Today, the boyfriend and I went to a Halloween themed store, to buy a decoration for my dad.
This is his favorite holiday, and he loves fussing around the house, puttering over projects like making a lightbulb flicker, and arranging plastic skeletons just so.
Every year we carve pumpkins, there inevitably comes the joke of the pumpkin “puking its guts out” as my dad takes on his gourd like Michaelangelo romancing his marble. Mom always makes homemade chili with soaked beans, not beans out of a can, and stovetop-warmed fresh-pressed apple cider with whole cinnamon sticks.
Though we only ever get six or seven trick-or-treaters in my parents’ little neighborhood, my family truly pulls out all the stops and decorates the driveway to the porch with a collection of oddities we’ve been gathering for years. The newest edition to the ensemble is a remote-controlled fog machine, courtesy of my boyfriend (who really scored some points with my dad for this contribution).
My sister and I hung purple twinkle lights and smeared fake spiderwebs everywhere, debating over the best placement of the three-inch, hairy spiders purchased today at the store.
When mom got home from yoga, it was time for the annual feast. No pumpkin carving tonight, as it’s not quite close enough to Halloween proper and we are experienced enough in the autumnal festivities to know that carved pumpkins rot in a hurry in the Pacific Northwest.
After chili, salad, tri tip beef, pasta salad, and fresh fruit came the challah-cognac bread pudding I made this afternoon with French vanilla ice cream. It was glorious, and made me think about how important traditions are in a family.
I wouldn’t by any means consider myself hyper-traditional. In a lot of ways, I have striven to break the mold painstakingly crafted and handed down through the generations. If I think about my last name long enough, I tend to get weepy—decades of my kin working their way up the social stratosphere, coming from countries running low on hope and opportunity and seeking a better life in the United States; these were people who worked until their fingers bled so that I could sit around a table with my family, enjoying a bountiful meal garnished with seasonal kitsch from China.
Celebrating Halloween with plastics and one-time costumes might be horrendously detrimental to the environment, but I consciously allowed myself to soak up the time with my family without framing myself as single-handedly bringing the world to an end. We can always be better towards the earth, but sometimes you just need a fog machine.
Ironically, I’ve been thinking of dressing as Greta Thunberg for Halloween. I don’t have her iconic yellow raincoat, but I figure I can find a replica of her hot pink top from addressing the U.N. and wear my hair in plaits.
Maybe the point is, in this confusing age we’ve entered, to create traditions which honor the old ways, but welcome the new. I guess that’s kind of the point.
Thank you, family, for bringing forward what you’ve brought forward for me to experience. Let me see what I can do with it from here.