Tuesday, October 30

Halloween Traditions

Okay, I love Halloween.  I think we all know that.  And when I was a kid, Halloween was a very special, magical time.  Some might (and some might not) be surprised to know that I wasn't particularly into trick-or-treating.  Oh, it was fine.  I loved dressing up and I loved the fact that we'd rush home from school and my mom would have dinner already made - something fast, easy, and somehow always in keeping with the seasonal tone.  It was pretty much always sloppy joes and even to this day, sloppy joes without fail remind me of October.
After dinner, we'd dress up (making a rather large mess of things) and head out to the downtown district where houses are only a few feet apart and trees lined brick streets covered in crunchy leaves.  My older sister and younger brother ran ahead together - the two of them eager for fun, for candy, to hit just another house, just one more street.
Now, I was am a klutz.  So much so that anytime I set foot outside in the winter, Shawn temporarily goes into protective-parent type mode because let's face it: I am no match for slippery, so I watch my feet as I walk (he's worried cars will hit me) and if I don't watch my feet, I will trip.  But obviously Shawn wasn't around when I was a kid.  
In the dark of night, lit by glowing pumpkins and strings of orange and purple lights, I would try to keep up with my siblings and try to be careful at the same time.  Naturally, I fell behind and I was content to take my time getting from house to house.

My mom, who had been an eager candy freak as a child, was a run from house-to-house all night long kinda kid, and encouraged me to run along the streets as fast as possible with my siblings.
And this resulted in tradition of the Becky-fall.

Every. Single. Halloween.  My mom would urge me to run and I would try to keep up and inevitably slip on a tree root or a crack in the sidewalk or you know - a leaf - and every. single. year. I would wind up with scraped knees and palms, a twisted ankle, and a nice fat lip next to the gash on my chin.  
My family even jokes about this fact.
Ha-ha-not-so-funny-for-the-five-six-seven-eight year old.

Then we'd come home and do an abysmal job of washing off the makeup, we'd sort our candy and eventually fall asleep on blankets on the living room floor, all three of us kids watching some Halloween movie.

Those were the best times for me.
The night before Halloween was usually burgers and chocolate milk with movies and on Halloween, after trick-or-treating was candy and movies.
My sister would sit next to me and occasionally grab my shoulders and shout "Boo!" or else fill in her own dialogue for what the characters were saying, and my brother would run around like a madman, hopped up on sugar until eventually just passing out.  If my mom was off work that night, she would be in "her" chair knitting, a bowl of popcorn on the table beside her with her Tab.
Those were the best moments for me.  It wasn't the parties at school, it wasn't the running around, it was the goofing off with my family and watching silly movies.

And still to this day, this is my favorite part of the Halloween holiday: watching Halloween specials on TV, listening to the howling of the wind, telling ghost stories by the light of a flickering candle and having creepy fun with family and friends.
What traditions do you have?  What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Wednesday, October 17

Happy Birthday, Mom

My mom at about age 20 - Circa 1977

Circa 2005

She made better pancakes than anyone else ever in the history of pancake making.
Her favorite musicians were Alan Jackson, Alabama and Kenny Rogers.
She preferred to drive a stick shift.
She was weirdly obsessed with never letting her gas tank drop below half full.
Roses bloomed especially well in her care - they blossomed early and full, with tons of buds and healthy tops, and they didn't die off until well after most flowers had died.  It was a weird talent of hers.
Her favorite type of cat was orange tiger.
She rocked crossword puzzles and Tab soda.
Her favorite time of year was spring, and she always looked for Robins to signal the end of winter.

Mom, age 23, my older sister age 3, me, 2 months.
Her number one goal in life was to be a good mother.
Her most favorite flower was a yellow rose.
She taught me that the little things sometimes matter the most.  
She taught me to look inward, to make my own decisions, to let my freak flag fly.
She taught me the importance of kindness.
She taught me it's okay to be scared.

At the time this photo was taken, my mom was still awake and alert, she was on the phone with one of her sisters in California.  Her mood was cheery and I capitalized by sitting next to her making funny faces and clicking pictures.  This is the last one that was taken; she passed away the next day.
The truth is, I could talk about my mom all day.  The good and the bad.  The things she did that made me angry, the things I said and did that I regret, all the things she taught me, all the memories.  To this day, holiday baking makes me cry, even as I honor her by using her recipes and sharing them with people I love.  

Most of my memories are non-specific - sitting a the picnic table drinking iced tea while the sun goes down, the first time I drove in a snow storm, her laugh when I told a funny story, her handwriting, the way she walked, her perfume. 
More than anything else, what she taught me was that the most important things are not events, but the little moments, the little things we say, a favorite shirt worn all the time, a conversation, a laugh.  She taught me to cherish the small moments, because that's what we end up remembering most.
Happy Birthday, Mom.

Patricia L. Priest
October 16, 1956 ~ July 1, 2006

Monday, October 15

Halloween Flicks

There are two very special times of year for movies.  I'm not talking about the Fall/Winter Oscar-bait season and Summer Blockbuster season.  I'm talking about Halloween and Christmas.
Today, we celebrate some of my favorite October films.

It just doesn't get any more classic Halloween fun than the original Halloween horror.

I know a lot of people dump on this one, but I like it; it's fun, it's light, I love the direction they went with Lori Strode and LL Cool J is delightful.

Because it's awesome.  Admittedly, watching this in one sitting gives me a headache, so it's always a two-parter for me.

Well of course.  I absolutely love-love-love this movie.  It's predecessors, The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 are also very high on my list of movie loves, but I have a special relationship with Army, since it was the first in the series that I saw.  (Keep in mind, I was only 1 when ED2 was released.) 

A Garfield Halloween was on every Halloween night when I was a kid and we'd sit on the floor staring at the flickering screen, using commercial breaks to sort through the chocolatey spoils.  Also, I don't know any kid who didn't get at least a little bit frightened by the old man and his story.

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This movie is known under two names: 
1.) The Night Dracula Saved the World
and the name I knew it under:
2.) The Halloween That Almost Wasn't
As I recalled this movie to Shawn and told him about how Dracula was upset that the monsters weren't scary anymore and the witch was going to refuse to fly over the moon - he looked at me like I was speaking an alien language.  Only after recalling this movie to my sister, Christine, did I get verification that I'm not insane and this movie does in fact, exist.  Also, it is very difficult to find.

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Yet another movie that led Shawn to believe that I was going insane.  It's an old Disney Halloween film that would be on in the week leading up to Halloween when I was younger.  As a child, this was perhaps my favorite movie.  It starred a young Kristy Swanson as a teenager whose family moves to a house rumored to be haunted in a small town.  Of course it's haunted - by Mr. Boogedy.  This movie is also rare.

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When you think of Disney Halloween flicks, this should be the movie you think of.  It has short stories like Donald with the escaped mad gorilla, a witch out for a ride, as well as clips of villains from across the board of Disney movies.  Very memorable to me was the dancing skeletons.  Also very rare.

The Midnight Hour
Almost no one remembers this film, but for a few years running, it was on and it was a tradition in my house. The plot concerns a New England town that gets over-run with dead folk of all kinds on Halloween night.  It's quite good fun, actually.

So there they are: my most favorite and beloved of Halloween movies.  There are other good Halloween movies out there - some scary, some fun - but I can't list them all and these are my absolute favorites.
Do you have any favorites, old or new?  

Friday, October 5

Anniversary Celebration

The anniversary of six years of marriage is coming up for Shawn and me, but we both work that day.  Well, a few nights ago, we were in the rare position of both of us having the night off AND having enough money to go out to dinner.
So that's what we did.  We went downtown to have dinner, walk around, and celebrate six years together.

After checking in at the used book store and wandering around, discovering several new shops that have only been open for a short time, we headed to Mackinaw Brewing Co. (or as Shawn calls it, "Mack & Brew") for dinner as we have consistently been pleased with the food and service.
We ordered appetizers (much of which went home with us) and they are delicious!  The onion rings are the  best you'll find in Traverse City and the cheese sticks were not only HUGE, but delicious!
Grown up.

After dinner, we went to Books-A-Million to look around, where we ended up picking out our anniversary presents.
Shawn browsing the graphic novels, trying to decide on just one.

All in all, it was a really wonderful day.  The weather was perfectly October, the sun was shining, and we really had a blast looking around and enjoying our small city.