Halloween

All my childhood Halloweens took place in Connecticut and all my grownup ones have been in New York City.  [Thank you to Amelia Onorato for the magical illustration.]

Connecticut is next to Massachusetts and my sisters and I had strong imaginary connections to the women, a.k.a the witches, of Salem.  We had more local witches as well--the weathervane atop E. E. Dickinson's Witch Hazel factory in Essex, CT, always a favorite sight when my family would drive down Rte. 9 to the beach.

And the  young Connecticut "witch" Kit Tyler, age 16 in 1667, the heroine of one of my favorite books, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.

The book frightened and thrilled me--to think about such prejudice and hatred, and to read about Kit's strength, independence, loyalty, and ultimately, faith that the truth would out.  The novel and its characters felt very close to home--Kit first landed in America at Old Saybrook, just across the Connecticut River from our beach cottage in Old Lyme.

Maybe it was Kit's story that always inspired me to dress like a witch for Halloween.  Each year I wore the same thing: Mim's ancient crinoline black slip, lace up pointy-toed boots, and a black velvet opera cape that I had actually sewn, and who knows why?--the only opera I'd ever attended was I Pagliacci, at the Bushnell Theater, with my seventh grade class from St. Maurice School.  But there came a time when my sisters and I got seriously into capes, and we sewed them, complete with hoods, silk lining, and hand-tied black frog closures.

It was all very dramatic.  Trick-or-treating down Lincoln Street, with the Whitney children (my second family and beloved babysitting charges) holding our hands in the darkness, I think we envisioned ourselves crossing some moor in Puritan times, fighting oppression and casting spells whilst collecting candy.

Halloween didn't used to be so commercialized.  Plastic pumpkins were rare--who would even want one?  We carved elaborate jack-o-lanterns, placed candles inside for scary illumination, and toasted the pumpkin seeds.  Some families actually handed out crisp apples and we liked getting them.  (At least in my memory we did.  Probably not as much as Snickers bars, however.)  The holiday was a melange of fun and gravity; candy and costumes mixed in with our Irish Catholicism--All Souls Day, All Saints Day, All Saints Eve, All Hallows Eve, with a dash of Celtic Samhain tradition as well.

It was New England, therefore spooky with bare branches raking the cold sky, piles of dry fallen leaves underfoot, the sound of wind whistling through the swaying trees, but also reverent, in that we felt and heard the ghosts and prayed for them to be released from this life into the next.

Then I moved to New York.  Halloween in Chelsea makes me happy.  So many brownstones, pumpkins, set designers who go to town on their own houses.  The late great Empire Diner always decorated for holidays, Halloween included.  I miss Renate and the diner.  Grrr, things change, and good places and people leave.  

So here's to the Whitneys, now trick-or-treating with their own children; the Witch of Blackbird Pond; the spirits of Lincoln Street; the ghosts of Chelsea; the Empire Diner; and hobgoblins everywhere.  Happy Halloween.  Please enjoy a good apple and a Snickers bar for me.

Child's Vow

I am thinking of someone lost to me.  The stories we told each other, the ghosts we summoned.  We thought it would last forever.  I don't even know what "it" is: our home, our closeness, our lives together.     As she would say, "Nobody knows how I feel."

To love a place so much it hurts.  When I go there I am haunted by someone ten miles down the road.  Our mother used to say, "You'll have many friends, but only two sisters."  Hey--Willoughby Moon.  Going to keep this up forever?  This seems an appropriate day to ask.  M's summer birthday.

A favorite poem, and I know you get it.  The beach is the valley our fathers called their home.  Lost love...

Under Saturn by William Butler Yeats

Do not because this day I have grown saturnine Imagine that lost love, inseparable from my thought Because I have no other youth, can make me pine; For how should I forget the wisdom that you brought, The comfort that you made? Although my wits have gone On a fantastic ride, my horse's flanks are spurred By childish memories of an old cross Pollexfen, And of a Middleton, whose name you never heard, And of a red-haired Yeats whose looks, although he died Before my time, seem like a vivid memory. You heard that labouring man who had served my people. He said Upon the open road, near to the Sligo quay - No, no, not said, but cried it out - 'You have come again, And surely after twenty years it was time to come.' I am thinking of a child's vow sworn in vain Never to leave that valley his fathers called their home.

Summer Light

An entrancing story of love at first sight, the true meaning of family, and angels right here on earth. May’s own faith in true love was shattered when she was abandoned by the father of her child. Still, she finds joy in raising her daughter Kylie, a very special five-year-old who sees and hears things that others cannot. . .

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