Once a year we have a family reunion. Well, it’s not exactly a family reunion per se. At least it didn’t start out that way. The original reason we got together each fall between the first and second week of October was pumpkins.

We’d meet at our daughter, Wendy, and son-in-law, Bobby’s house for the purpose of carving jack-o-lanterns. It was a way for us ol’ geezers to pass along to the young whippersnappers the carving skills we learned over the years. In that way, they too would be able to pass along these same skills to their own kids when they reach geezerhood. In time, we realized what we really created was an annual family reunion.

In the early years of our marriage, Peggy and I would take our two kids to pumpkin fields where they’d select a pumpkin each. Like picking out a Christmas tree from a 20 acre field, it took them all of a Saturday to find two "perfect" pumpkins. And I’d grumble, sotto voce, whenever I’d miss the Notre Dame football game. But when I saw smiles on their faces and heard their laughter, it made it all worth while missing those games.

Once we had twelve pumpkin carvers. Now, with the unexpected January demise of our son, Jimmy, we’re down one. But with Nina, and both Jimmy’s kids, Mo and Mitch, reaching adulthood, I have no doubt that total will eventually grow.

Beside his own two kids, Jimmy loved his niece; little six year old Mia who was born with more physical disabilities than anyone could imagine. Each year he’d carve a small pumpkin for her. If you saw her little face light up, knowing that jack-o-lantern was her very own, you knew they bonded.

From the very first time the kids carved them, until today, they have more than doubled their carving skills. I look at what they’re doing now and I’m glad we started this years ago when our kids were young whippersnappers. And I’m thrilled that our daughter, Wendy, took the bull by the horns when she saw the wisdom in continuing this family event. In so many ways, it’s satisfying knowing it is a real family affair.

This year, mother and daughter served pizza and sloppy Joes. Our granddaughters, Nina, Morgan and her friend, Travis, made deserts while Bobby provided cider - hot and cold - and soft drinks. Our three youngest granddaughters, AnnaMay, Ella and Mia, watched intently as Peggy showed them how to make homemade spider cookies to scare our grandson, Mitch, Travis and me.

Taking two Oreo’s, they’d smear peanut butter between them and stick four straight pretzel sticks in each side of the cookie for legs. Then, they’d stick tiny marshmallows on top for eyes and surprised us all. In keeping with the Halloween season, at least for them, we tried jumping out of our skin with fright. These little kids loved being able to scare adults.

When it doesn’t rain, Bobby, builds a campfire in the back yard. As the kids roast s’mores I remind them to remember it’s still Halloween by telling them the spookiest stories I know. This year, Mother Nature had other ideas as we told stories in the house and out of the pouring rain.

Next year I’ll tell them the Washington Irving tale; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. By the time I finish about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, I’m sure they’ll be shaking in their boots. I can always tell by the way they sit close to each other, hold hands and try hiding their heads with each story I tell.

Between pumpkin carving and later, Trick or Treating, they’re making Halloween memories to pass along. In the future, I’ll introduce them to a story from a movie that always frightened our late son, Jimmy; The Creature From the Black Lagoon.

But not until they’re much older.

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