I can feel it. Can you?
|Mark and I in the kitchen. I wonder *WHO* was dropping in to visit me?|
Oh, the memories are bountiful and sublime. Mom would bake many varieties of home-made cakes that would fill the house with their scrumptious aroma and induce uncontrolled salivation in one and all. You'd hear the distinctive sound of her old cake dough mixing machine at work and know that sweet treats were close at hand. We'd have fried chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner, followed by one - and sometime two! - slices of moist chocolate cake with mounds of gooey buttercream frosting. That's when a cold glass of milk tastes best, when it's following a huge swallow of cake like this. I'd keep the bolus in my mouth for as long as I could, savoring every single solitary molecule of the cocoa bean before washing it down.
The true exuberance happened when Mom retrieved the dusty box from the storage bin in the garage that housed the Sacred Relics which would magically transmogrify our mundane existence during this brief, wonderful season: the big articulated-joint cardboard skeletons and bats and broomstick-riding witches and the black cats silhouetted against big yellow moons, and of course, the brightly-colored 3D crepe paper pumpkins a-plenty. Just cracking the box open and peering inside at the decorations caused my heart to beat faster. Yes! The time is near!
At the stroke of October, my little brother and I would excitedly scamper about, hanging the beloved decorations in all the windows and on the front door and dangling from the huge mulberry tree on the lawn. There was no such thing as "over-doing it" in our vernacular. The more, the better, and the scarier, even more so. We'd spend our dear sweet time at Hughes (the local supermarket in Granada Hills), picking out the perfect pumpkins to carve, taking extreme pains to choose only the biggest, roundest, most unblemished harvest gourd among the bunch. Then, we'd try our best to wait until it got closer to Halloween before degutting our precious bounty, careful to not have a rotting orange carcass sitting in its own spreading puddle of fetid goo on the front steps (I learned this the hard way, having once carved my Jack O'Lantern nearly a month early, and watched with great sadness as it slowly imploded upon itself into a pile of decomposing mush).
Finally being allowed to render them into full Jack O'Lantern status was sheer unabashed joy in itself. Daddy and Mom would spread out old newspapers on the back patio to catch the mess, and supervised us to be patient and go s-l-o-w-l-y (remember, young children with sharp knives can surely a trip to the emergency room be) as we gleefully stabbed our plump gourds open and eagerly scooped out handfuls of the wonderfully earthy, sticky strings from within. Of course, dipping into these Sacred Chalices bestowed even more delightful gifts upon us: the abundant seeds. They were the most important things you had to save aside, because freshly-roasted pumpkin seeds - lightly salted and peppered! - was a seasonal delicacy you dreamt about (along with another decadent treat, pumpkin pie) all year long. Plus, the overall smell of a freshly-butchered pumpkin was pure aphrodisiac in nature. I always had an urge to drink it deeply into my olfactory senses as often and as long as possible. Pumpkins were the gift that just kept on giving, you know?
Once the entire expanse of our home was properly festooned, it was then a waiting game till the Night of Nights would arrive... and for us young 'uns, it was an agonizingly long wait until the 31st. I remember looking at the calendar each day, noting another 24-hours slowly passing by as if mired in molasses. But nevertheless, magic was in the atmosphere. It even felt different at this time of year, from the few trees in our neighborhood whose leaves changed glorious flirty colors, to how the air felt on our skin. It was just a whole 'nother state of mind all together.
Needless to say, I loved getting into my costume... there is something about the slow and deliberate transformation that still to this day enchants my soul like nothing else (see my previous entry from Monday, September 27th to get an idea of what I'm talkig about!).
And one thing I need point out: it was never a sad nor scary time for us. I think the worst memory I have of that idyllic era was my best friend Cheryl from across the street, coming down with a bad case of the flu, and not being able to go Trick-or-Treating with me.
Horrors! Having to stay inside on that blessed night! It was too much for my young mind to bear! After having waited all year long in abject agony for Halloween, only to be too sick to join your friends on the gluttonous candy collecting jaunt?!
I vividly recall knocking on her door, and there was poor feverish Cheryl, in her fleece footie pajamas, standing beside her Mommy, who delivered the bad news unto us. We shot a sad look at each other before the door was closed shut... yet somehow, some Great and Mighty Force got us through this contemptible tragedy, and the following year, Cheryl was there among us neighborhood kids, clamoring for treats as if never having missed a single Halloween in all her young life.
|Ethan and me, with one of his fantastic creations|
|Premiering tonight, at the Encore Theater in Nashville. Break a leg, John!|
My only regret is that this magical season lasts so briefly and then POOF! is gone like a burnished autumn leaf carried away on the Santa Ana winds...