Wednesday 24 October 2018

Pumpkin time

My younger daughter called me this morning to tell me that she was enjoying the autumn leaves and the sunshine, and was feeling all pumpkiny. I know what she meant. This year autumn is one big beautiful glow of orange. Apart from a rather violent storm nearly two weeks ago, we've hardly had any rain and the temperature has been unseasonably warm. My winter coat is still in the wardrobe.

I've brought the glass pumpkins out from the cupboard and arranged them on the hearth with Edgar, the corvid. They are the only remnant of Halloweens past. Everything else has been lost. I don't know what happened to the boxes full of paper ghosts the girls made, the tombstones I painted and inscribed, the crows, pumpkin lights, bats, spiders and webs, our broomsticks, and Frank, the full size monster in his coffin. I imagine, like much else of the life my ex-husband didn't want, he threw them with the fog machine into a skip. It's saddening to think that this part of my girls' childhood is no more. At least they had the benefit of American Halloweens for the time we lived in California.

The next town to ours was Los Gatos, which is famous for, amongst other things, its Halloween madness. Tait Avenue is the main drag where every single house decks out its front yard in the most amazing displays of spookiness. One lady had Hollywood links and her monsters were automata of frightening proportions.  She herself went to the dentist to have fangs attached to her canines and wore cat's eye contact lenses. Another house set up the Halloween disco where one could boogie to the Monster Mash. Another had a Carrie bucket of blood (red glitter) poised to tip on treaters as they made their way on to the front porch. There were mad scientist sheds, and more Transylvania castles than there are in Romania.

Every one of the wooden Victorian houses was adorned with huge webs, and serious numbers of beautifully carved pumpkins. The girls used to come home with buckets full of candy. So much that I had to ration it for the next several weeks. It was a marvellous time and we all enjoyed dressing up, sticking to the ghoulish rather than the more wide ranging costumes that Americans also don.

And we brought the whole thing home with us. For a decade after our return we decorated our house every Halloween and doled out a great number of sweeties to the children of Caversham. Traffic slowed in our road and we were known as the Halloween house - I was even introduced at more than one party as the owner of such.

One year we had scaffolding up and became the Black Pearl with tattered sails (dyed decorating sheets), skeleton pirates in chains and a lot of rum for the grown ups. Another year, we back-projected and looped Thriller on a sheet on the garage and refused to give any sweets until we'd seen some serious dance moves from our treaters. Yet another year, we lit the fire bowl on the driveway and sat around it toasting marshmallows and watching The Nightmare before Christmas. Thankfully it rarely rained so our front garden graveyard lights didn't fuse. Kids came from all over to see what we'd done each year and to be frightened in a good way by our costumes.

I miss our Halloweens, but life changes and moves on, for the better, always for the better. No point looking back with anything other than fondness. Those are the best memories. As Edgar likes to remind me, the past is another country and you can't go there - nevermore!

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