Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Curmudgeon's Halloween

Last night’s storm blew more leaves off of the trees, and another smattering of leaves dot the deck, after I cleaned it off yesterday. Some fall chores apparently bear repeating. I took the last of the garden leavings to the compost pile, and tried to burn the pile of brush we had built up after a flurry of fall cleanup.

The morning was quiet, the dew on the grass sparkling in unexpected morning sunshine, though I pulled my sweatshirt closer and zipped it up, warding off the chill. I filled up the bird feeder, and found the cover for the outside faucet. In another month, it will be time to really get ready for cold weather. I still don’t want to bring in the garden hoses. It is my senseless act of rebellion against the end of autumn and the shorter, colder days.

Nothing is left to harvest, yet the last of the leaves show their palette of colors that was hidden all summer long by green and long, warm days. I’m glad I planted that fire maple and the sweet gum trees last year. They are putting on a good show for the neighborhood this crisp morning.

It is Halloween, and a few of the neighbor kids will hopefully come by tonight, in their cute costumes, their parents standing back, as we give them a few pencils and laugh with them in their fun. The kids get bigger and the little ones who came by in the past are now driving their cars to school, and we hardly ever see them anymore.

When our kids were growing up, I’ve had good times, carving a pumpkin, and dressing up as a pirate when kids came trick or treating. That was a lot of fun, and I liked making my own pirate costume every fall. We handed out our share of candy, and pencils, too. And, I think, when the night was over, the pencils were pretty popular. And, they lasted a lot longer than the candy.

This is not my favorite holiday. I like the fun costumes, and the kids laughing as they walk down the lane. Yet, the piles of candy and expensive costumes in the store, mostly monsters or gory masks and items of death, rub me the wrong way. There’s enough gruesomeness in the news and in life, and we shouldn’t celebrate terror and death. The commercial pressure is ratcheted up, and it seems this is another national spending spree. And, the next day, all that’s left are some bags of trash and a sugar hangover.

I always have thought the best costumes came from something in the back of the closet, and a bit of paint or charcoal around your face. It took some imagination, but that’s always the best way to have fun.

It used to be Halloween was a time to commune with and reflect on one’s ancestors, and to remember who we are and honor our family members who have passed on. We’d drink cider and play games, and after some creative uses of a sheet or an old shirt, and some fingerpaint, and visiting the neighbors for a homemade candy apple or a bag of caramel corn, we’d gather around the kitchen table for some hot cider and some popcorn.

Now, this is a weekend of lots of drinking and driving, and more kids die in traffic than any other night of the year. And, then there’s all the sugar highs from all the junk people stuff down. I’d rather have the fun of my silly homemade costume, my neighbor lady’s caramel apple, and popcorn around the kitchen table, laughing and using our imagination.

Tomorrow is All Saints’ Day, a time to reflect on the deeds of good people, and to maybe see our lives in terms of service and taking care of our fellow man. In many traditions, it is a time to look back on the year, with the harvest in and the cold weather coming on, and to welcome the change of seasons. It is a time to prepare for the quiet, and the warmth of the hearth and the camaraderie of family life on a winter’s night.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy a bit of the macabre, or a scary story. I read Edgar Allen Poe and I admire Stephen King’s ability to weave a good tale. But, I don’t like to spend a bunch of money on cheap, scary stuff and a bunch of sugar treats loaded with chemicals. I’m not one to celebrate blood and gore, and trying to scare people. That’s not who I am and it’s not really Halloween.

So, tonight, we’ll get out the boxes of pencils, and turn the lights on for the little ones. Though, the neighbor kids are getting older, and maybe no one will show up. But, I’ll still make some popcorn, and maybe dig out my old pirate hat in the back of the closet. And, have a little fun.

Neal Lemery, Halloween, 2010

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