Halloween

The journey from Colorado to Florida didn’t start auspiciously.

We held the thrashing cat. Armed with our new pill popper we aimed the capsule deep down her throat. A great slashing of claws, she spat the sedative, tearing my skin as she tore upstairs to escape her fate. We mopped up the blood and, by dint of gardening gloves, finally inserted cat into carrier. These antics, having spooked our older, more sedate cat, it was a while before he too was imprisoned. Waving farewell to our early start, we waved farewell to our Colorado home. We were on our way! 

We can draw a veil over most of the trials of the journey, suffice it to say that despite plugging all the cat escape routes with pillows in our hotel rooms we, nevertheless, had to deconstruct these rooms, turning beds on edge to corner the cats and cram them once more into their carriers for the onward journey.  Such a relief to reach our Florida home in time for a very late lunch on the beach!

Refreshed, and in high spirits, we returned to the house to liberate the cats who had been remanded in custody until we were sure they had re-oriented themselves and, to unpack. It was three days before we finished cleaning the cockroach invasion in the kitchen and longer before we kick started the A/C! Ah! the joys of the Floridian life!

So you can understand that it took more than a week before I began to muse about autumn on the Florida coast. Back in Colorado, we had witnessed the aspens transform into shimmering clusters of lemon drops, we had lounged on hay bales at a pumpkin festival sipping hot apple cider, gazing at snow capped mountains framed by crisp blue skies. Here, the significant signs of fall were the influx of visitors for the Gators/Bulldogs game, and the little girl next door parading her Halloween costume. She’s been in the unicorn zone for the past couple of years, yet always manages to persuade mom and dad to invest in the latest design. This year, in centaur style, she is both the unicorn and the princess rider!

Halloween – what a strange festival. I am old enough not to have celebrated it to any extent in my distant youth back in the UK. They tell me that US style commercialism has made it a “thing” there now and my great-nieces will be donning unicorn costumes of their own.  In my day, it  was superseded by another grizzly holiday, “Bonfire Night,” that falls on November 5th. I will spare you the gory details, but beware, they may seep into a future post.

And Halloween?  We wear out our voices and strain our patience telling children about “stranger danger,” being polite, and eating healthily – then all this sage advice flies out of the window on October 31st  – when it’s okay to roam around at night, (in our town often supervised by a dubious man in a motorized coffin,) knock on the doors of complete strangers, threaten abuse, and devour an abomination of candy!

All this merely hints at the horrors of the holiday;- the month of scary movies, the theme parks’ haunted house extravaganzas, the homes decorated with ghouls, graves, ghosts and skeletons. Carved rotting pumpkins leering slit-eyed at the adorable fairies and elves who arrive early in the evening. No wonder they’re timid, they’re traumatized.

How did we come to laugh in the face of death in this bizarre way?  The roots of many of the traditions are intertwined in the mists of history, some are likely pagan, others reflect the Christian tradition of All Saints and All Souls. Saints and martyrs were venerated, and prayers were said for lesser departed mortals to propel their journey through purgatory to their immortal bliss.

Nowadays, most of us treat Halloween as a secular holiday, a bit of (generally,) harmless fun to set a spark into the darker days of fall and early winter.  And could I, with my British reserve, resist?  You can bet I didn’t.  Once my children were old enough to walk, they sported homemade costumes, (sewn responsibly of sweatshirt material to keep them warm on the chill New England nights).  Black cat and gray mouse, together with the various pumpkins and Pikachus of their “baby” group delighted in gathering their loot. As the years slipped by, I no longer had a say in their outfits.  My daughter visited the Junior Princess Barbie Bride zone, turning blue in the diaphanous dress, and my son’s costumes swerved with alarming speed into the black and bloody hinterland. As the children grew old enough to reject parental chaperones, I was always relieved when they returned home with their peanut butter candy swag. 

One year stands out. My son’s friend had been run over and seriously injured one of his legs which needed to be encased in a metal frame.  No Halloween for him that year you might think.  No problem, the boys dressed up in scrubs, and army surplus, and wheeled him around as a MASH unit. The best Halloween ever – and enough candy to drive our dentist to despair.

As Covid, (hopefully,) wanes, let’s have some fun and celebrate this crazy season.

End Notes

Reading

Remember
Lisa Genova

Listening

Northern Sky
Nick Drake

Seven Shades of Blue
Beth Nielsen Chapman

Poetry

Hide and Seek
Vernon Scannell

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