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Posts tagged ‘Suburbs’

Orange Holiday

The night glows with a just-past-full moon and jack o’lantern fairy lights festoon doorways and rooftops. The haunting season flourishes in the suburban area around my home. Or, as I like to call it, the Orange Holiday season.

The decoration mania surprises me, but not too much; after all, the “holiday stores” have been open since September. Blowsy fake cobwebs, oversized spiders with glowing green eyes, lookalike headstones planted in lawns—this is my America. In the suburbs, skeletons walk, pumpkins grin, a big ol’ spider hovers, and a tree posing as an owl supervises this nighttime array. Ceramic faux pumpkins laughed while I wrangled a tugging dog. One house even had a “laser show” with green ghosts flying around on the brickwork. Yes, flying. It moved! These are not Martha Stewart’s tasteful decorations; most of the ones I see are plastic, with LEDs, and reside in the dictionary under the word “tacky.”

Halloween yard decorations

Halloween yard decorations. © JustHavingFun

To stop a thief, light a light-Duquesne Light (Pittsburgh Press)

To stop a thief, light a light-Duquesne Light © Pittsburgh Press

Now this may not look so odd to you, but this display startled me. I was walking the dog down a sparsely lit side road and had forgotten to bring a flashlight. Peering ahead to prevent tripping over broken sidewalk, I noted which houses were completely dark and eerie. [An aside: Indoctrinated by the 1970s advertising campaign, “To Stop a Thief, Light a Light” promoted by Duquesne Light, dark houses look menacing to me, awaiting Bad Things To Happen. Note Chilly Billy on the same page.]

The houses that were lit loomed out of the darkness. Nearing the end of the block, the dog lunged for a car, yanking me closer to the Halloween house. He paused to sniff and I paused to click. How could I not? Ceramic faux pumpkins laughed while I wrangled the tugging dog. Will they attract many more trick or treaters banging at their door on October 31st?

What is this fetish to decorate the house exterior? If all the decor is outside, does one feel more festive inside? Why? You can’t see it if you are not outside!

If you don’t go the plastic or ceramic route, you can always carve your own pumpkins. (With all the pumpkins purchased, does anyone eat them or the seeds?) Have you noticed there are now professional pumpkin carving master tool sets for sale? This is a thing! “Sick of buying new pumpkin carving tools every year — only for them to break yet again?” the article asks. I didn’t know. I’m terribly behind the times, especially what is now “in” for the Orange Holiday. The dog does not care.

Halloween ceramic jack o'lanterns. © JustHavingFun

Halloween ceramic jack o’lanterns. © JustHavingFun

Soon the Orange Holiday will pass. If I recall correctly from walking the dog this way last year, this particular home will be ready for the “Red & Green” holiday soon, decked with rows of jolly candy canes lining the walk. We mark our seasons by the colors of the holidays. More on that observation later.

Happy Halloween!

Invitation

The boys hopped off their bicycles at the corner. Propped on kickstands, the bikes stood like trusty steeds by the watering trough awaiting their riders. One boy fastened his helmet to the handlebars while the other wore his. They strode to the door and entered the Starbucks store. I squinted at the activity from a nearby table on the patio.

Despite it being December, I sat outside the café in shirtsleeves, enjoying the sun shining into my eyes. I tried to write but pages of my notebook flapped like crows in the escalating wind.  I watched the bicycles and traffic and passersby with an increasing sense of urgency: Where are the boys? When are they coming out? The bicycle rims glowed and taunted me.

Bicycle friends, unchained and free.

Bicycle friends, unchained and free. © JustHavingFun

I grew up in cities—not particularly dangerous ones—places where you had to be on the lookout because bad things could happen. Even from an early age I knew if I left my bicycle unattended it might not be there later. I had a chain. I had a lock. I had a quick-release hub for the front wheel. One simply did not leave the bike unattended. To do that would be an invitation for a thief to steal my most prized possession! Why didn’t the boys chain their bikes?

The wind whipped my pages faster and blew over one of the bicycles. Another patio-sitter jumped up and righted it. I cranked my head toward the store. Where were the boys? A nod to the rescuer and I returned to my pages.

I’m a mother. My mothering powers expand and include all within my gaze… and beyond. My mom-sense hackles were bristling. Another gust toppled the same bicycle. The rescuer rose again, righted it, and I gave her a wan smile. Since I couldn’t write, I capped my pen and went inside.

“The wind knocked over your bicycle,” I informed two boys about 13-years old. One wore a helmet and the other was finishing a latte. The boys thanked me, and one went to peek outside. When he returned I turned my mom-powers on him. “Let me ask you a question. I write a blog and I’m curious: how come you didn’t padlock your bikes?”

Their innocence made me smile. “This place is so safe,” the blond one said. “You don’t have to worry about theft.” True, we were in a modern shopping village development, but I wouldn’t believe it. “I live down there,” the helmeted one nodded toward the gated community a quarter mile down the road. “Nobody ever bothers our stuff.” I nodded and listened without judgment. They felt unassailable. They excitedly told me about a Ravens football player they saw while biking to the coffee shop. All was normal in their world.

So precious. So fresh.

We were not so far from the dangerous, crime-ravaged city but we could have been in a different country. Less than 5 miles away houses sit abandoned and the poor abound. Storefronts hide behind barred windows and people meander on mean streets.  Here however, a boy drank coffee in the afternoon with his friend while their bicycles waited on the sidewalk. This verdant, safe suburb we sat in nestles behind an invisible, invincible curtain. These youths were wrapped in a butterscotch coating of safety and security.

You never know who you’ll encounter in a coffee shop. We chatted a bit, the mom-powered lady and the youths too candid to catch the irony of the situation. I bade them goodbye and pondered upon an upbringing so charming and charmed near Charm City. Though I ventured into the suburbs I couldn’t leave the city in me behind.

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