I never finish decorating for Halloween, no matter how much planning I undertake. I sometimes never even start, and October 29th finds me making promises to myself that the following year, our house will be the best haunted house ever. Unfortunately, “the best ever” isn’t really a hard feat to accomplish, once you consider how I always manage to ruin it.
Several years ago, Mr. Vagabond and I stopped at a Halloween store to buy decorations. We pretended that they would find their way out of the bag once we got home instead of being lost and then unearthed the next time I staged a full-on cleaning party. Ever hopeful, I secretly nabbed a pack of party invitations while at the store. If Martha Stewart can transform her house from New England Coastal Classic to Halloween Spooky with a few little hints (passed along on glossy pages for the low-low price of $7.99), then surely I could pull something together. All of our friends would be impressed. They would talk about our spectacular Halloween party for years to come. We would be the hit of our circle. Friends of friends would begin calling in August to make sure they were included on our Halloween invitation list. We would be, in short, Mr. and Mrs. Halloween.
Mr. Vagabond reminded me that our circle of friends consisted of three of his corn-fed co-workers and that one really weird guy who passes by on the way to the curb on trash day. Not dissuaded, I pleaded with him until he agreed to have a party. Immediately upon returning home, I hung our new blood drip banner across the windows and set out a few black candles. I stuck the invitations in a drawer and eventually forgot they were there. By the time Christmas arrived, I threw what was left of the black candles in the trash and took the banner down. Dripping, plastic blood isn’t nearly as festive as it sounds, especially alongside a twinkling Christmas tree that I affectionately named Epiphany.
Jack O’ Lanterns also confound me. Filled with premature Halloween spirit, I always buy and carve them too early. I think there is a secret society of pumpkin carvers, and only they know the precise date to carve a pumpkin for optimum freshness. My first Jack is the stuff of legend in my family. He sat on my front porch until he fully deflated, save for the protruding candle in his belly that no one was brave enough to perform an autopsy to remove. There are some things that even a big brother won’t touch with his bare hands, although he did poke Jack with a stick each time he came to visit. Jack #1 eventually flew over the fence into the the neighbor’s yard in retaliation for their all-night, front porch banjo and jug parties. I guess I showed them. Even their 100 year old bloodhound wouldn’t touch it.
I can’t take all the credit for Halloweens gone wrong; sometimes, the neighbors get in on spoiling our fun. One year, candles flickering in our living room window sent a neighbor scrambling through our yard in his boxers while dousing our front porch with a water hose. He thought our house was on fire. The fire department was not amused when they arrived. Maybe I should offer them something besides stale Circus Peanuts if they ever stop by again.
The only time I successfully decorated for Halloween, I ruined all hope for future trick or treaters. I knocked down all the real cobwebs to make room for the fake, stretchy kind. I dressed as a witch with a cauldron full of Kit Kats and Reese’s Cups. Spooky sounds radiated through my front door, across the porch and into the yard. Dancing sheet-ghosts circled the oak tree out front. It was perfect. Unfortunately, the neighborhood kids were a little younger than I expected. They were so frightened that to this day, they hide in the bushes and take bets to see who is brave enough to go touch my front steps and run away with life and limb still intact. Rumor has it, a scary old lady lives inside with 100 cats--cats that used to be neighborhood children until she threw a mighty hex on them for touching her porch. In fairness to the kids, my house vaguely resembles the Psycho house on the hill, even in the full bloom of mid-summer.
This year, I have still not decorated. I bought more Kit Kats and Reese’s cups and filled a cute pumpkin-shaped wicker basket with them, but the dogs found and ate every last one (wrappers and all). I do have an orange and black Halloween jingle bell wreath hanging in my foyer, but that doesn’t count. It’s been there since last Halloween when I brought it home, hung it on a coat peg and hoped for the best. Maybe I should consider a calendar entry for next year. I could add a couple of lines for avoiding outdated cottage cheese and DIY hair color. Then again, I guess I have my own tradition, such as it is. Some folks are known for spectacular shows of holiday decorative talent. I’ve decided to embrace being the mythical, crazy old lady who turns neighborhood children into cats. At least once a year, I can be held blameless for keeping all the candy for myself.