Thursday, October 30, 2014


It wasn't until dusk, after we had been wrapped in warm underclothes and then painted and costumed as cowboys and princesses, that we waddled into our bedrooms and emptied pillows from pillowcases. Like hobos, our pillowcases slung over our shoulders, we staggered out of the house ready to walk the streets of the neighborhood going from door to door with the cliched, "Trick or Treat". We weren't much for store bought costumes. My mom was pretty creative in turning an old sweatshirt into a football jersey or a piece of tulle into a princess skirt.
"Arden, come look at how cute these kids are this year" and with that they'd fill our pillowcases with a handful of candy or a homemade popcorn ball. When I was a kid Halloween was for children. There was hardly a house for blocks that didn't have its porch light on and its screen door wedged open ready to hand out treats. Our supervision came from those watchful neighbors as most of us made our circuit unaccompanied by any adults. We walked the streets, cutting across lawns until our pillowcases became so full we could only drag them along behind us.
Things changed. Neighborhoods changed. The holiday changed. The number of houses with lights on for kids looking for candy has dwindled. As the kids of our neighborhood grew up only the adults were left until the cycle would move them out and another group of new young families could move in with a new set of kids. No one goes out unsupervised any more and the number of safety issues has pretty much wiped out the handmade treats. The holiday now seems more for adults than for children. The cowboys and princesses have been replaced by French maids and pseudo pop stars.
This year we've decided to buck the trend and give ourselves a little of the old hand-crafted, kid friendly holiday we once had. We decided to deck the house out with holiday decor that was more whimsical than scary in hopes that some local kids would see our lit door and say, "Trick or Treat" in hopes of a pillowcase stuffed with candy.

We've never been accused of wimping out with anything connected with our lifestyle. An array of regular orange pumpkins was too easy. No, we headed to the Farmers Market hoping for a selection of exotic pumpkins and, of course, the market did not let us down. We found goose headed pumpkins, pumpkins with warts, white pumpkins, green pumpkins and speckled pumpkins. We formed them into a tiny mound on the ground in front of the porch.
With our arms ladened with our pumpkin finds it was on to stuffing our barkcloth bags with gourds. This is one of the easiest ways to bring the fall holidays right into the house. All you need is a bowl. Fill it with gourds and you're done. You can add some maple leaves for a bit of extra color if you're feeling real ambitious.

Lighting merchandisers and manufacturers figured it out. After the little white lights of Christmas they moved on to producing different colors for different holidays; red, white and blue strands for the Fourth of July, pastel lights for Easter and orange for Halloween. I'm betting on pink come February and Valentine's Day. We added a spot for the front door to make the whole entry a little more inviting and a little less scary hoping toddlers would want to make the walk up to the door for a candy reward

We searched for plain paper grocery bags but couldn't find them. We settled on cheap handled ones which ended up working pretty good. The handles made them easier to carry.
With a couple of different sized indelible markers and a pencil I fashioned the letters for "HAPPY HALLOWEEN" on the bags. We then added a layer of sand to the bottom of each bag and placed a candle in a glass cylinder inside. We set the bags along the walk from the sidewalk to the front door illuminating the walkway in what we hoped would be an inviting, non-threatening way entrance to our candyland.

Having retrieved an abandoned birds nest at the end of summer we posted some synthetic crows at various outposts along the way. These we got from a local art supply house at a cost of pennies. Apparently crows weren't a big seller this year, but these birds were made to last. They've already survived a really long rain spell. The water seems to roll off their backs like real crows.

It's always good to have something homemade. I'm not going to lie and say these were simple but they weren't that difficult to make. The idea was to make something for the front porch that would add something for the sense we had yet to address: that eerie sound of clanking bells.
We had some grapevine wreaths we could reuse from the previous Christmas but anything round would work. You need two different sizes to spread out the ornaments and give the bells enough room to move and make that ghostly toll. I liked the natural hemp twine to go with the grapevine wreaths. I tied the wreaths together with the twine in descending order from small to large.
We add some styrofoam balls covered in glitter to add sparkle
and some balsam wood plaques that I drew witches, bats and pumpkins on that helped fill out the chandelier.
The last thing was a little Martha Stewart. I hot glued some fake fall leaves on the wreaths to add color.
Now when the wind kicks in the bells ring out. If you're going to put on a show you have to have a score.

Happy Couple
Harold Feinstein, photographer
Represented by Panopticon Gallery, Boston

1 comment:

  1. Too fabulous! Nothing happening at our house: no sidewalks and not enough streetlights mean most kids skip us. So we can start eating our treats any minute. I always buy candy just in case. Your description of Halloween when you were kids is exactly what I remember. Also one neighbor had a set-up in her back hall and was deep frying donuts while you waited! Those were the days . . .