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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A Change in Life, A Change in Season by Martha Reed

A few years back I looked out the living room window of my home in Aspinwall, PA during a February blizzard. I noticed that the snowdrift was even with the bottom of my windowsill, stretching out like a soft and fluffy freshly laundered blanket as it evenly covered the ballfield across the street.

That’s when I decided it was time to move south.

It took me a few more years to settle on St. Petersburg, Florida, as my new home. I moved to Florida in January 2019. St. Pete is a great place to live. The people are super friendly, the climate is sunny and 80 degrees year-round, the dolphins and manatees sport in Tampa Bay. But this year, for the first time since I moved, I’m missing Autumn and the change in seasons.

I felt a genuine pang when I flipped the calendar to October 2021. I miss apple cider, and crisp fall mornings when the first earthy frost heaves crunch beneath my feet. I miss the rustling gold and scarlet maple leaves and lifting cherished heirloom Shetland wool sweaters from a cedar chest, gently scented by mothballs. I even miss frothy pumpkin spice lattes.

What I miss the most is the family fun at Halloween.

Aspinwall is a tight-knit community with 2,800 people crammed into 0.4 square miles. Now kids who hunt candy are calculating little monsters, and any child related to me quickly figured out that the most efficient way to loot the most candy in the strictly limited amount of time was to trick-or-treat using Aunt Martha’s house as their home base.

It worked. We had a blast, and we had it down to a science. The grown-ups hung out at my house drinking beer and sipping wine after we released our pillaging horde to terrify the neighbors. The best part of the Halloween evening was when the kids returned, hunched and struggling under their overloaded pillowcases. (Disclosure: I believe we inherited pirate DNA.) The kids then kicked us out of the living room, spilling their loot across the floor and setting up an impromptu marketplace where they hustled each other out of their favorites. It was the best party of the year, and it took hours.

The kids are grown now, but I still cherish the memories and this photo:

St. Pete has its own Halloween traditions. We hang cobwebs and plastic pumpkins off the palm trees:

What’s your fondest Halloween tradition or memory? Did you share thrilling ghost stories around a fire pit, or hand-make your costume?

15 comments:

Jim Jackson said...

One Halloween it blizzarded, meaning most kids were very limited in how many houses they could get to. I was tasked with taking my sisters to a couple of neighbors. One was so grateful that anyone showed up, she dumped a ton of candy bars into their bags, saw I didn’t have one and double bagged kitchen trash liners into a makeshift bag and “forced” me to take all the candy I could carry. Mom was not pleased, but it was the best haul I’d ever gotten, and I wasn’t even out asking!

Martha Reed said...

How old were you, Jim? I was a lucky recipient once when I was nine or ten. I walked home feeling like I’d won Wonka’s golden ticket!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

My older two were born Halloween week, with separate birthday parties on either side of Halloween. In Cleveland, trick and treating might have required ski jackets and rain boots (we never had snow). The manic birthday and Halloween high started October 1st.

The youngest was born ten days before Christmas.

Martha Reed said...

What fun, Margaret. Living in Pittsburgh I’ve seen winter parkas covering costumes, too. One year, the Steelers were playing on Halloween night. My neighbor moved his TV onto his front porch so he could watch the game. He acted as a broadcaster giving updates to the other parents on the street.

Shari Randall said...

We also used to live in one of those densely populated neighborhoods that were a trick or treater's dream! It was a total party scene, with the grownups having as much fun as the kids. My new neighborhood has few kids and the houses are further apart. I've had 5 kids come by in four years. :( I miss the pirates!

Martha Reed said...

Hi Shari - Yes, a great part of the fun was seeing the costumes the kids came up with every year. My sister and I used to make the costumes but when the kids got to be eight or nine they exercised their independence and started coming up with their own. Talk about character insight! There were a couple of years I raised by eyebrows at their choices!

Korina Moss said...

I love this and especially that Halloween photo. There were 6 kids in my family and my mother always helped us make our own costumes. (There might've been a store-bought mask a time or two, the plastic kind you could barely breathe through.) My favorite costume was when I was Raggedy Ann. I continued the tradition of handmade costumes with my son. I'm so glad I did. I'm not crafty at all so there was never any sewing involved, but my son's dad is handy, so between the 3 of us, we always managed something fun. The memories of the three of us figuring out a costume, assembling it, and the excitement on our son's face when it all came together are the best memories of Halloween.

Martha Reed said...

Hi Korina - I love handmade costumes. My grown up nephew is still embarrassed by the "Little Stinky" skunk outfit we made for him when he was two years old (and we have pictures to prove it.) I'm not crafty though, so I used a hot glue gun to stick it together instead of sewing it. And yes, those memories are also the best ones.

Molly MacRae said...

Our schools had a Halloween parade through town each year - all the elementary students, sometimes in costumes people could see, sometimes in costumes covered by winter jackets, hats, mittens, scarves, and snow boots. Good fun!

Martha Reed said...

In grade school the kids used to parade around their gymnasium. That year my nephew wanted to be a Jack in the Box character from his YuGiOh card set. We made it for him and he hopped around the floor keeping up with everyone. Good times.

KM Rockwood said...

I remember my daughter and her friends getting the trick-or-treat information for each of the small towns around us, making a schedule, and getting a parent to drive them to each one. It was more about parading in costumes down Main Streets closed to traffic for three hours than it was about the loot.

Martha Reed said...

LOL. Did you daughter do anything in her adult life that also shows this type of organizational skill?

Kait said...

Oh, I love your Halloween picture! So perfect.

The longer you are in Florida,the more in tune you will become to the subtle, but much anticipated, changes of the seasons.

Halloween was a big deal in my neighborhood. We had an active mischief night - I never participated, but my dad would drive my friends and me around town to see whose car was covered in shaving cream and what shop had their windows soaped. Now that I'm older I realize he was driving around to keep tabs on my brother - he was 9 years older than I - and making sure he didn't get into any real trouble. Then there was Halloween day. Mom made most of my costumes. She was a talented seamstress. She also did my face paint. I made a very convincing tiger!

Darlene Dziomba said...

Love the picture of the nieces and nephews!! My freshman year of college we dressed up and went trick or treating in a very wealthy neighborhood near the school. I wore my bathrobe, slippers, a shower cap and spread Noxema over my face. At every house I would make a snarky comment like, "I was trying to relax and these brats made me take them trick or treating." My friends were equally creative and we got a lot of laughs.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I love seeing how different Halloween's celebrated "up north" and in St. Pete's. When I was growing up in Brooklyn, kids (boys, actually) "celebrated" by running around with chalk that they marked down other kids' jackets. I'm glad to see that great costumes and Trick or Treat have taken over.