Sunday, October 15, 2023


Five plastic pumpkin heads rested precariously atop my driveway retaining wall. Their eyes squinted in the bright sun of an early October afternoon. A soft autumn breeze whipped around me as I envisioned the plan while shaking a brand-new can of metallic gold paint. With endless time at my disposal, I departed my self-imposed daily routine to recapture fall traditions I may not have ever experienced.

My memories of Halloween fun are limited. I only have two specific memories of Halloween from my childhood. That's odd, right? Neither is particularly interesting, but the spirits have left them to dwell in my mind only to resurrect every fall as the days become shorter.

I remember traipsing around Dimmeydale with my father back when I was a young pup who did not really understand what Halloween was all about. My mother had dressed me up as something, I don't know what. I just remember being so hot. She had wrapped me tight to ensure her little baby did not catch a cold. The horrific part was the cheap plastic mask, the one with two holes for my eyes and a small breathing hole around where my mouth should be. A thin piece of elastic with two metal clips at each end stretched tightly around the back of my little head, holding the smothering mask against my face. I was a mini Jason Vorhees collecting candy instead of murdering troublesome teenagers.

"Dad, I'm thirsty." My father heard my whimpering cries for water. I was so pathetic that Dad was forced to ask a candy-pushing neighbor for a glass of water to shut me up. Dad pulled the mask up atop my head so that I could chug down the refreshing, tepid water. I stood between them as they laughed, finishing the last few drops and breathing some fresh air before Dad slid that infernal mask back on my face as we continued our endless trek through the dark streets of Dimmeydale.

We moved up to Bellovedere when I was 7 or 8 years old. Dad probably wanted to make the move because Bellovedere has one road compared to the multiple interconnecting streets of Dimmeydale. The one street made Halloween so much easier for all of us. Well, except for my younger brother Jim.

My brother had a temperature. Placing the back of her hand against his forehead, Mom declared little Jim was too warm to trick or treat with us. He had cried about not being allowed to go, so I had to carry two bags around the neighborhood, asking suspecting neighbors for some candy for my poor, sick brother, who was too sick to be out on a chilly Autumn night. To this day, I remember standing in front of Mr. Mulroy and uncomfortably begging, "Can I have some candy for my sick brother?" Mr. Mulroy stared down at me like a doubting teacher listening to an errant student proffering a lame excuse about missing homework. He looked from me to my dad, who stood a comfortable distance behind me. Once he had Dad's unspoken acknowledgment that this was not some sort of shady scam, Mr. Mulroy sighed as he begrudgingly dropped an extra piece of chocolate in the second bag. The street was short, but the embarrassment was excruciatingly long.

Despite my childhood angst, I grew into a reasonably responsible adult who abides by fall traditions. When I taught, I would decorate my classroom with warm orange lights from the first of October until Thanksgiving. Every Halloween, I have candy or snacks to hand out to little visitors, insisting they say "Trick or Treat" rather than standing silently with open bags. I will admit I like to buy extra treats, not because I expect thousands of guests; I just want some for myself.

This year, I chose to do something different that takes more effort than hanging some orange lights or buying giant bags of snacks, something crafty and goofy. 

I grabbed unsuspecting pumpkins from the wall and sprayed their insides with gold metallic paint. I felt that tiny rush at the outset of a project; I knew this would be good. I took a can of rustic orange paint to the outer bright orange plastic sheen of the pumpkins and then hung each on a tree branch to dry before I used a utility knife to carve out their eyes, noses, and mouths. As the afternoon October sun slowly faded, I strung my old orange lights through the pumpkins before placing them on and around a barberry shrub near my front door, where the orange lights stuff inside would shine from the eyes of the pumpkins for any passerby to see. 

I tried to think of a name for this display: Pumpkinhead Corner, Pumpkinville, or Land of Pumpkins. None of them worked for me and sounded juvenile. They were silly names. A thirsty little boy in Dimmeydale or even a two-bag candy scam artist may like them, but not a grown-up who is content to just hand out some candy.

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