I remember going to E.C Hughes Elementary School in West Seattle with my mother so she could register me for kindergarten. I don’t know how long we were there that day. I don’t know if I met Ms. Young, who would soon be my kindergarten teacher. I can’t recall if I ate anything, did anything, said anything.
What I do remember is sitting on a tiny plastic chair and watching a TV show while the kindergarteners read aloud from their books.
The show might have been about music and counting. I have no idea.
What really got my attention was when the screen faded to night. There was a large field filled with green vines and fat orange pumpkins.
A woman’s voice began singing (to the tune of Hall of the Mountain King):
Witches in the pumpkin patch,
Witches in the pumpkin patch,
They’re running all around!
There were drawings of little witch faces popping in and out of the brambles. While they didn’t look evil, there was something mischievous and spooky about the whole scene.
I was electrified.
- Who were these witches?
- What were they doing in a pumpkin patch?
- Did they live there?
- Were the pumpkins about to be harmed in any way?
- Could I go to this pumpkin patch?
- Did I really want to?
These questions plagued me. I didn’t know what the show had to do with kindergarten, but I couldn’t wait for it to begin so I could find out.
Oddly enough, around that same time my paternal grandmother let it slip to me that she was a modern witch. As an adult, I have no idea why she said this. She was no nature-loving hippie, and she had no cats. But at that age, I didn’t question her reasoning. I just worked with what she gave me.
She told me that she rode high in the sky on a vacuum cleaner, flying over my house at night to make sure I was safe.
Most of me didn’t believe her. I had seen her vacuum cleaner. The cord was frayed, and clearly wasn’t long enough to get her past the parking lot of her apartment building in Magnolia.
But a part of me did believe. I liked imagining that she might be up there at night, flying wildly and protecting me from the things that seemed to want to creep out of my nightmares or up from the basement in the wee hours. She was kind of glamorous, with red lipstick and high-heeled shoes and skirts from Nordstrom. You probably would have believed her too. At least a little bit.
And then there’s Halloween, my favorite holiday. I’ll have to keep this part brief, because I read somewhere that blogs shouldn’t be too long. I could write for days on what Halloween means to me. Or maybe years. In summary:
Dusk falls early in the Pacific Northwest come autumn. This meant that growing up, it would get dark pretty soon after school ended each day. While this didn’t scare me, it did make the atmosphere a bit spooky, a little wild, quite wet (it was Seattle, after all) and could lead an imaginative young boy to all kinds of thoughts about magic, mayhem, and witches.
This dusky gloaming is encapsulated by Halloween for me, the pinnacle of autumnal spookiness. I am less drawn to the blood-and-gore side of Halloween, and don’t have as much interest in the candy and costumes. Instead, I have always been enchanted by (and as an adult, quite nostalgic for) this time of year when you did believe that grandmothers could fly and things (little things, not really scary things, but things nonetheless) did go bump in the night.
Drop a perplexing TV show about witches and pumpkins into a cauldron, add a glamorous, Hoover-mounted grandmother, a dash of spooky Seattle autumn, toss in eye of newt and some wolf’s bane for good measure, and there you have it: a sure-fire spell that turned a young boy into a life-long witchophile.
What about you? Can you recall your early bewitching period, when you believed, even partially, that witches ran through pumpkin patches? Or magic was just around the twilight corner, awaiting your discovery?