I’ve spent the weekend at home in Owensboro. My favorite time of the year has finally come. Fall is now known as a “basic” holiday these days. Everyone wears their yoga pants and knee-high riding boots to the orchard to hand pick pumpkins. Everyone consumes their pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin spice teas and pumpkin spice cookies and pumpkin spiced beers and pumpkin spiced tacos and pumpkin spiced pizza and pumpkin spiced spinach. OK. So I exaggerated a little bit.
Nonetheless, there’s crisp air, brilliant colors, campfires, fresh apples and festivals, OH MY! AND all this is set to macabre backdrop that equals the perfect potion for my favorite time of year. In fact, I believe October is the best month of the year, and I’ll tell you why.
To me, this month is full of memories and traditions. Since I was born, my dad has made it his lot in life to aggravate me. It’s the way he shows he loves me. As a late high schooler, this manifested itself in a need to scare me. When I was out with friends, he would be home taping a knife to my doll’s hand and placing the doll under my covers. You can imagine my blood curdling scream when I returned home to find my doll yielding a knife. But the scream was quickly replaced with a smile because I knew my dad loved me. So it’s only logical that Halloween has always bonded us. We watch scary movies together, carve creepy pumpkins and eat s’mores by the fire every year. Even when I lived in Austin, I would always fly home at least one weekend in October so that we could carry out our family tradition.
This year was no different. As I stepped foot in my parents’ house, the odd but comforting scent of chili and pumpkin candle floats in the air. My mom’s hand-made decorations add a touch of creepy to the house. Immediately, dad started listing the scary movies he had purchased at Walmart for $5. The warm embrace of home prevailed while drops of rain fell outside preventing us from huddling around the fire. Instead we circled around the kitchen table, laughing and making fun of each other while eating dad’s famous white chili and curry rice. With stomachs full and cheeks soar from laughing, we made our way to the living room. Dad played The Happening, and this time we circled around the TV. We would continue to reference this movie the rest of the weekend.
As we all started to practice our getting-ready-for-bed rituals, I noticed my dad hid a fake spider in the bed that boyfriend would be using – my dad’s true sign of affection. Although Chris wasn’t fooled by the spider, he was confident in my dad’s approval.
I awoke to the smell of sausage and blueberry waffles. I poured a cup of coffee, which is literally “on tap” at my parents’ house and resumed my weekend of stuffing my stomach. Our morning was slow. The ladies sat in the family room next to a fake fire place and poured over fashion magazines while the men cleaned up and got ready. After judging every outfit and model, we decided it was time for us to get ready too. We dressed and primped, then headed out for a day of nostalgia.
It started with a visit to Preservation Station – an old school-house in west Owensboro. Rooms upstairs and down have been converted into mini-stores where vendors sale antiques, restored pieces, renovated furniture, crafts, decorations and jewelry. We perused every room, letting our imaginations travel to other times and unknown worlds, deciding if each trinket would find a new home, a restored life and new memories. Chris made one of the two family purchases of that day – a pumpkin made out of a book. This little fall decoration serves as our first Halloween purchase together. We decided that every year, we will buy a new Halloween trinket to mark each year we are together.
Starvation soon took over, so we decided to leave Preservation Station and head to a place with food. We found ourselves driving to downtown Owensboro just in time for the start of the monthly car show, participating in another restoration of history. We ate lunch at BeeBops, a 1950s-style diner with sandwiches named Lucy, Hepburn, Monroe and the King. More history. More nostalgia. We threw straw wrappers at each other and talked about Marilyn Monroe’s “sleepy eyes”. With stomachs full, we walked down the street to coffee.
Next stop on our Saturday agenda was the Voices of Elmwood, a cemetery experience celebrating the individuals important to Owensboro history and who are buried in the cemetery. We sat under a simple tent and the cold evening breeze blew around our heads making my hair fly. It was peaceful in the cemetery at sunset — the gray sky transformed to black, a backdrop to the headstones. Actors of all ages, portrayed important people buried all around us. Women serving in WWII, an African American who instigated the fight and helped pass a law for equal funding in black and white schools, a Scottish man who planted the biggest orchard in Owensboro, a single and former slave mother whose husband’s death and buried fortune spurred her to own her own land and educate their children. These stories are remembered. These stories still inspire us 200 years later. I left the cemetery anxious to capture my families’ stories and wondered if I’d ever have a story worth telling.
But the story of our weekend isn’t over yet. Upon returning home, my father started a fire. We sat outside for hours talking, eating and drinking campfire coffee. Coyotes howled in the background as we told stories and ate s’mores. The smoke made our eyes water, but we remained glued to our seats. I think we were mesmerized by the fire, too cold to get up and enjoying each others’ company too much.
But eventually, one of us had to make the move. One of us had to return to the house. My eyes had been smoke-burned one too many times and my smoke-filled lungs were starting to wheeze, so I was first to make the permanent trek inside. One-by-one, the others followed. We returned to the living room to watch the next Halloween-themed movie: “Nightmare Before Christmas” while carving our pumpkins. We each engraved such different faces. Mine smiled big and goofy, showing his one remaining tooth. Cora’s was scary with a big mouth of fire. My mom’s had flame-shaped eyes. Chris’ had a tombstone; my dad’s was evil with a mustache and eyebrows and Olivia’s had a star and moon for eyes.
We tried to finish the evening by watching The Ring, but we were all too sleepy or scared to finish.
This weekend was marked by pumpkins, scary movies, nostalgia, fire pits, story telling, too much food and lots of love. Weekends like this swell my heart and open my eyes. I’m so thankful for a family that loves traditions and each other relentlessly, a boyfriend who loves my family like his own, and a God who loves us all even more than we can understand. Thank you, fall, for making me happy and sappy.