Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Home Town...Halloween!

It is Halloween week and the waning full moon illuminates my early morning walk. This magnificent moon represents the Hunter’s Moon, or in earlier times, the Blood Moon. Its name is just what it suggests, more light for hunters to find their prey. It used to be a grand celebration in Western Europe, called The Feast of the Hunter’s Moon. That tradition died out in the 1700’s but has been revived down in Lafayette for their festival of the same name. Whatever you call it, it is romantic. My Mom and Dad were engaged on the full Hunter’s Moon 59 years ago on a hayride. I like to think of them so young and happy and laughing on that hayride years ago. They used to dance to tunes like By the Light of the Silvery Moon and later to Moon River. It is charming and comforting to watch parents dance. We do not dance enough, any one us.

My neighborhood is decked out for Halloween….orange lights, glowing pumpkins, plastic bats in windows. I scuff through the leaves nightly to see what has been added. There used to be a decoration contest in town for Halloween and one of the winners of that contest years ago is now dark and lonely and for sale. I thought about buying that house just to decorate it back up for Halloween. It already has an eerie haunting look with the peeling gingerbread trim and the forlorn sale sign out front. I probably am not the best one to buy it though as my own decorations are pretty minimal. Corn stalks are tied on my garden gates with a passel of pumpkins on each side. Most of the pumpkins came freely from my garden, but two of them were from the five boys next door. We traded for a homemade loaf of bread. I imagine the bread did not even make it through half of their dinner time.

All old towns are wondrous creatures at Halloween. I sometimes wonder what keeps all of these traditions going year after year. We know how they all started The Irish and the Scots brought these European customs with them when they (we) immigrated in the 1800’s. Decorated pumpkins. Witches. All Hallows Eve.

We have our own traditions here (even without the house decorating, although I was thinking that the Park’s Department should bring that back, what do you think?) There is the Autumn hoe down at the park, the Fall Fest, the Trick-or-Treating hours. I am glad that I was a child before those rules were established. I grew up in Fort Wayne and we started the Trick-or-Treat scene at least a week ahead of time. We started early and ended late and took our last loot home on Halloween night in an old pillowcase. At least those are the stories I tell my kids about the good ole’ days. I remember spreading all of it out, sorting it by really great stuff, good stuff, OK stuff, and not so great. The Bun candy bars were in the really great stuff whereas apples and boxes of raisins were rock bottom.

On this night the storytelling at Pokagon State Park still stands as a tradition in the county. My friend, Steve, and I have been telling ghost stories for 18 years (I think, we need to ask Fred Wooley on that one) at the park. It is a ghostly night with luminaries, carved pumpkins and a roaring fire in the Pavilion. Everyone sits bundled up sharing popcorn and cider, compliments of the Inn. Children who came to some of the first storytellings are now bringing their children to this wonderful evening. Sometimes we are accompanied by bats or mice or even an occasional black cat walking through, but always there is a chill in the air.

The wind blows today as I write and rehearse those ghost stories for tonight. Some stories I pull out of the archives of my brain, others are born out of my imagination. I have blown the cobwebs out of my black cape and found both of my gloves for this haunting evening. It is good to know that some things don’t change and that for a few hours we can huddle together listening to cryptic tales that will not be at all scary tomorrow in the daylight.

I’ll come home late tonight and scuff through the leaves surrounding my garden gate, light my pumpkin and just be glad for traditions in my hometown.