|Even my kitchen counter glows with the Halloween spirit!|
This year, though, I'm gonna go...and, yes, in costume! I won't reveal yet what it is, but it's a trek down Memory Lane for me, complete with a piece of memorable jewelry given to me by my son when he wasn't yet an adolescent! I'll be posting photos next week. My boyfriend promises to appear in costume as well.
|Valerie Ellison chooses autumn leaves.|
|Sue Burchfiel and I show off our craftiness.|
It certainly seems that Halloween (and maybe my boyfriend, too) has put an early spell on me. I'm entranced with autumn. Today in crafts class we fashioned "pumpkin pots," to hold plants, or....candy corn! I'm not known to be a craftsy woman, but even I can paint a pot. Some of my fellow residents here at H-W decided on a more general autumn theme. Me, I went for goofiness.
|Ooh, ooh, ooh...what a little paint and glue can do!|
|We enjoy a well-seasoned rec room!|
My horoscope today reminded me that mystic Thomas Merton wrote, "Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony." So far today has been harmonious indeed. I might even treat myself to a bedtime cup of tea...with a little brandy, just for autumn flavor!
One of my favorite stories that I have written for Chicken Soup for the Soul:
Tea for Two
"Every problem has a gift for you in its hands." --Richard Bach
My sequined purple satin princess costume remained in its tissue paper wrappings on the top shelf of my bedroom closet that Halloween evening. Dressed instead in my pink rosebud flannel pajamas, I perched on the window seat and watched the neighborhood witches, ghosts, and cowboys scurrying by. I tried hard not to cry. After all, I was six, not a baby anymore.
Daddy had taken my unaffected older sister and little brother to Grandma’s house for a party earlier that evening, leaving Mama and me home alone. I’d finished reading all the stories in the newest edition of “Children’s Activities. I’d even tired of cutting out paper dolls from the old Sears catalog, and longed to be outside. Mama had promised me a special treat, but I couldn’t imagine what could replace the thrill of joining the troops of children wandering door to door in the autumn twilight with their rapidly filling pillow slips. No Hershey bars, candied apples or popcorn balls for me this year, I knew. I didn’t care, I told myself, because though the itching had ceased, I had yet to regain my appetite anyway.
Mama had turned on the Philco radio in the kitchen, and I heard the Andrews sisters warning “Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me.” My sister was probably bobbing for apples right now at Grandma’s house, I thought.
“O.K.,” Mama called, “Time to get dressed!”
Glancing down at my pajamas, I wondered what she could mean, but scooted off my seat and trudged to the kitchen. On the back of one of the chrome dinette chairs hung Mama’s fur chubby, a kind of short jacket that represented the essence of elegance to me those days. I used to love to watch Mama get dressed for special evenings, in her fluffy chiffon dresses, always topped by the chubby.
“Put it on,” she said, pointing to the jacket. “We are going to play tea party, and I am going to be the hostess, while you will be my guest.” She draped a string of pearls around my neck, as I shrugged into the jacket. I noticed that the table had been set with her best Blue Willow cups and saucers, and that an empty platter had been placed next to the toaster.
Though I could not venture all the way outdoors, Mama opened it a crack so I could at least knock on the outside, right below the big black-lettered Quarantine sign.
“Oh, Miss Terri, it’s so good of you to call this evening. It’s tea time,” she announced. “And even though you are my guest, I’m going to ask you to make the meal, since you have such a special touch with cinnamon toast.”
I’d seen the bakery truck make its delivery earlier, and had wondered what had been left on our doorstep. Now Mama opened the bread box and pulled out a loaf of sliced raisin bread. She placed the sugar bowl, the butter dish and the red tin of cinnamon on the counter, and lifted the chubby from my shoulders. Then she opened her Searchlight Recipe Book to page 44, handed me the yellow plastic measuring spoon set, and said, “Let’s see how you do reading that recipe.”
I was the best reader in my class, so I stumbled only on “substitute” and “proportion” as I read aloud the instructions.
“Cinnamon Toast: Spread freshly toasted bread with butter or butter substitute. Spread generously with sugar and cinnamon which have been blended in the proportion of 1 teaspoon cinnamon to ½ cup sugar.—The Household Searchlight”
I paused, and looked up. “Generously? Searchlight?” Mama smiled. “Generous is giving more than you really need to, giving from the heart, not the purse. And searchlight is a big flashlight,” she explained. “It lights up everything to make it easier to see and understand.” I nodded. So the recipes were like searchlights, making it easier for Mama and me to understand how to cook. And we needed to do it from the heart. So I could put in a little extra sugar, just like Mama did.
While I watched the raisin bread brown in our two-sided toaster, Mama put her tea kettle on to boil, and told me a story about the birds on the Blue Willow china. She said that an angry Chinese father had been trying to catch his daughter who was running away with a boyfriend. Before he could catch them, they had been transformed into birds and flew away together. I rubbed my finger across the birds on the saucer.
“When you grow up, your father won’t chase away your boyfriends,” she said with a little laugh. “And now that you’re learning to cook, it won’t be too much longer before you are grown up for every day, not just for Halloween.” I smiled. It was true. I was learning to cook.
Though I hadn’t been hungry all day long, the smell of the cinnamon sugar seemed to reawaken my appetite, and I ate my entire slice and half of Mama’s, and even managed a swallow or two of my milk tea. When my sister returned later that evening with the candied apples that Grandma had sent, I accepted one, but insisted I wasn’t really hungry, since I had cooked and eaten a meal earlier. When she looked doubtful, Mama just nodded in affirmation.
“She made a lovely tea,” she said.
Mama’s prediction came true, too, as I became engaged just a dozen years later. And at my wedding shower in 1955 she presented me with a black leatherette bound Searchlight Recipe Book, just like hers. I turn the yellowed pages today to Page 44, and again recall the delicious aroma of cinnamon toast as I remember the year that, through my mother’s unwavering generosity, trick or treat became tea for two.