…but there’s nothing like a holiday to remind one you are a foreigner in a foreign land.
They don’t really do Halloween here. Folks here tell me that “It’s starting to come over from the States,” but it’s not much of a thing here.
We never make a huge deal of Halloween. There are however a few tried and true traditions that I’ve come to love over the last 8 years or so. I put up harvesty-pumpkinish-type décor around the house in early October. A cornucopia ‘Welcome’ sign here, a pumpkin kitchen towel there. We always go to the pumpkin patch up in Broomfield, CO, with Rob and Breeann. Scott and Rob spend about half an hour driving around the massive farm from field to field. Pulling up alongside each one and scoping them out. Then we finally pull over and they spend an hour or more scouring the chosen field for the ‘perfect’ pumpkin. It’s like mining gold, I swear. They make a little pile of ‘maybes’ and then carefully consult with one another on which one will be best. Bree and I make fun of them and role our eyes but always insist on going with!
Then we all get together a week or so later and carve them and eat chili and drink pumpkin beer. The beer is never all that good, but it’s an important part of the tradition! I make gluten free pumpkin bars and Breeann cooks the pumpkin seeds. It’s a holiday at its finest. Sensory to the max. It smells good, the gooey pumpkin feels good squished between your fingers, the company of about a dozen other folks all crowded around our dining room table is warm and always, always wonderful. On the pumpkins, there are the simple faces, the hilarious attempts, and Rob and Scott trying to out-do one another. Sitting around the table long after everyone else with elaborate and funky designs that remain a secret until they are revealed at the end of the night. Then we pile them all up, light the candles, turn out the lights and take the photos. It’s not—as some English people apparently believe—‘bigger than Christmas,’ but it’s a good time, and I miss it terribly this year.
We went yesterday to the saddest little pumpkin patch you ever did see. Another American fam and the four of us went to a little ‘pick your own’ farm. Apparently the American School is close by so they’ve capitalized on that and planted, mmmmm…about ¼ acre of pumpkins in one of their fields. Ah well. It was fun. Suffice it to say Scott still scoured, but his pile at the end only had four pumpkins that were possibilities. Perhaps it took that little tiny field and the meager options, but I realized that Scott and Rob do always end up with perfect pumpkins.
It was a fun day in spite of the sort of ridiculous comparison to the pumpkin fields we are used to. We ate candy corn at a price that amounted to highway robbery and then spent about the same amount of money on delicious fish & chips for four. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
We talked about having a party here. It was pretty funny trying to explain to a bunch of English ladies what a Jack-o-Lantern is and why on earth you’d want to make one. In the end however, we sat out on the back porch on one of the most beautiful days since we arrived about 7 weeks ago and carved three wonderful pumpkins all together. Faces for the boys. A not-as-elaborate-but-very-sentimental Colorado Rockies ‘CR’ for Scott.
As the sun begins to set I have to say it was one of those days that nearly reached perfection. We slept in. We ate chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. Scott went to about a hundred places and finally found me a coffee. We laughed a ton. We listened to great music. We did haircuts in the back garden and no one freaked out or got mad or even looks too bad! We made lego boats. We got sunburned. We drank delicious margaritas with the ‘Stirrings’ mix that I returned triumphantly from Whole Foods with on Friday. And we carved pumpkins. It was gorgeous. The whole thing. It was the beginnings of new traditions I’m sure.
Still though, as I sit here contentedly sipping one last margarita I feel more than a little sad and very, very lonesome. What’s the Joni Mitchell song say? ‘Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…’ Ain’t that the truth.
So here’s to you guys, Rob and Bree. Nate and Sarah. Dave. Steve-o. Ellie and Rachel and Noey and Jen and Rich and Stace and Jami and all the others that have come and gone at the pumpkin carving over the years. Here’s to traditions—the precious ones of the past and to the new ones both in the here and now and also in the future. May we forge ahead, and may we be together soon. Whether over a pile of squishy pumpkin and a funny-tasting beer or whatever new and foreign thing might take our fancy.