Halloween 1971

( Intermediate Level )

Noreen saw her granddaughter staring out the window to the streets below. She was fascinated that the people looked like ants running back and forth. From the seventeenth floor, everything looked small.

Emilee and her parents just moved to the city. Her dad’s previous job had closed its doors and living in the country finding work was far and few between. He and his wife hated the idea of moving. They wanted to raise their children outside the city. For now, they only had Emilee, who just turned five, but they wanted more children in the future.

She hadn’t started school yet. Her birthday fell in October which meant she couldn’t start school until September of the next year.

By moving to the city she had left all her friends behind and her parents both working during the day all she had was her grandmother to entertain her. Noreen would take her to the park at least once a week or take shopping at the mall or just sit home to have a tea party with her dolls.

One of her favorite things she loved was having tea parties with Grandma. They always had cookies and milk to serve to their guests. One day Emilee had told her grandma, ” Mr. Bear loves the chocolate chip cookies the best and he would appreciate having them more often.”

The weather starts to cool off in October and Noreen dislikes the cold. Their playdates at the park would soon come to an end until spring comes back. This meant Grandma Noreen had to come up with another activity to occupy her granddaughter’s day.

“Tomorrow we will go shopping for a craft to do together or a puzzle maybe. What do you think, Emilee? It is getting too cold for Grandma to go outside so we won’t be going to the park again until springtime.”

“Can we go to the mall that has all the Halloween decorations? Daddy says we cannot trick or treat this year. He doesn’t know the neighborhood and said maybe next year we can go out.” Noreen agreed to take her to the mall.”

Over dinner that evening Emilee asked her grandma, “What Halloween was like when you were a little girl like me?”

‘It wasn’t as exciting as it is now. We didn’t have haunted houses or parties. When I tuck you into bed, I will tell you about a very special Halloween that my mother did for me. Now you finish eating your dinner. Your parents should be home from work shortly.”

Emilee finished dinner and had her bath. Her parents came home and visited before she headed to bed. As promised, her grandmother began to tell her of a very special Halloween.

“It was 1971 and my parents had moved to the city, the same city where I lived ever since. I married your grandfather here and had your father here.”

“When we moved here I was just about your age. I left all my friends behind, just like you.” Emilee was listening carefully. Her grandmother seemed to know how her granddaughter felt.

“It was, I think, late August when we made the move. We moved into a neighborhood that had many families but all the children were much older than I was.”

“We lived on the third floor in one of the older apartment buildings. I think it is gone now. I used to sit on the balcony and watch all the kids play but not one invited me to join them.”

“I sat and cried many nights wishing to move back to where all my friends were. My mother told me, Give it some time, honey. You will make tons of friends soon. I didn’t believe her.”

“Before you knew it October had come. Almost two months of sitting and watching. My mother had seen my unhappiness and tried to entertain me. One weekend we drove out of the city to a very well-known pumpkin farm. We could go out into the field and pick our very own pumpkin.”

“What happened there that day was truly magical. I saw my very first scarecrow. He sat by the entrance of the path to the pumpkin field, with an inviting smile. I remember looking into his eyes and feeling happy.”

“Come along Noreen. We need to pick out our pumpkin, I heard my mother saying. After walking up and down rows and rows of pumpkins, I found what I thought was the perfect pumpkin.”

“It was a bit too heavy for me to carry so my mom carried it back to the car. I remember stopping once more to look at the scarecrow. My mother hurried me along as it was about an hour’s drive back home and she wanted to get ahead of the traffic.”

“I remember glancing back one last time at the scarecrow before we drove away. My mother had noticed my fascination with it and asked me if I would want my very own scarecrow and he can sit out on the balcony with me?”

Emilee was laying on her side now with her head propped up by her hand. She was curious about this scarecrow. “Go on. What did you tell your mother?”

Noreen smiled down at her granddaughter. “Of course, I told her yes! The very next day we went to the goodwill store and picked out the oldest men’s clothes we could find. Pants, an old red plaid flannel shirt, a pair of old boots, and even found a straw hat. It was a little lopsided but we knew it would add character to our scarecrow.

“As we approached the check out to pay for everything I remember asking my mom what we could use to stuff Harry and what about his head?”

“Harry? You’ve given him a name already?

“The cashier heard our conversation and asked what we were making. I immediately told her Harry the scarecrow for Halloween. He will sit out on our balcony for everyone to see.”

Noreen glanced at Emilee to see if she had fallen asleep. She hadn’t. “That was a perfect name, Grandma. I would have called him Harry too!”

The cashier rang up all the items my mom and I had picked out. She kindly mentioned we could use a pumpkin for the head and if we wanted we could stop by her father’s place and get some straw to stuff the clothing with, to make the body.”

“She jotted down the address and phone number then handed a slip of paper to my mother. We thanked her and headed home.”

“That evening I could barely sleep. My mother had promised we would create Harry the next day after we picked up the straw.”

Emilee let out a loud yawn. “We can finish this story tomorrow.” She shook her head no. “I want to hear more about Harry.” Noreen smiled and continued her story.

I wasn’t sure what time I fell asleep but I know I woke before the sun was up. I remember staying in bed until my mother said goodbye to my dad as he left for work. “

I ran to the kitchen to find my mom having coffee at the kitchen table. When can we go to get the rest of the things for Harry? Mom looked at me with amazement. She asked how I could have so much energy in the morning?.

“I quickly answered her. It’s the day Harry comes alive just like the snowman in Frosty The Snowman.” Emilee knew which story her grandmother was talking about. “The snowman with the magical top hat that came alive once the hat was placed on his head. Right grandma? Noreen nodded.

“My mom had made my breakfast and tidied up the house before she made the phone call to the cashier’s dad. She finished the call and had come into the kitchen. I was just finishing my breakfast.”

“He said we can meet him around ten this morning. He also said he has a small pumpkin patch if we would like to pick out a pumpkin for Harry’s head. I couldn’t wait to leave. It seemed that time was moving slowly.”

We met John a little after ten. His home was on the outskirts of town, an area my mother rarely went to. So we didn’t make a mess in our apartment. He suggested we bring the clothes we wanted to stuff with straw.”

“I had held Harry’s clothes tight against me for the whole trip. I left the straw hat at home. This was the magical hat that would bring Harry alive for the Halloween season. I didn’t want anything to happen to it.”

“John was very helpful. He helped us stuff the clothes and even tied off the ends of the pants and sleeves with rope so the straw wouldn’t fall out. Then he walked us to his pumpkin patch. It wasn’t as small as we had thought nor was it as big as what we had seen on the TV.”

“Now, Noreen, you can pick any pumpkin you want. Just go up and down the rows until you find the perfect one for you. I looked up at my mom with a huge smile on my face and off I ran.”

“It seemed I ran for miles until I found the perfect pumpkin. It wasn’t too small or too big. And definitely, the straw hat would fit. I found it, I yelled. It’s perfect. I gently picked it up and carried it all the way back to where both John and my mother stood waiting.

Mom thanked John and his daughter for their kindness and they packed up everything to head home. I had given John a hug before I got in the car. I still remember his big belly and how hard it was for me to get my arms around him.”

“By the time we arrived home, mom had to start dinner, dad would be coming home shortly. Mom promised we would assemble Harry after dinner. I hurried and ate my dinner and asked to leave the table. I kissed dad and went to the balcony to wait for mom.”

“Finally, we assembled Harry on an extra chair. Once he was in the right position where people could see him from the street. I had the honor of placing his magical straw hat on his head. He looked better than the one we had seen at the pumpkin patch. That one didn’t have a straw hat. I was so proud of our creation.”

“The next morning I begged my mom to have my breakfast out with Harry. I sat there and talked with him as if he was a friend. As the days passed the neighborhood kids started to notice Harry. Some actually came close to get a better view and talked to me about him.”

Eventually the kids invited me to come and play with them. Sometimes they ate lunch with me and Harry out on the balcony. So the magic that Harry had was giving me the opportunity to make new friends in this big city.”

Grandma? Can we make our own Harry? One I can sit with?” Noreen looked into her granddaughter’s eyes, “Of course, we can. And you know what I have after all these years? Harry’s straw hat. I kept it with me, hoping to build a Harry for my children but life got too busy. So kiddo, you and I will build our scarecrow tomorrow.”

“Now it is time to go to sleep.” Noreen bent down to give Emilee a kiss good night. Her granddaughter threw her arms around her neck and whispered, “You’re the best grandma in the whole world.” Emilee turned over and pulled the covers over her shoulder.

Noreen turned off the bedside lamp and turned around to see her son, Emilee’s father, standing there at the door. “ I agree with her. Not only are you the best grandma in the world but I think you are a darn good mom too“, her son said as she passed him at the door. He bent forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

Written By: Angel

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fascinated – adjective: attracted and interested

far and few between – idiom: infrequent

entertain– verb: provide amusement or entertainment

playdates – noun: a time or date when children play together

occupy – verb: fill the mind or thoughts

decorations – noun: ornaments

balcony – noun: an upper floor area in apartments where one can sit outside

scarecrow – noun: an object made to resemble a human figure, set up to scare birds away from a field where crops are growing

fascination – noun: excitement

curious – adjective: eager to learn or know something

lopsided – adjective: disproportioned

amazement – noun: surprise or wonder

tidied up – phrasal verb: arrange or small cleaning

outskirts – noun: the outer parts of a town or city

Question ( s ):

Do you have a special memory of a holiday growing up?