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Halloweens, Long Ago and Far Away

I really love Halloween. Not the scary stuff, but the fun stuff. The jack-o-lanterns and the dressing up and the trick-or-treating are all wonderful. I’ve always loved Halloween. As a kid with a big imagination and a sweet tooth, why wouldn’t I? I got to dress up and fill a bag full of candy from all over the neighborhood. What could be better?

I have no idea when I first started to dress up for Halloween. We don’t have pictures of Halloween past that I’m aware of. There are dozens of close up shots of flowers, but no little kids in costumes. Go figure. Still, I know I trick or treated as a kid.

The first costume I recall included one of those awful plastic masks that were hard to see out of and hard to breathe through. It was a woman’s face with blonde hair. I think it was Sleeping Beauty or Goldilocks, but I can’t be sure. Either seems like an odd choice for me, but I imagine it’s what was available at the store at the time.

My mother isn’t exactly what you’d call creative. My brother and I took care of our own costumes for the most part. I seem to recall that he was a hobo more than once. He did create a rather impressive robot out of odds and ends one year that left a lasting impression on me.

My costumes weren’t always the best, and honestly I don’t think the neighbors had any clue what I was dressed as half the time. That’s okay, since most of us had to wear our winter coats over our costumes anyway. I never had a great costume as a kid. Charlie Chaplin with his colored scotch tape mustache was kind of a bust. I didn’t give up though, not until the final year, in high school, when I pinned some ears on a grey sweatshirt and used eye pencil to draw on whiskers. DSC00553So lame, but at least I didn’t go alone!

When my son came along I swore his Halloweens would be memorable. For his first Halloween I sewed him the most adorable pumpkin costume, but it turned out way too big. At the last minute I put him in white pajamas and stuck on a cute little puppy bib and called it done. He was darling.

At two he wore the pumpkin costume, and it was perfect! When he was three I sewed him a lion costume that was equally charming. I practically swooned when I saw him in it. Then, at four, he decided that he had to be Batman. A small part of me died inside, but he was happy.

At five he “spotted” a cute leopard costume, and I had to admit that I couldn’t have made it myself for the same price, so it was store bought again. Then there was a Power Ranger costume, and a Ninja, and who knows what else, until he decided to put together his own costumes.

One year it was Darth Mullett… a hillbilly version of the terrifying Darth Maul from one of the newer Star Wars movies that I don’t like. DSC01972He donned red and black face paint and a wig, and he looked pretty bizarro. He was happy. Another year he was a creepy pumpkin patch guy. He made a pumpkin mask, then borrowed a fall leaf garland that he wrapped around himself. He looked pretty awesome.

My son is too old to trick or treat now, and Halloween has lost some of its magic for him, but I still love it. I enjoy being outside and watching the neighborhood come to life. I love to see the little ones experience it for the first time, and to joke around with the teenagers who are trying to stuff their pillowcases with free candy and hang on to their childhoods.

I think back to all those freezing cold Halloween nights from my childhood, and I wouldn’t change a thing.


Why I Decorate For Holidays

jack-o-lantern1-192x200Have you been inside a store lately? Someone thinks it’s Christmas already. It’s not. It’s still October. I’m not ready for Christmas. Or Thanksgiving. Or, frankly, even Halloween. In fact, I went out looking for some cool yard decorations for Halloween yesterday, but apparently you’re supposed to do that further in advance of the holiday than one week. Who knew? I did pick up a few small Thanksgiving decorations, on clearance, no less.

I’m slowly trying to rebuild my Halloween and Thanksgiving decoration stock, as I foolishly allowed most of it to be given away by my ex. It wasn’t his fault. I moved out of the house and left behind lots of things to donate. Somehow the box that contained some really wonderful decorations (including some handmade items and some treasures that my son made in his early years) ended up in that group. I’ve been mourning its loss for three years now.

The stacking jack-o-latern boxes, the ceramic haunted house candle holder, the cross-stitched ghosties, the tole painted pumpkins, the elegant ceramic pumpkins that used to grace my Thanksgiving table… all gone. So are the mini-pumpkin lights and the larger jack-o-lanterns stake lights for the yard. It still makes me sad to think about it.

As we speak, my house has a hand-made fabric wreath on the front door and a small wooden sign with a jack-o-lantern. There is a doormat in orange with a jack-o-lantern face on it, and a plug in jack-o-lantern that isn’t plugged in, because we need an extension cord. How is anyone going to know that we’re a house to trick-or-treat at? I know, I know… turn on the porch light and they will come. But it’s our first year in our new neighborhood, and I want to make a good impression. There should be some sign on Halloween on the premises!

When I was a kid we had a large plastic jack-o-lantern. We would place a small lamp inside of it and put it in the front window. It looked awesome! Then we would carve a pumpkin or two and stick those out on the porch, with candles in them, of course. I loved how it looked. It was the only time our house was ever really decorated for a holiday, at least from the outside.

My parents were immigrants, and my family is Jewish. We never did Christmas lights. In fact, it made my mom a little uncomfortable when my dad would bring home a wreath for the front door, which he did a couple of times during my growing up years. Our house basically always looked the same, inside and out.

Back in those days people didn’t go quite as crazy with the decorations as they do now, of course, but there were lots of Christmas lights in our neighborhood. They looked especially beautiful in the snow. I loved visiting my friends during the holiday season and seeing their Christmas trees and other decorations. I was always fascinated and enchanted by all the things that people would do to make their homes different and special during holidays, whether it was embroidered hand towels or special placemats or garland along a bannister. I always wished that we could do that at our house, but it was never going to happen.

gingerbreadhouse2008We did have out our menorahs at Chanukah time, and one year my dad built a huge gingerbread house. We also dragged home a small evergreen and put it in a bucket in basement one year, much to my mother’s horror. Then there was the year that my dad and I built a “tree” out of dowels. I’m not sure if that was cool and creative or just plain pathetic. Anyway, our holiday decor was extremely limited.

I vowed that when I had a home of my own I would decorate it for the holidays, and I did. I still do. I don’t fill it to the gills with junk, I try to use pieces that make me happy individually, and that collectively create a festive feeling. That’s why replacing items is so difficult. The missing items were collected over years, and each had its own story. You can’t just load up at Target and call it done. Well, I can’t.

So now I’m back to clearing out clutter so I can enjoy my holiday decorations, such as they are, and I’m planning a trip to the hardware store for that extension cord. Who knows what I might pick up along the way? Maybe something spooky.



Ten Tiny Steps to Clutter Control

We moved into our house two and a half months ago. I used to be able to make that statement in weeks, but like the mother who claims that her little one is 42 months old, I need to face reality and admit that some time has passed since the blessed event.

At this point, it’s no longer ok to be surrounded by clutter and partially unpacked items. It’s time to finish the job of settling in. After all, one can’t decorate a mess, and a slew of holidays are right around the corner. 9155Jack-o-lanterns on top of piles of paper are more annoying than decorative, and I’m not about to drape lights over half empty boxes in the living room. I just don’t think that would impart the holiday ambiance that I’m going for.

In order to make headway on this daunting task I’ve decided to tackle the mess one tiny bite at a time. This morning it was my bathroom vanity. I’m telling myself that if I just take care of 10 items I’m making progress, and it’s true. Slow progress, but still progress. Besides, I usually go beyond 10.

The sad thing is, there’s no place in this house that feels “done.” Every room needs work. Every surface has stuff on it. Every closet feels full. Every box that’s still around has stuff in it. I don’t feel like there’s a single serene spot in my house. Oh, and the indoor temperature has been hovering around 85 degrees since the air conditioner went out a few days ago. It just doesn’t feel comfortable to be home. I need to change that.

Fortunately the ac guy is coming tomorrow, and the family room isn’t TOO bad. I think I’ll head there next. My work in the bathroom this morning was quick and yielded good results. After all, it’s not hard to throw out three items, place two in the hamper, one in the medicine cabinet, and four under the sink. I can do that. If I just keep doing that, the house will be put together in no time.

Hmm, maybe there’s a lesson here. A lesson about health and diet and exercise and weight loss. Maybe I don’t have to do it all at one time. Maybe I can make tiny changes to help move me in the right direction. Of course I know this to be true, but it’s difficult to resist the Halloween candy. I swear I’ve only eaten four pieces of it, and they’re the really small ones. Maybe I should put the bowl in the freezer? Out of sight, out of mind? Except that it’s in a weird place now and I have no trouble remembering where it is. Still, I’m not a big fan of frozen candy.

Now I’m off to the tackle the coffee table. It’s not too bad, which is good, since it’s a work day. Wish me luck as I try to move forward ten tiny steps at a time.