My mother loved Halloween. She envied her older sister Lydia’s late-October birthday. They decorated the house for Lydia’s birthday parties with paper black cats, pumpkins, ghosts, witches, and bats. In this photo, my mother, her brother Francis, and her sister Lydia are probably getting ready for the birthday. They each carry a little pumpkin basket, and my uncle Francis holds a jack-o-lantern.
My mother passed her love of Halloween to my brother and me. Because we lived in a place with no sidewalks, she or my father drove us to neighbors’ houses to trick or treat. But I don’t think she ever made our costumes. We scrounged bits and pieces of this and that and put our own outfits together. One year I burned the end of a cork and rubbed the black soot onto my face to make a hobo’s stubble. When my own children were young, I made most of their costumes, and now my daughter makes elaborate costumes for her two boys.
I’m sure a cemetery on a dark Halloween night would be spooky, but during the day the cemeteries where my Hall family ancestors are buried are peaceful and restful places. I love going to the two cemeteries in Wallingford whenever I’m back east. When I’m there, time stands still. In these quiet spots my mind is freed to speculate and remember and maybe also to think about my own final resting place.
So when I’m in Connecticut in the fall and visit my mother at the cemetery, I take her a few pumpkins and a pot of flowers. I find myself being fussy and getting only the things she would have chosen. She liked round pumpkins with generous stems. When I go to Beaumont’s Farm Market in Wallingford to shop for them, I hear my mother’s voice saying, ” Don’t get that skinny one, Carol, and don’t get the pink flowers. Get the ones that match the pumpkins.” The ghost of my mother is far from a shadowy trace. She speaks to me from the grave, and I listen with daughterly affection.
On Monday: Birthday Cards for Agnes