Monday, September 24, 2018

Fall & Halloween, Now and Way Back When I Was a Kid

It's not even the end of September, though getting darn close, and twice now I have looked to putting out my Halloween décor.  I have always had a rule of thumb that nothing goes out until October 1, yet here I am ready to get a jump on ghosts and goblins, or in my case, my growing number of skeletal family members. 

Halloween back when I was a kid in the 60's meant going to the local nursery or garden center and picking out a pumpkin, which for me could literally take an hour. Some years I wanted the tallest pumpkin, others I wanted the most round pumpkin, or the pumpkin with the most ridges and lines...it was always something that wasn't the norm.  Then the face was another thing altogether.  Did I want triangles for the eyes or the nose, did I want more cutout teeth on the bottom or the top of the mouth?  Yes, one would think I didn't get my pumpkin done until "after" Halloween, and to this day, I'm just as analytical, and about pretty much everything. 

What I didn't enjoy about carving pumpkins was actually getting all the goop out of the inside.  Invariably, all that stuff would get on my arms and then form a skin over my own skin, and I hated that feeling.  I remember scrubbing my arms with a sponge and a little Comet to get the stuff off, and then my arms would be raw.  And the one thing my mom never did was roast the seeds in the oven, and I always used to wonder why not, until my late husband requested me to do that for him...and we were talking seeds from 3 35lb pumpkins.  Well, after you get all the goop out you have to separate the seeds from the strings of the innards of the pumpkin, then put the seeds in a colander, then rinse them well, then put them in either olive oil or melted butter and then mix with salt (or really the best way is to boil in heavily salted water until the seeds turn gray, then dry them out in a 250 oven) and then roast them in the oven.  Now mind you, I did seeds for him from ONE pumpkin, not all three, otherwise I would have been in the kitchen all night.  But that said, I can still smell as if it were yesterday, the lusciousness of a fresh cut pumpkin, the seared top when I forgot I had my candle lit inside, even the smell after I blew out the candle and that baked pumpkin smell.  Such memories just don't leave one's heart!

Halloween and fall invoke caramel apples, or affy tapples as those of us from Chicago know them by. The factory is only 2 miles from my birth home in Niles, Illinois and I do believe they still have tours.  Anyway, you would usually find them in the drugstore under a large clear plastic display and of course, I always looked for the one with the most caramel.  And you had a choice of plain caramel, or caramel and chopped peanuts.  Those were the only options back then and there was none of this covered in chocolate, sprinkles, marshmallows, M & M's, pretzels, etc.  I will to this day, take a caramel apple covered in nuts, although now my nut of choice is crushed walnuts. 

Fall dinners that still warm my heart...pot roast, swiss steak and meatloaf.  Nowadays, there seems to be chicken this or vegetarian that simmered in apple cider with a side of couscous.  I'm not knocking progress, as we are talking 50 years later, but give me the good old fashioned fall dinners any day. 

Trick or treating...oh my, how things have changed.  From my one nylon costume that made me hotter than blazes, and the mask that was no better, to that set of 3 ties in the back to keep the costume on and would invariably untie.  There was always a small rack of costumes in the store or they came as a set in a box.  Nowadays, you go to a party store and a 100 foot wall is dedicated to costumes...and I mean about 300 different attires.  Makes me sort of long for the simpler days when I had my costume, mask and paper trick or treat bag with a handle. 

I remember a few years ago going to a haunted house/corn maze with a friend, and the night was very dark and the corn was about 7-8 feet high.  It did not disappoint, with gory humans missing limbs, eyes and more poking out of or jumping in my path, which did not bode well with me at all.  Once we got outside into the maze, you had the same among the corn stalks.  Most of the time I was so afraid of such creatures leaping out at me that I kept pushing myself closer to my friend, thus continuing to push him closer and closer towards the corn fields on his side.  Poor thing was trying to be empathetic, but at one point when he was actually IN the corn, enough was enough.  But, a few minutes later, there he was back again, lol. 

What fall or Halloween memories do you have?  Bats, ghosts, blood, skeletons?  Apples, pies, cider donuts?  Do tell...

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