Late-October glow. We go to pumpkin patches and ride hay wagons. I forget what the birds sound like over the fields in the early mornings until this, this one early morning per year that I'm here. Our house sits so squarely, so solidly within the grid of our neighborhood that I can't ever see the sunrise or the sunset for all the houses and trees. Especially in the fall, I long for the farm-fields and furrows. We drive north, to Sauvie Island: It's our annual pumpkin-patch morning with dear friends and their darling children. The fields are slick with mud. The pumpkins are past their prime, and threaten to collapse at any moment. The fog lingers, then lifts, and leaves: It's perfect. The kids squat and pull tiny worms from the ground, having a long, private toddler conversation we can't hear. We get kettle corn and carving kits and caramel apples and, afterward, we all go down to the brewpub for lunch, and I wish that every day could be this one.
Mimi requests a purple fairy princess costume. I flail my way around long pieces of polyester chiffon, wrap pipe-cleaner-crown braids with ribbon and roses, iron sheets of cellophane over soft wire wings with every type of joy I know. How long I've waited to love Halloween! She wears her costume to school on a Tuesday. I am delightedly shocked to pick her up at 1:00 to find that she is still wearing it. Wings crooked, flower crown low on her forehead, it's all held up well but for one small rip in the front of the gown, and her eyes are bright with excitement. With the school, on Wednesday, we go to another pumpkin patch. It's so muddy that I, with my reconstructed foot, can't walk on anything but the most-dry, mostly flat surfaces, trying with all my might not to face-plant in front of the entire preschool while carrying an enormous camera. I photograph them all bumping along on the hayride, Mimi waving and Andy smiling wildly. The teachers' and parents' faces are as joyous as the children's. How sweet it all is. The rain holds off and the preschoolers run around the play area. Mimi darts and races, shrieking with glee, her usual language of happiness. Riding the mini-carousel, she waves and rocks and wants to go around again. Later, four of them sit in the dried-corn sandbox, running their hands through bright-yellow kernels and I know they'd happily sit there for ages, if only it weren't almost time to go. How grateful I am to be here, listening to their voices in the corn maze and watching geese fly low overhead.
This weekend, we're hosting the neighborhood pumpkin-carving party. I've spent this afternoon making my dad's chili and chicken-with-wild-rice soup, listening to Pavement radio on Pandora with the back door flung open. It's sunny again. I remember a conversation I had with my dad the October before he passed away. He was telling me about a Halloween party he and my mom had gone to years before, before I was born. "What did you go as?" I asked him. "A secret agent," he said and we giggled, and I was filled with a sadness I could hardly bear to feel. Our neighbors are our friends, and they'll walk over with beers, bread, and salads on Sunday. Ten adults, nine kids, one baby. Along with the chili and soup, I'm making hot-dog mummies, spider-topped English-muffin pizzas, apple monsters, and pumpkin cupcakes for the kids. I need to figure out what I'm going to carve on my pumpkin. I hope I have enough bowls. I can't wait to have everyone here.