Happy Friday! After all the great Halloween costumes yesterday, here is a fish that disguises itself. It’s called a Scorpion fish—very strange looking.
Today I am remembering Hallowe’en traditions, as they used to be.
What’s with the apostrophe?
Halloween originated as the Eve of All Saints Day, which used to be All Hallows Day. That accounts for the ‘hallow’ part of Halloween. Lots of you already know that. So did I.
But I recently learned the rest of the story. The Eve of All Hallows Day, or Hallows Eve, should have given us Halloweve. But, back in the past, instead of using Eve as an abbreviation for Evening (meaning the night before the big day), Evening was shortened to Even. So you had Hallows Even, which eventually became Hallowe’en, and still later… Halloween.
Now you know.
Halloween used to have October all to itself.
When I was a child, there was no competition from other October holidays, and every free moment of the elementary school day for the entire month of October was devoted to drawing detailed pictures of haunted houses populated by skeletons, ghosts and black cats who hissed as witches rode brooms across the face of the moon.
When we tired of haunted houses, we drew graveyards with tombstones carved to read R.I.P., I. M. Dead and U. R. Too.
Instead of reading about Harry Potter’s Halloween feast, we walked with Ichabod Crane as the teacher read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
There wasn’t a pilgrim or Thanksgiving turkey in sight. And Christmas? That was far, far away. No candy canes, no ads for Christmas toys, no Hallmark channel movies.
Only Halloween enlivened October.
Halloween has always been scary.
At first, people believed that the dead and/or their spirits walked the earth on the night before All Hallows Day.
Much later children disguised themselves and used the evening as an occasion to play tricks on their neighbors—think of Tootie and the flour sack in the old musical,“Meet Me In St. Louis.”
Still later came the notion of providing treats to avoid the children’s tricks. By the time I was a child, the custom had evolved to chanting “Trick or Treat!’ at the door. In that more trusting time, we children would often be invited into the home and asked, “What are you going to do?” You had to have something to offer to get a treat—a joke to tell, a song to sing, a little dance—but the treats were great! Candy apples rolled in crushed nuts, popcorn balls gooey with caramel, rich sugary fudge, and homemade cookies. Instead of a ransom to avoid mischief, the treat had become a reward for performing some trick to amuse the household.
And when we hauled the loot hime, no one checked our candy, and with no lectures about nutrition or tooth decay, we ate until we could hold no more.
Glowing in the dark.
Costumes have changed, too. We wore costumes made at home. One year, my brother and I wore paper sacks from the dry cleaner (apparently it was the pre-plastic wrap era) on which our father had painted skeletons with white bones highlighted in a pale glowing green. We were probably more laden with radium than a wristwatch dial—but who knew? Happily we traipsed from house to house, mob after mob of children, with nary an adult in sight: Hobos, Ghosts, Gypsies, Pirates, Witches, Princesses and Clowns. If there was a Superman costume, it was homemade and clearly ahead of its time. The nights I remember were cool and crisp, with air that held the nutmeg scent of dried leaves and often a tang of woodsmoke.
Parties and hayrides
In high school, a classmate might throw a Halloween party. We’d carve Jack o Lanterns, with a prize for the best one. There would be apples floating in a tank of water. You had to bob to get one—that meant putting your face in the tank and grabbing the apple with your teeth—no hands allowed. And for snacks we had caramel or even chocolate popcorn balls with apple cider in punch bowls smoking with dry ice.
Sometimes there would be hayrides under clear cold skies lit by full, harvest moons. Back then, a hayride didn’t mean square hay bales on a flatbed trailer, but slippery, crunchy, resilient mounds of straw in wagons built to hold hay, not people, and pulled by massive, patient draft horses, instead of tractors.
We sang songs from our parents’ day—Shine on Harvest Moon, You Are My Sunshine, and Clementine. We laughed ridiculously hard at ancient knock-knock jokes, so hard that some of us fell off the wagon and had to run to catch up. The horses were never stopped to wait for stragglers, so jumping back on required the help of friends who would pull you to safety, or failing that, tumble off themselves.
When the night ended, we’d walk home, under a black sky pierced with white-hot, quivering stars, kicking through drifts of leaves, and smelling the cold, the ripeness, the anticipation that was autumn.
Live every day. Make a memory.
Until next time,
Spring is over and Summer has arrived.
The crepe myrtle have begun to bloom—and for some reason the white ones are in full bloom, while the pink varieties are still working up to it. I have to wonder why. But I’m feeling too lazy to actually bother finding out…this year.
Most days I have to water my tomato plants, but not yesterday. Yesterday we had a Father’s Day thunderstorm with winds up to 45 mph, that dumped a lot of branches and debris over the bulkhead and well up onto the lawn—ten feet from the edge of the lake at furthest point.
So once the lawn dries out, there will be plastic trash to pick up (again!) before we return the natural debris back to the lake from whence it came.
This storm gave fair warning before it reached us. The wind picked up, making the waves on the lake high, but not yet bulkhead-breaching. There was no lightning yet to be seen.
My ten-year-old grandson Chase got tired of fishing and decided it would be fun to put the boat tube in the water and ride the waves. He convinced his father to allow this, patiently explaining that his dad could tie the tube securely to the boat dock and that he (Chase) would wear his life jacket and hold “very tightly” to the handles of the tube and not even go into the water. As I mentioned, the waves were not horribly high at this point. So the two of them, Chase and his dad, hauled the tube down to the dock. Pretty soon we were treated to the sight of Chase’s head bobbing into view with every high wave, then dropping back below the bulkhead as the wave receded. It must have felt like a pretty wild roller coaster ride. After a while, older brother Carson decided he wanted in on the fun, and they both rode the waves.
All this time, the wind was increasing in strength as the storm blew closer. Many of the waves now crested the bulkhead, but just enough to splash a bit of water over.
My son and I went down to bring in some chairs I’d left lying (flat and folded) on the dock, before the wind took a notion to toss them into the lake. It was then that the first flashes of lightning appeared on the horizon. So it was out of the water and back to the house for the boys. I am sure they would have, if allowed, stayed out until they washed up on the lawn like life-jacketed debris, so Dad’s intervention was timely.
They weren’t happy to be brought in yesterday. But someday they will realize how blessed they are to have been out there at all… to have a dad who understands their need for adventure and allows them to test their courage and grow their self-reliance (more than a skittish grandma might allow) while still setting the limits that keep them safe.
Happy Father’s Day, son. You are an amazing dad.