by Carolyn Trower

One of the time-honored activities of autumn and Halloween is carving pumpkins. Much care goes into choosing the right one or making the one you have fit the image you were hoping to carve. Big round ones, taller ones, small squat ones, and this year a surprisingly large number of white ones.
My daughter-in-law hosted the annual pumpkin-carving event on a beautiful sunny autumn day. We spread vinyl tablecloths in the yard and spaced out grown-ups to wield the knives for the youngsters. There was a lot of jabbering and gesticulating as the preliminary black marker “designs” were released from the think rinds.
The usual suspects were immortalized as well as some interesting interpretations of Halloween lore. We lined the pumpkins up along the sidewalk and tried to find a way to objectively choose the winner. That was not an easy job. The young kids were insistent that their creations should win the prize money, while the older kids were graciously giving them their due. Not so surprisingly the adult carvers were smugly sure they would each win. In the end, money was doled out to each of the kids and everyone was happy to sip hot chocolate and chat.
Picture taking was also on the agenda and we all drove out to an old bridge for family pix. We spent 30-40 minutes on the dirt road and on the bridge and not a car came by. Gotta love rural America. Some members of the family weren’t present, so they weren’t the “official” fall pictures. The kids were intrigued with the shallow water filled with rocks and debris and engaged in throwing sticks into the water. Looking down the stream, the trees were crowding the banks and dropping leaves into the gently rippling water. A perfect backdrop for photos.
Many, many instructions followed and finally a series of family photos were taken. The best, as always, were those taken while people were shifting around to get in position. Arguments erupted about who was the tallest sibling. One child would smile, the others would not. One, two, three – your eyes are still closed! In the end the laughs, giggles, good-natured shoves, and face-making made the exercise in futility successful after all. Ah, the memories.
The snow that followed on Halloween was a little harsh, but by evening most of it had melted and costumed children took advantage of trunk-or-treat events in all three towns. I noticed more original costumes this year instead of the store-bought ones. Candy seemed to be in good supply and most kids will probably have enough to last until Christmas.
Which leads me to ask – when do you put up your tree? I’ve seen several posts that say the tree goes up after Halloween. I always thought after Thanksgiving was soon enough. But, as one post said, if it makes you happy to put up Christmas decorations early then do it. And why not? I love the look of a home all decked out with lights and a tree. I’ve had to cut back on the decorations in recent years. Spray bottles work at first impact but don’t keep the cats from sneaking back to the tree. I’ve stepped on ornaments on the stairs and found others under the couch and TV. My favorite decorations are the lights strung on the patio doors. I love the look of them as I come off the road and into the driveway. The cats, however, view them as wayward bugs and jump and snatch at them and do their best to bring the whole string down. I think of the cats as maniacal toddlers, it’s the only way I keep my sanity.
I love the holidays and look forward to gathering with family and friends (and yes, even the cats). Can’t wait for the next photo shoot.