Letter from Birdland: End of an era for Halloween traditions

Letter from Birdland: End of an era for Halloween traditions

In Birdland, we take Halloween seriously.

On Halloween morning, I was driving to work, and when I got up to the cemetery, I couldn't believe my eyes. A herd of goats was having a party. They looked like kids (the four-footed kind) or maybe miniature goats, but they were grazing and gamboling between the stones.

I stopped the car and tried to take some pictures with my phone, but the goats were suspicious and started jumping around and heading for the woods. I couldn't get close enough for a good shot, so I called Aunt Jane, thinking she might be able to get hold of the neighbor whose fence they must have escaped.

I told her, "The cemetery is filled with goats!"

"Well, of course it's full of ghosts," she said. "It is Halloween."

"No, goats!" I shouted. "They are gamboling amongst the stones."

"Gambling ghosts? Cards or dice?"

"Goats!" I shouted. "The kind that eat tin cans."

(I said this, although I know full well that goats don't eat tin cans. They may nibble on the paper around the tin cans, but not the metal itself.)

"Can you call the neighbors and tell them they got through the fence?"

Well, we finally got it sorted out, and I went on to work, but not before calling Michael. He must have been in the shower and didn't answer his phone, so I left a detailed message asking him to take pictures for me. When he got to work, he texted me: "No goats."

They must have found their way home by the time he went by.

Halloween in Birdland is my favorite time. I had two pie pumpkins on my window sill, but they have gone into the oven for pumpkin cheesecake. The big pumpkin awaits carving and sits right outside the kitchen door. In days gone by, I used to make costumes for the kids, but the kids are all grown and making their own costumes. My youngest came home and announced his intentions to trick-or-treat the neighbors.

I was ready with the papier mache, but no. His costume, he said, would be a mustache.

"That's no costume!" I said, "It's a disguise."

"Yes," Ellis said. "We're going as secret agents, and secret agents need a disguise."

With those words, I knew it was the end of an era. No longer are my services required as maker of masks or of totally awesome swords and shields. No longer are my seamstress skills necessary. I'll just put my sewing machine away up in the attic. No more capes or hoods or swashbuckling pantaloons.

I might have argued that since No-shave November was almost upon us, a mustache was not much of a disguise, either, but he and his buddy also dyed their hair. Since it was probably the last year that they can get away with knocking on doors and demanding candy, I relented and stayed home to comfort myself with pumpkin carving.

The pumpkin was big and round but a little flat on one side. It spent the past several weeks silently greeting everyone who came in the kitchen door. It was a little flat on one side, and that side still had a little mud caked on it, although it had kept its silent vigil through at least two rainstorms.

I wiped it clean and patted its cheek, peering at it to see what kind of face it wanted. It didn't want to be a zombie, so popular now, with stringy, orange "brains" spilling out of its mouth. I cut its cap and scooped out the seeds, putting them into a bowl to roast later.

No, it just wanted a couple of triangular eyes and a lopsided, jagged smile. I found a candle and set it back outside to greet the trick-or-treaters. The yellow light shone bravely into the dark night.

Treat in beauty; trick in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in holiday traditions and family customs. The Fall Birdland Writing Retreat is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at the First Mennonite Church in Urbana. You can find registration information at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Hays can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail mail care of The News-Gazette, 15 Main St., Champaign IL 61820.

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