On September 1st I flipped the page of my Vincent van Gogh calendar up and was rewarded with The Starry Night and immediately came images of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow animated by Disney to my mind. Both are a narration of something that may happen at night, and we are excited and a little afraid of what that outcome might be.
When I was a girl by September I would have waved good bye to my relatives in Pennsylvania to return to Virginia to begin the school year. While my cousins were harvesting apples from their orchard in Pennsylvania to press into cider my friends and I in Virginia were hiking the battlegrounds and woods surrounding old York Town. Sure it would get cold eventually, but meanwhile we could gear up for our own traditions like ghost stories told under the full moon.
One of my friends lived in a house that had a screened-in porch that we would camp out in slumber parties until it was simply too cold. I have family and friends in both the north and the south and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but when it comes to ghost stories southern girls do it best. On the peninsula we had an amazing variety of history to draw on; the original natives, the colonists; Massachusetts wasn’t the only place rumored to have witches. Cruel slavery imported a people along with their traditions and mythology as well.
Our particular favorites usually involved the full moon and houses long forgotten. We knew exactly where to find an abandoned drive long since overgrown by trees, some more than one hundred years old by the size of their girth and impassable by car, but easy enough for our bicycles. There through the woods on a lonely stretch of land stood a house near water. On the upper floor a tree busted through the roof. A few dishes were left in the antique cupboards. A pipe still packed with tobacco and a box of stick matches there beside it on the window sill and reflecting it all, an old mirror with the silver flecking off. Just such a find might guide our stories to the adventures of pirates; in fact many of the navigable waterways around Virginia were reputed hideaways for the dreaded buccaneers.
Our story telling did not restrict itself to just the past as Newport News was and is a very dynamic place culturally and historically but it is also a hub of technology and has several military installations nearby as well. These elements were all fodder to our nocturnal stories. I smile when I think of us in our sleeping bags huddled together with one of us illuminated by our lone flash light recounting the story of The Witch’s Tomb or Aliens like us and eating rice crispy treats and sipping orange soda through paper straws.
Seasons come and seasons go and this will be September’s only full moon. If the skies are clear, let us take the moment to put away our smart phones and take delight in the bounty of a beautiful moon, but most important to savor the company of our loved ones. Rice crispy treats and orange soda are of course optional.