I have always looked forward to finding, searching out, shopping for and ultimately creating stellar Halloween decorations. Who knew spooky could be so satisfying? Whether it’s wandering through my local Target, sifting through the aisles of Michael’s, or thumbing through Martha Stewart Living for ideas – from creepy decals to the art of cob-webbing – I’m all over it.
I think it started way back in grade school. My best friend Elizabeth and I would have sleepovers (really, I think I slept over at her house every other weekend). We’d play “Guess Who”, eat an absurd amount of Celeste pizza (because really, who didn’t?) and watch endless episodes of “Saved by the Bell” (again, who didn’t? I am a child of the 80’s people). In Summer we’d host neighborhood soccer tournaments in the front yard and then stay up late talking about God only knows what.
However, every October was reserved for crafting the spookiest, most spectacular Halloween decorations.
There, seated at her dining room table, Elizabeth and I would get to work on the construction-papered creepy black cats, starched cheesecloth ghosts and wicked-witch cookie cut-outs her mom had carefully laid out for us.
Elizabeth’s mom was someone I will never forget.
She was like a sort of femme fatale. A strikingly beautiful villain from a storybook fairytale. I think I loved her, feared her, and was fascinated by her all at once.
She had this beautiful figure. And she always wore these perfectly fitted stretchy blue jeans with bleached-white Keds and a creamy coral-red lipstick. Her dark hair hung in loose waves. The soft curls framed her square, beautifully tanned and sharply structured face. With prominent cheekbones and a permanent smirk from the cigarette pressed between her lips, she possessed the ability to be both beautiful and utterly terrifying. And she had this laugh. It would start in her chest and get stuck in her throat – a sound that only added to her fierce, domineering character. It would wake me sometimes mid-morning when Elizabeth and I slept in late.
She was a good, strong mom who cared for her children relentlessly. And she did so much to make our youth fun, busy, and undoubtedly interesting.
I think Elizabeth’s mom eventually became a fixture of my seasonal imagination. Her image played back much like a character in a haunting home movie. To this day I can’t put up a single decoration without thinking back to her sitting there on her kitchen stool, talking into a phone (precariously balanced on her shoulder) with a sharpness that eclipsed the tiny television in the corner showing I Love Lucy or the local news – thin curls of smoke slowly crawling up toward the ceiling.
My October itch for decorating is very much owed to her strong, slightly abrasive approach to nurturing. I (secretly) hope that this year’s Tim Burton-esque twiggy-tree and giant black widow wall-decals I’ve put up will somehow trigger that dry, indomitable laugh. While it’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve heard it, dare I say a pint-sized laughing cauldron with wildly kicking wicked-witch legs (that I’ve just brought home from Target) sounds frighteningly familiar…
It might, if just for a second, bring me right back. Pure. Sometimes dark. Completely picturesque.
Oh, the wonderment of childhood.
Here’s to some spooky and inspiring All Hallow’s décor!
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