The tinge of cold on my skin signals that I might soon have to abandon the porch for warmer writing digs. But the sun still shines its feeble fall rays over the tops of the trees, though soon it will shift to provide less comfort. The yard lies sleeping under its heavy cloak of fallen leaves, and the last wilted sage on the strip of ground at the south age of my property struggles to rise above the dankness of the winter earth.
I have not decorated the porch for All Hallowed Eve. Last year, my first year of empty-nesting, I allowed myself to opt for a plastic pumpkin. But I have not even bothered with artificial trappings this year; and I have a funeral followed by a family dinner to attend on Sunday, so I will not, for the first time in 19 years, be passing out candy tomorrow night. In any case, the number of small children knocking at my door has dwindled over the years, until finally, I had to extinguish the porch light so early that it hardly seemed to matter. If I left it illuminated after eight, all of the trick-or-treaters would be taller than I; and notwithstanding their protestations of entitlement, I decline to fuel the delayed childhood of high school seniors.
Halloweens of the past crowd my memory today -- some of my son's best costumes; sorting candy on the living room floor with my brothers; the year that a group of us managed to take our sons out in all three of our neighborhoods, to their eternal delight. Score! In my son's last year of elementary school, he and several friends, along with a handful of parental units, went round our block to Trick-or-Treat-For-UNICEF, while a smaller group gathered in my living room to hand out candy and drink hot cider -- some spiked, some not -- and gasp, or squeal, or coo over the costumes at the door, and the dimpled, smiling children who stretched out their arms and their paper bags to receive our bounty. We always gave chocolate, and little packages of Smartees, and orange-wrapped taffy.
My reveries trigger a recollection of an evening at my childhood home at the foot of Kinamore Drive, on McLaran Avenue in Jennings. The year must be 1968, or thereabouts. Two boys, eight or nine years old, stand at on end of a long dinner table spread with newspapers. Resting in front of them, a large sacrificial orb, orange and smooth, awaits further degradation, having already had a lid slashed from it by our mother. Each boy -- grinning, gleeful -- has rolled up his sleeves and donned an old man's shirt over his clothes. Each boy has been given a large spoon, but they have both cast such tools aside. At a signal from Mom, they dive in, and wrench the guts from the pumpkin's belly, pulling each glob and hurling it down onto the newspaper.
I stand, as my twelve-year old self, at the far end of the table, holding a camera. I am charged with the task of photographing the finished product, but as their wild grabs at the innards reach a crescendo, I am clicking the shutter. They raise their hands, swinging the globs of seeds and pulp, roaring like the monsters that they will resemble when garbed for Halloween, eager and threatening, and I snap, and snap, and they laugh, and laugh, until finally, our mother comes into the breakfast room with a tray full of freshly baked sugar cookies and says, Okay now, that's enough, let's draw the face and I'll cut it out for you.
Six months later, my mother sorted through a box full of photographs. She was looking for a picture to put on the front of a card that she intended to send out, to celebrate the approaching holiday. Another ritual involving candy -- but in baskets, with jelly beans, and plastic grass. My mother did not let any occasion pass without a mass mailing to her family and friends. She often made her own cards, getting multiple copies of whatever family picture caught her fancy. As the last girl at home, I got the task of addressing the envelopes and writing the messages. For this spring holiday, she held up a square from the picture pile and proclaimed that she had found the perfect shot. I took it from her hand, and agreed. To the photo shop at the drug store we went, and ordered a pack of duplicates. A week later, I pasted one on each folded rectangle of note paper, and wrote the caption beneath it: Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Happy Everything.
I still smile at the thought of the looks on people's faces, when they opened the envelope and saw the picture of my little brothers, Frank and Steve, with their pumpkin-smeared shirts, and their raised hands, with pumpkin guts dripping from their fingers, and their sweet boy faces frozen in terrible monster growls.
From my front porch in Brookside, on this marvelous fall morning, I send you all Halloween greetings, with special love to a dear friend whose mother got her angel wings this week. Rest in peace, Louise.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
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The Missouri Mugwump™
- M. Corinne Corley
- I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.
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