All In For Bay Area October

Halloween this month. Should I begin, “It was a dark and stormy night…”?

I’d be lyin’ if I did. It’s 94 degrees outside. I checked on my electronic digital meat thermometer.

That’s the truth. About the 94, and the thermometer. It's the only one I have. 

Thanks, Joce!
Those familiar with the Bay Area know fog fades this time of year, beat back to sea by a high pressure ridge that allows La Cité, Peninsula and North Bay temps to soar. Not in mid summer as in other places.

In July and August our inland valleys heat up and draw fog to the coastal cities of northern California. There the wispy fluff hugs and hovers; Mark Twain is often erroneously credited for the thing he never said about the coldest winter he ever spent...

That’s why you bring your sweatshirt when you visit San Francisco in summer, right? Oh, you didn’t? Then you bought yours at Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco awaits the tourist exit. It saves its best for locals who then stroll sleeveless late into evening, every moment of warmth absorbed and stored as a morsel in memory, like squirrels and the acorns they hide to make it through the winter. Fall is our time with windows wide open. Coffee and a pastry at a sidewalk cafe. This is a day at the beach. For real.       

Heat is our sign of autumn. Our version of northeastern leaves showing color. Heat is the last glorious gasp before rain and chill set in, and Halloween comes a knockin'.

As a kid hot weather met us as we returned to school in September. I sat at my desk wriggling in the seat as I attempted to listen attentively in Mrs. Goggins’ science class. Afternoons with temps close to the century mark, the back of my legs itching and sweating in a wool, plaid, pleated Catholic school skirt. It was difficult to be still, checking the clock and waiting to escape the hot and airless classroom. In a rush to shed the stiff school uniform and get to the five & dime to find a Halloween costume.

By October 31st the weather shifts. Predictable cold and drizzle threaten to dampen festivities. Parents argue with kids over how to keep warm and dry. Nothing like a jacket or raincoat to ruin a costume's fun.

In this heat it’s hard to imagine that conversation lies less than 30 days ahead. But it never fails.

Yesterday, when it was 97 degrees, I contemplated foregoing Halloween hubbub. Admittedly it’s early to begin the annual search for orange squash with jack-o-lantern potential but a hectic schedule threatened to squeeze the fun out of October till late in the month, maybe even too late. Not worth the trouble for only a few days, a week at the most. That’s what I said to myself. Yesterday.

Perhaps 2012 was designated somewhere as the year to skip Halloween hijinks.

I live on a winding street that climbs a hill overlooking a canyon. Street lamps are few. Sidewalks none. The paved road is narrow and though the speed limit is 20mph to safely accommodate pedestrians sharing it, not everyone abides. Night brings critters. It's poor trick or treat territory.

But we justify a candy purchase by telling ourselves someone may knock and we don't want to be the house that spoils the fun. Just in case, that’s what the hubs and I say while buying a sack of our favorite treats.

Then five years ago a baby was born next door. He easily became our neighborhood’s child. Drew us all in and each October I would see his mother push his stroller to two houses displaying a few decorations. One across the street with a blow up witch sitting on the red brick steps, toes curled upward, striped witch's socks. Then they’d roll to our house with my pile of pumpkins and glowing lights.

A whole new haunting Halloween spin on things with the arrival of that boy. As he grew he began to walk with his mother, hand in hand after his nap, to visit the witch and sit next to it on the steps. I added to our collection enthusiastically. More ghoulish fun. A skull with light up eyes. An animated Grim Reaper.

No mystery why the houses next to his have the most decorations. We're tickled by his delight.

Now he runs here on his own, within Mom’s watching range, to check that we’re appropriately festooned for fall. Monitoring our progress.

A month ago he became a big brother. Last evening with windows open to the hot, still night I could hear the infant's cry. In the season when life prepares for the dormancy of winter, to pull back and hunker down, I'm reminded that in some places life is new. I'm renewed as well.

The sound of life. I couldn’t help myself. I rethought my original plan. For our neighborhood's child, Halloween will visit my house. For his baby brother, too, who will pass fast asleep in a buggy. 

In big brother’s smile I'm reminded that rituals and novelty are cookies and milk, should never be separated or ever skipped. 

I climb a ladder to string peeking, peeping, blinking, spooky eyes around a tree, no longer remembering that yesterday I thought to do otherwise.

The sun shines brightly without a hint of dark and stormy night though one will doubtless visit soon. If you’re fortunate enough to be here today you can shed that fleece for a while.

This is autumn in the Bay Area. As it is every year dating back to my childhood and long before me.

Nearby is one little boy and his new baby brother soaking up October. While they go about the work of being children I'm reminded to play. 

Some things are too good to take a pass on. Like warm and sunny fall.

Hello, October. We meet again. And I'm all in.


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