Posts Tagged 'Halloween'

All Hallows Eve, 2010

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.

Success at last. Three home-grown pumpkins.

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.

The one in front is Emilia's, and it kinda looks like her (or Buddy Hackett). Mara wanted one of Angela's classic scary-grinning ones; hers is middle left. Mine is the worried looking one on the left. Click for larger if you dare.

Just before setting out, the energy level is high.

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.

Note the dry-ice fogger. Mara told me later that the horns looked real and "didn't have tape holding them on", otherwise this creature would have been no problem for her.

The extra mile in festive participation. The guide introduces another group to the crying gargoyle. As always, click for larger version.

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.

Settle down, Yorick! One of the neighbors' decorations. (Don't click on this picture.)

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.


The trick about today’s treats

“For good skeletons are we
And we’re dying to be free —
‘All flesh be gone’
Save your dry and joyous shout
For the day poor skeleton steps out”


Today is All Hallows Eve. We carved our jack-o-lanterns this afternoon, and around 4 o’clock, after Mara’s buddy Gwyneth arrived, we all headed over to the house of some other friends for pizza and an ice-cream cake. Dinner and dessert dispatched, we all hit the sidewalks in search of treats. Our party included six princesses, some of them fairy princesses, a tiger and a fireman.


Mara puts the finishing touches on her jack-o-lantern.

Someday Mara will learn of the untold heaps of candy that covered the dining room table, the pillowcases and shopping bags that we used to bring home full and dragging behind us on the ground at the end of a Halloween haul. It was like purse-seining for candy. She’ll learn that there was a time before the “Fun Size” marketing ploy that attempted to convince kids that less candy was more “fun”, a time when size spoke for itself and the size was a half-foot of Baby Ruth, Snickers, Three Muskateers, Mounds and Almond Joy, and Milky Way, and a full eight inches of Butterfinger. The boxes of Milk Duds and Junior Mints rattled with a plenum and gave our bags a satisfying noisiness. One packet of candy-corn would make you sick. Rare was the household within a half mile radius of our house that did not participate. Even if there was no pumpkin lit, there would be someone with a bowl of candy inside at almost every house. The only houses we skipped were those where the porchlight was dark, the signal for “no candy here”. We skipped the Godfrey’s at the bottom of our hill, too, because they gave apples every year and given the area we had to cover before curfew it just didn’t make sense to waste any time going up a driveway where you knew the payoff would be suboptimal.

Things are not like that today. Aside from one, the bars were mostly Fun Size. A few were even those miniature Hershey bars so small that you’d never find it again if you dropped it on an Oriental rug. We had to walk past many dark porches tonight in Wallingford. Those who are available generally make it very obvious. Latona Avenue has a few houses with ghosts sprouting from the chimneys and spooky lights and decorations all over the front walkway. One man on 6th, down next to the freeway, puts up a warehouse full of brightly lit and sound-accompanied stuff for every holiday. But these are few and far between. We walked our kids around for an hour. We visited Tina, an old German lady who is kind to stray cats and whom we have known since we moved into this neighborhood ten years ago.


A pretty pink party setting out for confectionary wealth. They have no idea.

Mara considered it quite a satisfactory night to have her little round plastic pumpkin a third full. Dumped on the dining room table, the take barely disturbed the pattern of the table cloth, and yet we were glad it wasn’t more. Mara accepts the fact that she will get to pig out tomorrow — one day of suspended dental health policy — and then we’ll get rid of the rest. She cherishes the getting, but she is not too upset about the not having. She understands that this stuff is poison. It makes me gag to think of the spoils I brought home, and which, if I recall correctly, I smacked away at for days and weeks, to the consternation of my good parents (but what could they do? You could regulate daily intake in those days to spread out the damage, I think, but social custom had not yet begun to allow wholesale pitching of the booty).

Someday she will learn about the good ol’ days. I hope she’ll make a face and say, “yelcchhh. I feel so sorry for you guys”, but I rather suppose she’ll say something quite else.


Lily and Mica, at top of stairs, lead the way as Mara and Gwyneth race to catch up. The man came to the door in a mask that sent Mara and Gwyneth practically tumbling back down the stairs to get away.


The Great Seattle Gargoyle Hunt