Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Allure of Autumn

Leaves are falling, as are temperatures. All I can say is YEA!

Autumn has always been my favorite season. As a child, raking leaves into super large piles and jumping into them with neighborhood friends and cousins was THE event that meant fall has come! 
After this, in the early evening, Dad and Uncle George (or whatever Uncle was around at the time) would light that pile. We always stood far away from the flames until they burnt to glowing embers. Then, we were allowed to toast some marshmallows. The best part of it all was knowing that, soon, Halloween would be upon us. 

We all loved Halloween up north. Our town had a huge parade with floats and bands and many categories to participate in. The categories, which anyone could sign up for,  included many different types of costumes, props and themes. Families and groups often created wonderfully imaginative constructions and elaborate costumes. What I found out after several years of attending the event was that it was judged and prizes were awarded for the tops in each category. 

'The townspeople would line up on both sides of Main Street and watch the line of costumed walkers, wagon-pullers, flatbed truck floats, intricately constructed castles, robots and rocket ships. I recall seeing the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz one year. Of course, witches, ghosts and skeletons were always in abundance, too. 
Yoda and other Star Wars characters make for
great costume ideas nowadays

The year I was 10, I decided I wanted to be in the parade myself. My mother had sewn my Uncle Ed a witch costume with a great black, pointy hat for a party he was going to attend. I asked if I could use it, too, after his party, so I was allowed to wear it in the parade. The costume came complete with a green, hideous, craggy-faced mask, but I wasn't satisfied. So, I crafted a broom from a good sized tree branch, some dry weeds I pulled from along a neighbor's fence and a bit of twine. It came out really good. 

However, I still felt that I needed a "hook" - something to make my witch stand out in a crowd - and brainstormed a variation of the usual black cat riding on the broom. My version had a dark brown, stuffed dachshund (that belonged to my brother) astride my broom. To clarify, I wore a sign around my neck stating, "So? I'm allergic to cats." I won third prize in the Traditional category and a whopping $6.25! A small fortune for a ten year old in the early sixties. 
Granny square afghan with pumpkins, sunflowers and daisies for fall

Obviously, this was a gigantic part of my childhood and an experience I'd never forget. 

After moving down south in the early '70s, it became apparent that our new home base was not much in favor of Trick n' Treating or Halloween in general. No parades, no parties, no Tricks, no Treats. An era had been bypassed. It's no small wonder I ended up going back north, as a young adult, to enjoy several more years of Halloween parades and nights.

 My home town still has its traditional, annual Halloween parade, and, while the southern town I now live in finally gave up the anti-ghost, so to speak, and now embrace Halloween decorations and kids in costumes going house to house, it's still nothing like what so thrilled us as children. That's not to say there aren't some homegrown rituals that may be just as thrilling for the people who grew up down here in the hinterlands - it's just that I've not yet been able to figure out what they may be. 

crocheted pumpkins and leaves

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Friendship Rekindled

Summertime was coming to a lethargic close when it came to my attention that an old friend was going through a rough patch and could use a helping hand. Fact was, I had seen my friend at a class reunion a couple years before but, before that, hadn't been in close touch since high school. Oh, we'd emailed and did the social networking stuff, but that's not the same as spending time in the company of someone, heaven knows. 
Life had high-jacked us; education, family and professions had waylaid any thoughts of reconnecting with former friends who didn't live within driving distance. And, even though family visits had brought us to within miles of one another, we hadn't known the others' whereabouts at the time. 
But here it was, 50 years since high school, and, hey, what about taking some time to reconnect? 
So, a few phone calls later, I boarded a plane and headed on down to the southernmost, eastern U.S. state for a singular reunion. 
Here we are and above us are some of her flora 

First, I had to get acquainted with the pups, as they are fondly referred to. 

 First was the big guy, Axel
and his smaller friend, Erin.
A Springer Spaniel, Erin loved to play and we played a couple times a day while I was visiting. Mostly toss and fetch kind of stuff, and she was really good at it, too. Axel was more of a walk around and sniff kind of fellow. No playing for him.
We spent a lot of time talking, my friend and I. We also watched a few movies, the first season of Breaking Bad, and went out to eat a few times enjoying the warm, tropical breezes as we did so. 
We had appointments to keep, too, since my friend was recovering from a recent total hip replacement. I had brought my crocheting along, so I was never bored. To top the hip replacement, her marriage of 38 years had dissolved in a heap of smoldering ruin, so there was a meeting of a divorce support group that I drove her to and they kindly allowed me to sit in. I'd been through a divorce myself, many years before and got through it with the help of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, my kids and family lending their support. That and a lot of gardening. Nothing renews a damaged soul like digging, hoeing, sewing and weeding will, in my experience. 
My week of rekindling the friendship we'd once enjoyed so many years ago couldn't have gone much better. The comrade I'd known was unchanged at heart. We found we enjoyed a lot of the same things, found the same things funny, liked the same actors and actresses, listened to similar music, and shared many opinions about world situations, although we didn't get into current events very much. 
We had more to talk about than the world; our lives, our children, our loves, our failures and disappointments and our triumphs. 50 years is a long time to cover in a week, but we managed. 

As I write this, a month or so has gone by since the visit and I look forward to the next one. I'm sure there were important things we forgot to mention. Also, I've since finished the entire series of Breaking Bad and we need to discuss that whole thing.