Flip Flop Fall

We Floridians invent ways to experience fall. We hang wreaths of bright maple leaves, pile pumpkins on our doorsteps, fill vases with sunflowers, and walk outside in flip flops to 90-degrees of humidity. We break a sweat putting on jeans, not just because of the sultry temperature, but also because clothes you haven’t worn for two or three years tend to fit a little more snuggly.

Today, I walked into our kitchen, where my sister, wearing gray workout shorts, was heating up milk on the stove. Surprised and curious, (I wasn’t aware she knows how to turn on the stove. Her greatest culinary achievement is buttered toast.) I asked what she was making.

“Hot chocolate.”

“At 9 o’clock in the morning?”

“Yeah. Can you turn up the air conditioning?”

Every year, my family travels to the Northern Ice Lands (i.e. Ohio) to celebrate Thanksgiving with Dad’s side of the family. Dressing for the long drive up is always perplexing. In Florida, if you wear jeans and long sleeves, you’ll roast long before swapping the land of citrus for the state of peaches. We usually make our annual grand entrance in jeans, a tank top covered in a hoodie, and flip flops. Throughout our stay in the Winter Wonderland, our thin hides are covered in enough goose-bumps to imitate a gaggle of ganders. (Of course, the geese are busy sunning by the side of our pool.)

So when we return to the Sunshine State, how do we attempt to convince ourselves that while we are beach bumming, somewhere, people are wearing jeans and hoodies?

In my family, we watch movies – the same movies every year. October, we heat up apple cider and watch Halloween movies. In November, we strategically place candles in the fireplace and watch Thanksgiving shows. In December, we cover our bare legs with fleece blankets while we watch White Christmas.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (a very green Christmas – even if it doesn’t feel like it).

Deck the halls. And crank up the AC.

The Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween

It seems like the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween should be some old man dwarfed by a rigid arm chair, scowling at the crackling fire in an otherwise dark room. Or a bent-over, white-haired crone, savagely sweeping her front porch, barking at the noisy neighbor children who dare to venture near and offer a tentative, “Happy Halloween!”

It’s not either of those stereotypes. The Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween is me.

“Dad. Please don’t.”

That was my response to Dad reaching for a bag of candy the size of which only Costco can provide. It’s not that I don’t like candy. On the contrary, my plea was prompted by spying two of my sweetest weaknesses – Butterfingers and Peanut Butter Cups – in the bag (which was big enough to go trick-or-treating itself). But this is an unfortunate year. Not only is Halloween during cross-country season, but it is the day before Districts, the most important meet of the season. Speaking from personal experience, chocolate-coated sugar and a 3.1 mile run mix like the yellow, orange, and white of a candy corn – not well.

Halloween as a teen can be tough. Long-honored Halloween traditions are carelessly forsaken. Well, not carelessly. It was agonizing to solve linear equations instead of watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or study the anatomy of the ear instead of carving pumpkins. And even though I firmly believe that teens need to call it quits on dressing up and collecting candy, it’s hard. I remember the camaraderie of dressing up and walking the neighborhood with my sister and cousins. Memories of my childhood and acne of my teens have me (and my sweet tooth) wavering.

So, what are my plans for Halloween? Shut all the blinds and tape black paper to the window on the door? Give out poisoned, razor-embedded candy? (Or worse, apple slices and carrot sticks?) Compose a scathing letter to the Homeowner’s Association about the joyful noise and constant doorbell-ringing, suggesting that next year all trick-or-treaters be boiled in a vat of chocolate and a sharpened witch’s broom stuck through their heart? (If you caught the obscure Christmas Carol quip, I applaud you.)

Nope. My plan: after cross-country practice, distribute the candies that my sister hasn’t eaten from the monster bag, wear plaid pajamas that no self-respecting Florida girl should be caught dead in, and watch an Alfred Hitchcock film. Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, not Psycho. That would be way too in the spirit of Halloween.

Candy. Jack-o-Lanterns. Halloween. Bah! Humbug.