I realize I’m late on the draw here and that people are probably up to here already with other people’s Halloween pictures. But I would be remiss, given the joy that this weird holiday brings into our family, if I did not unfold. And something eerie happened to me this year, which I’ll tell anon.
First off, the news this year is that Angela successfully brought three pumpkins to plump fruition in the back yard. She had grown a large pumpkin one year at our old house, but someone nicked it the day before Halloween. Last year the two pumpkins that managed to get a start rotted on the vine. This year she slid a shingle under each one. Wooden boards lying on the ground are to slugs what “free WiFi” signs are to telecommuting cafe-goers, so I don’t know why the pumpkins didn’t get eaten the quicker, and the pumpkins at the farm are lying right on the ground, no problem, so I am unable to speak to why it worked, but we had three pumpkins to make into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. For a fourth (since we are now The Four) we used one of the pumpkins we harvested at the farm a fortnight ago.
We carved our jack-o-lanterns just hours before Mara’s buddy Gwyneth came over with her parents and little brother and grandmother. Gwynnie was Dorothy of Oz. We were all proud of her for deliberately choosing silver shoes (what the book specified) rather than ruby red (a liberty taken by Hollywood). Coren was Peter Pan, but everybody thought he was Robin Hood. Mara was Fiona (“from Shrek”, I would add every time someone looked confused by her announcement); she wore a princess dress and Angela tied her hair in a ribboned braid like the one Fiona wore in the movie.
We hit the streets just before dark, and tricked and treated our way to a house we call the Vortex a few blocks away. It is a house whose inhabitants go to great lengths every year to construct some kind of storyland out of their front porch and populate it with individuals in costume who play various parts. I think it was called the Vortex the first year we went, which is why we still refer to it that way. Last year it was a space adventure, and though I didn’t go in, Angela said it was hilarious. They took a handful of kids (and parents) at a time into a little makeshift spacecraft, which had a sliding window that purported to be a monitor onto the surface of whatever planet they visited. Their guide narrated the wonders, and the people in funny costumes acted out the story. This year we were giddy with excitement when we approached the street and saw a sandwich board advertising “The Library of Horror”. Mara and I had driven down that street several days earlier on our way home from fetching the take-out Thai, just to see if anything was afoot yet, and sure enough three people had been out on ladders painting the front of what would become, by All Hallows Eve, the Transylvania Public Library.
Out front we were met by a David Duchovnyish character in a tweed jacket and cap and holding a pipe (lit with a battery) and an old book. He said he was returning a book to the library and did we want to come along? Knowing that these folks tend to underestimate how scary their productions can be, I asked if we could request a spiciness level of one-star, as it were. He said he’d see what he could do, and we followed him up the steps to a pedestal on which squatted a sobbing gargoyle wearing glasses and a sign that read “Closed Due to Budget Cuts”. Mara planted her feet and gripped my hand at this point and it was only when I told her that I was going inside and that she could wait with Mommie or come with me, that she allowed me to tow her up onto the porch, which had been enclosed to seem like an interior. There were bookshelves and an old white haired librarian lady, who read an abbreviated and non-spooky summary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein while a figure of the lumbering monster motioned through a window. There was also a hand that came up through a table, and a skeletal hand that handed books from the bookshelf. Count Dracula strolled in and said hyello, and the Headless Horseman came out holding his pumpkin head and offered us candy. “Thanks Heady!” said our tweedy guide.
The TPL was the highlight of our travels that evening. I hope they continue doing that every year. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s in our own neighborhood, done for the love of it.
Oh, and the eerie thing that happened to me? For the first time in maybe thirty six years, I felt as though it would have been fun to have dressed up as something, and I resolved that next year I would do so. Angela was surprised. But I’d better start working on my costume now, because of course I’ll want it to be original, stunning, one-of-a-kind. Alright, maybe I’ll just settle for running into the costume shop next year two days before H-day. But it felt good to feel that desire to participate, such a distant impulse for me for so long. Maybe I’m thawing out after all these years.