Carving in the Grand Hallway Floor
Carving in the Grand Hallway Floor

Oct 31, 1804

All the apples and vegetables have been picked. Most of the nuts have been picked up from the ground and the grownups are happy that so much work has been done. I like to pick the nuts up and see how many I can get in my basket.  My fingers get a little brown. Sometimes I find snails under the nuts.  When I find acorns I take the caps off and make dolly dishes. One of the boys pokes a hole in the side of the cap with their pocket knife and fits a twig through it. It looks like Mother’s skillet but very small.

I am very happy today. I can write all my letters and I can write some names of people in my family. Mother was surprised. This is the best part – we are getting ready to go to a Fall Festival at the neighbors. This is the very first year Mother said I can go. Sometimes people call it a Play Party. At first I was confused and I didn’t think it was the same thing. Mother told me that is was the same party with two different names. Some people put lanterns made from vegetables in their windows. Brent told just me about pumpkins and Jack’O Lanterns. Mother didn’t talk about that. I think he is wrong. She told me there would be lots of food and maybe music.

Brent and Josh were with me when Mother was telling me about the party. Josh said he thinks it is Halloween. I have not heard of that. I do not know how he knows these things. Brent said he was right. I decided not to think about it because I just want to go to the Fall Festival. I don’t know if I would want to go to Halloween. The sun will be down and it will be getting dark. I know it will be dark when we come home. I will fall asleep. I always do. Father carries me up to my bed.

Nov 1, 1804

This is how I remember the Fall Festival last night…

It was not dark when we left for the party, but almost. The rain we had last week made the hill by our house on the road bumpy, like the little washboard I use on laundry day. Father says we need more turnpike roads and he will speak to someone named Governor. We could use the carriage more then. Tonight we are using the wagon. There was hay in the back to make it softer. I was humming a song that I made up myself for Josh and Brent. I don’t even have a name for it. The ride was so jiggly that it wrinkled my tune.

Mother told me some more about the festival on the way.  She said some of the people like to tell stories about people they know who have died.  Sometimes the people are members of the family and sometimes they are just people they knew. I didn’t know if I would like that or not. I like to listen to fairy stories so I hoped there would be some of those too.

The bigger girls played lots of games at the party. I think I remember two of the games. No, three. They seemed silly to me. The games are about finding their husbands when they are more grown up. One game is Snap Apple. Their hands were tied behind their backs and the first one to bite into an apple on a string, hung from the ceiling, will be the first one to marry. But tonight, instead of an apple on a string, the apple was in a really big pan of water. Then the girls tried to peel an apple in just one long strip.  John, our farm helper is really good at that. He does it all the time. They tossed the strip over their shoulder to see if it landed in the shape of a letter. It is supposed to be the first letter of their husband’s name. I think the peels all looked the same. Then the older girls played another game. They put two nuts on the grate in the fire. Sometimes it was walnuts and sometimes it was chestnuts. They named each nut for a different boy. If the nut burned steady and bright it meant that the boy would be faithful and a good husband. But if the nut popped in the heat the boy should not be trusted. I still think it was a silly thing to do.  I remember that they giggled a lot. I think they play too many games about boys.

I got so sleepy at the Play Party that I climbed up on a bed in someone’s room. There were lots of coats on top and it was hard to get up.  They keep sliding and my feet would end up back down on the floor again. When it was time to go, Mother found me and laughed. She said I must have been laying on a button and she traced a circle on my cheek before she put my coat on.

I remember now that a neighbor boy came late to our house last night. I heard him from my bedroom. Mother and Father went into the hall in their nightclothes and when they answered the door the boy sang:

Soul, soul!  For an apple or two.

If you have no apples,

Pears will do.

If you have no pears,

Money will do.

If you have no money,

God bless you.*

This morning Mother smiled at me and asked if I had fun at my first Fall Festival. Yes, I did! Father told Mother that this morning some farmers’ gates were unhinged and some horses were moved to different fields. This is the sort of thing that Father usually gets angry about. But this morning Mother and Father just laughed and wondered which of the boys snuck away from the Play Party and made mischief. I told them it wasn’t Brent or Josh. I forget that Mother and Father can’t see them. Father laughed and told me I was a sillybub.

[Please ask Mary any questions you have in the comments section below. She’ll be happy to hear from you.]

A Brief History of Halloween

The history of Halloween begins with an ancient Celtic holiday called Samhain around 2000 years ago.  (Pronounced sow-en) It marked the end of summer and harvest and was viewed with a dread of longer nights, less food and unwelcome spirits.  Each culture added customs, foods and histories of their own.

by Mary Beekman

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Phyllis in Sacrament

Hello Mary! Oh good! 18! I knew you would be able to think it through! We can meet sooner if we add 1 and 8! 9 is a good age too! That is the year I started to learn to play a piano. Do you have one in your house? If you roll an orange up and down the keys, it will sound like the wind or a harp, maybe both. Keep writing and I will keep on reading! XXX

Love, Phyllis


Hello Phyllis – It pleases me that you like my notes. I want to be 5 someday. Maybe we can meet at 18. If we add 6 + 8 + 4, there

we will be.

From Mary

Phyllis in Sacrament

Hi Mary, little by little I am reading all the notes you have written. they are very interesting! Thank you for writing them. It doesn't matter that you are 4 and I am 68. In our souls we are no number! Will you ever be 5? I will try to go backwards and you can try to go forwards and we can meet in the middle!!!!I am trying to figure out where that is. I am not good at math!