Marilyn Gardner Woods
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
October 2020 is here—an October like none other in my lifetime.
Octobers of my past flutter through my mind like falling leaves.
I’ll never forget my first “autumn in New York” where the colors began to magically change and apple picking season arrived. I took my three little kids thirty miles upstate to a “pick-your-own” orchard. I don’t remember the cost per bushel,
but when we returned with our bushel full, with his little brother in tow,
my seven-year-old entrepreneur oldest son
filled his wagon and ventured
out into the neighborhood selling them for a nickel apiece.
Barely enough left for a pie...
Princeton Tiger football games in the late nineties where I cringed in the stands when people booed if that same son threw an interception...
... and celebrated when he threw a touchdown pass.
An unforgettable trip to Germany, and to Oktoberfest in Munich where I got separated from again, that same son and my husband among the hundreds of thousands of merrymakers clutching steins overflowing with Löwenbräu or Hofbräuhaus.
My daughter’s October wedding, on the twelfth when the autumn afternoon temperature climbed to 102 degrees and the Beverly Hill Presbyterian Church, the wedding venue, was un-airconditioned. The beads of perspiration only added to her radiant glow.
San Diego Charger tailgate parties and football games before they deserted us loyal season-ticket holder fans.
The birth of my first grandson, now a handsome young math and physics major at Amherst, studying virtually at home in the dining room.
Harvesting our crops - fifteen years of gathering ripe, luscious grapes we later turned into wine—sangiovese, cabernet, and a smattering of viognier, savored under the full Harvest moon.
So many Tricks or Treats with little kids and grandkids over the years when masks were optional, and you could give away lollipops safely. Little Dorothy wearing shiny red shoes, the scarecrow and tin man from the Wizard of Oz, Harry Potters, ghosts and princesses, Buzz Lightyear. Football players, cheerleaders, and hobos. Carving pumpkins, bobbing for apples and munching caramel coated popcorn balls.
Such vivid October memories—why am I disheartened?
Halloween falls on a Saturday this year. Perfect for a party. I’m sure there will be some among those who are the risk-takers. I guess I could spoof a mini-masked ball in my backyard. Bring your own Trick or Treats! But I love big parties with lots of decorations and noise and costumed partygoers. Somehow it wouldn’t be the same. And I know better.
It goes without saying that this seventh month of pandemic shut down is wearing more than thin. Testing patience, forcing risk-taking, causing overall malaise for many. But it was only when I drove into my garage this morning that I understood my current accelerating state of discomfort.
On the shelf, neatly stacked were containers filled with Christmas decorations, New Year’s party hats and horns, wrapping paper, and the one box on the end with the little orange pumpkin sticker reminding me of its contents. Skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, candles and more to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, the last day of October, Halloween.
What’s the point I reasoned about getting the box down? Nobody’s coming to my house for gingerbread or pumpkin bread or Bailey’s Irish Crème Apple Pie. (You're welcome!)
No little goblins will darken my door. Why put up a fall wreath. Just me and the UPS guy will see it. Although my friend, Renato, was quick to counter, “Oh no, Marilyn. So many people are walking during quarantine. Your neighbors will enjoy your decorations."
It is thoughts of those neighbors, and my good friends, and my family that make me melancholy as the season of holidays and festivities begins.
I love to decorate and bake and serve up a pot of chili and warm chunks of cornbread or Emeril’s Hot and Hearty Minestrone Soup from the crockpot. Would it be silly to spice up the house with candles scented brown sugar fig, pomegranate or mulled cider or fill the candy dishes with See’s apple pie truffles or candy corn or anything salted caramel? Seems so.
Over and over I say to myself or my kids and to the few who gather safely six feet apart outside how lucky we are to live in Southern California where it is possible and highly likely we can continue like this all year, although we will add sweaters. What must it be like to face storm windows and antifreeze and a heated home where others shouldn’t enter? October brings that in many places.
Not in my world, but I will miss huddling with others in my house around the dining room table or the coffee table, in front of the fire.
I can do it by myself.
Balance a bowl of chili on my lap, toast Octobers past with a shot of Crown Royal Maple, savor a bite of chocolate.
And cozy in with my furry throw.
But somehow, this October won’t be the same...
One more beat...
When I first finished writing this piece, I ended it with:
"No autumn wreath on the door."
But later that day, my daughter Jamie texted me:
wanna make a wreath for our front doors together?
We did. October doesn't seem so bad after all.
So beautifully decorated with your words and photos! xoxo rhonda
Hello San Diego friend:
I used to live in the Hudson Valley. A splendid memory is old fashioned games at Sleepy Hollow with my grandchildren in Tarrytown.
The whole town of Nyack would put together a parade including firetrucks!
Otherwise I have had trouble with Halloween: compared to the fun and slapstick of the Fastelavn = Carnival I knew growing up in Denmark Halloween is too scary and hostile and now too commercial!
ButI did enjoy the political satire of the NYC Halloween Parade when I lived there.
2020 ? A trip to Santa Ysabel? Julian? Anza Borrego if no fires
Be well, BR
I agree with you 100%😜👍😜👍Amen, amen in Dallas
We are gonna be in Cabo golfing and celebrating the last two weeks of October hoping for a bit cooler weather! Our Granddaughter Fiona just sown a month with us crushing grapes at FALLBROOK winery. A first for her! She finished her freshman year at Princeton! Taking a gap year. She left today for her home in Manhattan.
My son was Born on Halloween in Norman Oklahoma. Many October’s ago! Anne and Sam
Im sure glad Jamie & Renato are such optimists.
Maybe I will get one made for Weston rd.
loved you gorgeous pathway in the vineyard 🎃 mp
I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I can taste and smell and see it all through your words. Thank you. Namaste. J
I've never spent an October anywhere but in Southern California or some tropical setting, but I still love the decorations. Thought I'd share some of ours with you, many of which Brian made.
Lovely capture.....‘‘twas a really glistening wedding"...your memories are always so artfully shared and from such a place of love and appreciation for your life.... it’s truly a joy to read and a blessing to be a part of....excellent! I love the wreath. AMS
This darn, terrible year, with calamity following calamity. No wonder we've all got the blues (whatever way we interpret this personally). But we don't let it beat us - especially when we have each other. Should we meet more often for a while? (we had played with the idea of doing one Wednesday of 'in person' gathering, followed by a Wednesday of zoom). But you managed to end your writing in a wonderfully positive manner, I can't wait to see your new wreath (and to see YOU). ❤❤❤