Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October Memories--Have You Written Yours?

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I have been urging writers and non-writers to write down your family stories. What better way to leave a record for your children and grandchildren? I've also suggested that each month you think abut your childhood days and write down your memories, or musings, if you prefer that word. By year's end, you'll have a nice assortment of your musings that can be put into booklet form.

October happenings are different in the various areas of our country and yet many of the activities are very similar. I've added my October memories from my growing-up years below. Maybe reading it will trigger some for you. If you start with only one thing about October, it will lead to more. Bet on it!

October Musings
By Nancy Julien Kopp
In the 1940’s October skies often smelled of newly-raked leaves burning by curbsides. My family lived in a big apartment building in suburban Chicago surrounded with more concrete than grass or trees. But when I walked home from school, I’d pass single-family homes where piles of smoldering leaves left a pungent odor that tickled my nose. Or I’d see kids rake leaves into huge piles, toss the rakes aside, and take a flying leap into the center, shrieking with glee. It looked like fun, but I never got to try it.

Every October, our grade school scout troop journeyed to a local forest preserve,   hidden away from city sights and sounds. It seemed like someone gathered a piece of forest, rolled it up, and brought it to the city In this setting, we enjoyed the same things as country kids.

We hiked through the woods, identified trees and plants, and heeded warnings to watch out for poison ivy. We gathered around a crackling fire to roast hot dogs and marshmallows on the end of a stick. Every Girl Scout learned how to prepare S’Mores with graham crackers, chocolate bars, and fire-blackened, gooey marshmallows. Squash the chocolate and marshmallow between two graham crackers, and you have a real treat. We made full meals on grills, too. My favorite main dish was Bags Of Gold--a big pot of canned tomato soup, and dumplings made with a square of Velveeta cheese in the center. That creamy soup and the soft pillow-like dumplings with their golden center ranks as my favorite outdoor meal.  

October also meant Halloween parties where bobbing for apples proved the most popular activity. I really hated that game. My long hair, curly and auburn red, always managed to get wet before I captured an apple between my teeth from the tub of water. I’m sure there were other games played, but those miserable little apples floating merrily around the tub have stayed in my mind as one of the memories better pushed into the deep recesses of my brain.
School art classes concentrated on leaves and pumpkins, witches and black cats. Our teacher read scary stories, and we planned Halloween parties. On Halloween Day, the entire school lined up wearing costumes, most of them created from things we had at home. Only a few bought a costume. Mothers watched as we marched around the outside of the school. Back in our classrooms, we played games, including that awful bobbing for apples, and then had frosted sugar cookie pumpkins, apple cider and a nut cup filled with candy corn and peanuts.

As soon as darkness descended Halloween night, we went in groups to Trick or Treat, younger siblings tagging along. We visited all sixty-two units in our building, climbing three flights of stairs in each vestibule. Great exercise, but we only looked at it as a means to get candy. Mother put our haul in a big bowl and allowed us only a piece or two each day.  

October in Chicago brought frosty mornings and chilly evenings, but often pleasant afternoons with occasional cold, rainy days. It was time to bring out the flannel pajamas, sweaters and jackets. October brought a blaze of color that soothed the soul, but as the leaves dropped and swirled in the winds, we knew winter waited just around the corner.

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