By Murray Schulman
Pumpkins, apples, wine, crisp clean air with whisps of wood smoke and spice. No wonder this is my favorite time of the year. What could be better than a drive along a country road with the changing leaves on full display? Of course, a day like this is not complete without a stop at the local orchard store. We wander up and down the aisles trying but usually failing to resist the temptation of warm baked goods, a cup of hot spiced cider and a basket of big crisp juicy apples. Add to our selection a couple of perfectly shaped pumpkins and a few bunches of corn stalks to decorate our front stoop.
In the next week or so, things really start to get exciting. Halloween is almost here. This year will be a bit different, and I expect a whole new level of fun. Our grandchildren are now older and in high school and middle school. Costumes and trick-or-treat will be an entirely unique experience. Then, there is Bailee, our great- granddaughter. At 19 months, watching her is better than watching TV. She is a continuous comedy act. I can hardly wait to see how she will be dressed up for trick-or- treat. She will make the early rounds. Then she will help me hand out treats and I am sure we will have a few tricks as well.
Cooking is minimal for Halloween. Everyone is running around out and about. But that does not mean that food isn’t on my mind. For me, Halloween is the kickoff of our Thanksgiving plans. Thanksgiving at our house is one of the major family events of the year. The feast is epic, and family comes from miles around to sit at our table and partake of a meal that is not easily described unless experienced firsthand. Planning for Thanks-giving takes weeks, and the preparation takes days. Is it more exhausting with each passing year? Sure! Is it worth all the effort? Absolutely! Each year the entire family turns out. The food is endless and the wine flows. It is noisy and the energy is palpable. Laughter fills the house as old stories are rehashed and new stories add to the excite-ment. This year, the teenagers will add their perspective to the old traditions. The youngest will keep all of us on our toes as she takes center stage.
The Thanksgiving feast lasts for hours. The feast is so abbondante that everyone fills their containers with tomorrow’s dinner. Cleanup is choreographed efficiency from which Liz and I are banned. The next generation has a system that works to perfection. After all of that, there is still more to this memorable day. Family members are draped comfortably on every chair, couch, cushion, and spot on the floor. It is a quieter time after the boisterous main feast. Freshly baked sweets and treats line the table. The aroma of freshly ground and brewed coffee fills the air. Somehow, we find the energy to make our way to the table to sample the desserts. We carry our selections back to our favorite spot. I look around the room and see our family with droopy eyelids and happy contented smiles.
Yes, the magic starts at Halloween and no wonder the anticipation builds in those weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. This is a special time of the year and my favorite season.