My October Surprise

Suzann Darnall

I was going to write about politics, but decided I needed something a little more uplifting, so I decided to share a little fun and family. You see, this is one of my family's favorite times of the year. Most of us are avid fans of Halloween, so we celebrate it big time!

For us, Halloween is one of the most fun and therefore among the most important of American holidays! We love the ghosts and ghouls and goblins. We love to get together with food, fun, friends, and family. Throw in some scares and it's all good!

This year should be particularly special, because not only has my youngest daughter and her children moved home from Alaska, but my folks will be visiting from Colorado. So, we will have an even more packed house than usual for this year's edition of the Darnall Family Halloween Extravaganza.

Going all out for Halloween really started with my oldest little brother. He loved doing the really gruesome masks and would save up each year to buy a special one. This led to decorating the front porch and it just grew from there.

Over-the-top Halloweens for my family began when my girls were little and I would stay home to pass out candy while my husband would take the girls trick-r-treating. It started slow, with me putting a few decorations out and dressing up as a witch. Soon it became a decorated front porch, sound effects, and almost a mini outdoor haunted house. As my girls got older it became more extravagant and has become a local event in more than one place we have lived in.

We even managed to use our Halloween scheme for our daughters to host a party for friends. Just moved it inside and added games and party food . . . all with appropriately gruesome themes.

Now, it has morphed into something for family, 'cause we live in a sorta semi-rural area of small acreage and don't get trick-r-treaters out here. There was a brief hiatus where we did not do anything, but it started up again with the arrival of grandchildren. And, it has once again kinda gone over-the-top! To the great joy of my children and grandchildren.

Each year we keep the theme a secret. My husband and I delight in planning out themes in advance. We do this because (A) we think of something really cool and don't want to forget it and (B) we are then able to buy stuff on sale or as we find good deal and great ideas. Our adult daughters try very hard each year to pry the secret out, but we have thus far succeeded in keeping them under wraps.

My daughters are responsible for the food. My oldest daughter gets particular delight in planning appropriately spooky menus. We have had mummy dogs (hot dogs wrapped in strips of crescent rolls), brains on the half skull (deviled eggs dyed pink and piped to look rippled), spiders (another version of deviled eggs using slivers of black olives as legs), ghosts (piped peaks of mashed potatoes with peppercorn eyes), and too many other wonderfully imaginative as well as delicious treats to mention.

Sometimes, when the weather cooperates and the grass gets to grow tall, we do a "maze". The first one was an unexpected event and proved to be such a hit that we revive it from time to time. It isn't a true maze like most folks would consider, but it serves the purpose for the grandchildren. It is mostly a meandering path through the tall grass, but it has some added bonuses. The theme of the maze changes, sometimes to work in conjunction with the overall theme and sometimes just 'cause it amuses my husband and me. One year it was PawPaw's Pumpkin Patch. Another year it was sort of an extended graveyard. Sometimes it has funny signs or spooky displays. Often it is kind of a Halloween version of an Easter Egg hunt with bags of treats put out for the kids to find as they go through.

The themes for the "haunted house" have covered things like Pumpkins of the Caribbean (a pirate scenario done with jack-o-lanterns scarecrows), Area 51 (space aliens), and traditional Halloween. Our versions seldom take place in a house or even indoors. Sometimes it is a haunted trail through the woods, sometimes a big outdoor display on the playground in our backyard, and sometimes a little more traditional 'cause it takes place under our carport. But, it seems to work the magic no matter the location!

My husband and I count ourselves very blessed to be able to share this time with family and special friends. This year we will welcome both our daughters, their families, my parents, and a very dear friend who tries to join us each year. In all, including ourselves, we will fill our home with 13 people! What an auspicious number for a Halloween Extravaganza! Yes, we do have a touch of both the Munsters and the Addams' Family in our hearts!!!

Even as we face the serious issue of the presidential election in November, I pray each of y'all will take a little time in the next two weeks to stop and enjoy the season, as well as spend a little quality time with your family or friends. Whether it is sitting by a fire with a piece of pumpkin pie and a cup of warm cider, walking through the woods as the leaves are changing, or going to the local haunted house, give yourself a special harvest treat. Stop and appreciate some of the small things that make America a great place to live. A place where we can celebrate even a silly little holiday like Halloween.

May God bless all y'all and may He bless America. Please be sure to get out and vote. Please make sure when you do vote that you make the best choice for America. We do not deserve four more years of the disaster that is Obama. We need the restoratives that Romney and Ryan can provide. Waiting for Obama to improve things is like sitting in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. He ain't never gonna get there!

© Suzann C. Darnall, OCTOBER 2012, San Marcos, Texas

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