Halloween—The Queen of Division
by Joan Leotta

Sometime in my early years
I caught what they called the “Asian flu.”
During the three weeks
erased from my schooling
the nuns taught the rest of the class
the intricate secrets of long division.
I never did catch up.
However, my distinct lack of skills
with divisor and dividend
never held me back on Halloween
where I was the undisputed Queen
of cousinly candy divisions, long and short.

On finishing our separate rounds
of sugary beggary in our
separate neighborhoods
we seven gathered at Grandma’s.
While the grownups talked of
who knows what,
we spilled out our loot
onto her red wool oriental rug.
We stacked our holdings
into categories—in front of us like chips—the
chocolates, the popcorn balls, the nut things.
the boxes of jellied things
good and plenty and the rest.
I knew each cousin’s favorites
and played one against the other
until the chocolate began to flow my way.
By dividing their interests, I conquered.
I am still shaky with long division,
but when my children
come home with pumpkins full
of chocolate bars, my trading instincts
kick in. My current, hidden stash of candies
attests to the fact that I am still
the Queen of Division, long and otherwise —
when it counts.

PHOTO: The author at around age four in a Marie Antoinette costume made by her Aunt Claudia.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This photo comes from a newspaper photo shoot for the Sunday supplement of The Pittsburgh Press, years ago. The supplement honored Aunt Claudia for her gourmet cooking, fabulous parties, and her wonderful artistic skills — which included having just won a prize in a citywide amateur art contest for a portrait of a family friend and doing things like making this Marie Antoinette costume. Aunt Claudia was my godmother. She was the ultimate, real live fairy godmother making costumes, then dresses, painting china, taking me to New York for graduation — we stayed at the Plaza, went to see Hello Dolly with Carol Channing and the next night ate at Luchow’s, the restaurant that inspired part of the show. She went to Egypt not long after making this costume for me and instilled a lifelong love of that land in me. She showed her slides of Egypt and the Holy Land at my school every year. She made birthday cakes in wild shapes for me but most of all, she provided an additional anchor of love in my life and a spur to my own creativity. Although there are many large memories in my heart—like this costume—one of the memories I cherish most is of nestling in her lap as she read stories to me on my Grandma’s front porch. Thank you, Auntie! Claudia Cuda Kraft, 1919-2015.

joan leotta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta is an author and story performer. Her books include Giulia Goes to WarLetters from Korea, and A Bowl of RiceVisit her at joanleotta.wordpress.com.