Halloween According to Grandpa

Fall is my favorite time of year and it tantalizes all my senses. The fragrance of baked apples, the feel of the crisp cool air, the brilliant colors of orange, red, and yellow through the mountainsides, and just the overall spirit of all the holidays approaching. Living in a house of all ages, we all have different views of how Halloween should be celebrated.

As a child, I remember longing for the perfect costume to be someone else for a night. The candy, the big pillowcase I knew would be full at the end of the night, and Dad digging through my candy checking for razor blades by eating the best chocolate bars out of bag. But hey, he was doing it to protect me, right?

Each of my children couldn’t wait for Halloween. I did everything I could to create costumes that were realistic instead of cartoon like. I remember one year both my boys wanted to be Roger Rabbit. “Roger Rabbit?  Aw c’mon guys, he’s a cartoon!” But ultimately I got in the spirit of it all searching for the perfect accessories so they looked like really Roger Rabbits. Now that my three oldest are grown now they still treat Halloween as if it is sacred planning months in advance for the perfect costume.

When Peanut came along I was just as avid. We plan weeks in advance for the party and the costume enjoying every moment of the process. The planning is just as fun as the actual ‘show’ of Halloween. The only difference now is that Grandma and Grandpa live with us and Grandpa can’t seem to understand what all the ‘fuss’ is.

“In my day we didn’t dress up for Halloween. We just went door to door and said, “Trick or Treat. If they didn’t give us somethin’ then we played a trick.”

He watches as we put up all the decorations from the spider webs to the life-size mummy Peanut and I created out of muslin and grocery bags. Mom gets involved, “Oh…do you know what would be adorable? If you put fake barbed wire on that mummy and have blood dripping from the eye sockets.”   She thinks that would be adorable?

Peanut puts out the cockroaches and spiders.

“In my day you didn’t need fake ones. They were ALL over the house!” Dad quips.  He grins that little grin when he thinks he’s being funny.

He knocks on the mummy’s head, “Anybody in there?” He drives his walker into the middle of all the decorating and plops down with a cup of coffee.

“You know what we did for fun in my day?” Dad obviously wants to talk which since his stroke he has a bad case of diarrhea of the mouth. You never know what might come out. He knows it too. He said he just can’t stop talking.   “In my day the fog was thick and we couldn’t see when we drove. I remember one time me and my buddies ‘Dummy and Wes…’

Peanut interrupts him, “Dummy, Grandpa?  What was his REAL name?”

“Don’t know, don’t care. He was Dummy.”  He continues, “In my day we would get in the old pickup that had a big ol’ hole between the seats. The fog would come up through that hole. There was no such thing as seatbelts back then. We’d be surrounded by fog in the car, and outside it too, when we went to get those pumpkins.”

“What pumpkins, Grandpa?”

“The ones we were gonna steal, Peanut,” he says nonchalantly. “So we would put Dummy on the front of the car, sitting on the hood, to tell us which way to go. The fog was thick ya know,” he reminds us. “Then we would get to the pumpkin patch. It was old Sutton’s farm.  Since you couldn’t see a thing we knew he wouldn’t be able to finger us. We’d grab as many pumpkins as we could until we heard him fire off a couple of gunshots in the air. “

“What did you need pumpkins for?  To carve?” Peanut asks innocently.

Grandpa laughs as he adjusts his teeth, “Nope…it was for the tricks. Once we got the pumpkins we would drive through that pea soup fog and start rolling pumpkins, just like bowling balls, onto the sidewalk as we drove by.”  He’s snickering at his memory. “All we could hear were those pumpkins rolling, people screaming, and dodging those bowling balls. I heard Grace Peterson’s high pitch wail and envisioned her jumping over a pumpkin in her black clodhopper shoes and her polyester dress.  Never did like Grace. She always told me my hair was messy.”

“Was it Grandpa?”

He eyes Peanut, “Maybe…never brushed it.”

Grandpa continued, “Felt bad for Dummy though.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, since he was the look out on the hood someone threw one of those pumpkins back and hit him square in the…well…ahem…between the legs. He rolled off the hood and landed on the side of the road.”

“Was he okay?”

“Couldn’t tell ya. We keep driving!”

“Grandpa!”

He points at Peanut, “And you thought YOUR kind of Halloween was fun!”

So here we are at the contrast of a good time at Halloween. I have to debrief Peanut letting her know in ‘those days’ you didn’t get arrested for rolling pumpkins at people and riding on the hood of a car OR stealing pumpkins.

She sees Grandpa as a folktale kind of hero just as she should. She goes out to the porch, picks up her pumpkin that hasn’t been carved as of yet, and brings it in. Grandpa has that far off look in his eyes as he is reliving his memories. Peanut takes aim and rolls the pumpkin, ever so slowly, toward him. Grandpa smiles, picks up the pumpkin, and gives it a fast roll to Peanut who squeals and jumps over it.

“I still got it,” Grandpa says.

Grandma peeks her head around the corner, “Leave that precious baby alone!”

Joy comes in all forms. We all see life so differently, don’t we? I love the feeling of joy in my Dad’s eyes as he relives his childhood memories to Peanut.

It’s fall and my parents live with me…wonderful positive vibrations, don’t you think?

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4 thoughts on “Halloween According to Grandpa

  1. Beth, your story just made my day! Your dad’s memories remind me of the stories my dad used to tell. My dad’s birthday is tomorrow, so even though he is no longer with us, he is on my mind. I love your stories. Thank you for being able to open your heart and share your joy with everyone.

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