday the 13th and something awful was going to happen.
After lunch, Mom ran upstairs to get our costumes. She had picked them out weeks before, but none of us had any idea what we were going to be.
She dragged several overstuffed bags down the stairs, and we sat on the couch cringing.
"Let's see, Mike. You're going to be Merlin the Magician..."
Mike smiled. "Good choice, Ma!"
"Oh, please, Mom," I thought. "Don't pull Bathsheba or something like that out of your bag. Suzie's going to get upset and..."
"The salesman said you'd like this Jimmi Hendrix costume, whoever he is."
"Was, Ma!" Mike pointed out. "He was a rock guitarist."
"Yeah," Mom giggled. "Look, it's got this cute little guitar you carry around."
Suzie rolled her eyes and smiled. "Thank, Mom. It'll be great."
"Davey, I thought Charlie Chaplin would be fun."
Davey nodded. He could get into Chaplin.
"Lizzy, do you want to be Ernie?"
"ERNIE! ERNIE!" Elizabeth laughed, running over and grabbing the costume. "Love him," she bubbled, hugging it contentedly.
"Maggie, hon, I got you Sleeping beauty. Rick..." she reached into her bag.
"Prince Charming, right!" I muttered. She would not rest until we were back together.
"Richard, you can be a wolf," she sneered, pulling out the furry hide.
"Thanks, Ma. Loads!"
"George, you said you wanted to be Einstein, right? I got you a crazy wig."
Dad was like a little kid. "Oh, great! Maybe this thing won't be so horrible after all!" he giggled. Dad loves Einstein.
"And for me, I got..." She looked through the piles of bags. "Oh, dear. It's upstairs. I'll be right back."
We looked over our costumes until Mom came down a few minutes later. "Now this is a pillow in here, so don't get any ideas...Confucius say we have very good party today."
She looked hilarious as a little bald chinaman. We all decided we'd try our costumes on too.
I should point out that while we were working away that morning, totally absorbed in our endeavors, Lizzy was going around tugging on sleeves, crying out, "Hno. Hno." No one could figure out what she was saying.
As we came out of our rooms with our costumes on, however, we saw Sleeping Beauty come running in from outside, and Lizzy's declaration suddenly clicked in our heads. Maggie'd gone to get something from her car and her hair was covered with white. "I can't believe how much snow is out there!" she gasped, stamping it off her feet and shaking it out of her hair.
We also noticed Confucius was on the phone. "Uh, huh. Well, don't worry about it. No, no. We don't want anyone to get in an accident or anything. Sure. Well, no Dad's not here. I'm sure he'll call from...wherever he is...and we'll tell him we'll reschedule it. Yeah, Bill, sure. I'll call Tom and Shirley...oh, they just called you...right...okay....uh, huh. Okay, hon. We'll see you sometime soon, then. Bye."
"What's going on?" we asked.
"Well, apparently Nature's played a good trick for Halloween. The entire East Coast has been hit with a severe storm. Planes are grounded and the roads are a mess. I'm afraid the party is going to have to be cancelled. Bill suggested we have something down at Grandma and Grandpa's in a few weeks.
No one was too sure if they were relieved or disappointed.
"Well, maybe we can have our own little party anyway," Charlie Chaplin said as he waddled across the floor.
We all agreed it would do us good and continued putting up the decorations while we tried to act in character.
Then the doorbell rang.
It was Einstein and Mrs. Santa Claus.
"Grandma, Grandpa!" we gasped. "What are you doing driving in this storm??!!"
"We left that blasted chauffeur in Wilmington. He refused to drive in this little flurry," the old Einstein declared.
"Henry," Mrs. Claus gasped, collapsing into an armchair. She shook her head and her rosy red cheeks were redder than ever. "Henry..." she muttered.
"Let me get you some hot chocolate, Mom," Confucius said, running for the kitchen.
Then Grandpa saw Dad and his mouth fell open.
"Uh, oh," we all gasped. World War III was about to explode.
"George?" Grandpa stammered.
Dad nodded reluctantly.
Suddenly a smirk crossed Grandpa Einstein's face. "Nice choice of costume," Grandpa announced. "Son," he added for effect.
It had an effect; we all almost fell over.
Turns out we had a great party. Dad and Grandpa were inseparable. They were laughing and joking as they pointed out how their favorite hero was at the same time both totally organized, and yet totally impulsive.
Later, the two Einsteins battled it out over a chessboard. Dad was trying awful hard. He didn't demand they get out the timer he always requires for any chess game against him. Although the beads of sweat were dripping down his face, and he had to bite his lip constantly while Grandpa would spend up to twenty minutes to make a move while he told us all some crazy story, and other times he'd take a fraction of a second, and it would look like the most bizarre move. I could tell Dad was trying not to count the seconds in his head.
Of course, Grandpa announced they were leaving after a few hours, but Grandma put her foot down for the first time in 60 years.
"Henry Davis, you're 84 years old..."
"86, Mom," my mother pointed out.
"No dear. He's 84. I'm 86. He just didn't want anyone to know!"
Grandpa was blushing.
"We're not going out in that storm!" Grandma declared. "Tomorrow, if the roads are clear, we'll fly back home, and Reginald will fly over here from Wilmington and drive the car back down to Florida."
"Yes, dear," Grandpa sighed sullenly.
Grandma would have liked to have stayed longer, but Monday they were going off on a six-month cruise around the world.
"Let's just skip the cruise..." Grandpa suggested.
"Henry...For once we are going to go through with our plans. It was your idea. You had me arrange it, and we're going!"
"Yes, Sarah," he sighed even more softly.
The roads still weren't good by nightfall, and Maggie and Elizabeth had to stay over, too.
"You folks don't live here, do you?" Grandma asked.
"Oh, no, Grandma. But Ricky does spend a lot of time here," Maggie offered quickly.
I looked over at her and smiled. I owed her one.
She and Elizabeth slept on the extra bed in my room. I lay on my own bed on the other side of the room and I couldn't sleep. I kept looking over at the two of them, bathed in the soft glow of snowlight, and a tear ran down my cheek. I really did miss them.
I didn't get much sleep at all that night, but I did a lot of thinking. The next morning I was watching them when Maggie opened her eyes, and I whispered, "Hi..."
"She smiled back, "Hi Ricky."
"Say, listen, Maggie," I whispered back. "If, um, we get this money, and we go ahead with the book, we could...well, you'd probably be able to give us a lot of ideas for designing the book, and marketing and..."
"Sure, Ricky, I'll help you guys out." She yawned and excused herself as she stumbled to the bathroom.
Lizzy woke up and called out, "Mommy!"
"She's in the bathroom, honey. She'll be right out," I whispered.
"Okay, Daddy," Lizzy yawned, and stretching, she climbed out of her bed, walked across the room and crawled under my covers. "Love you, Daddy," she sighed, snuggling up to me.
"I love you too, honey," I whispered and held her close.
When Maggie came out she was sniffing the air. "I smell coffee, and eggs and bacon and..."
"Hmmm...smells like Grandma's up," I giggled and tickled Elizabeth, and at that moment I wished more than anything that Maggie was in the bed with us. I really did miss them.