"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
October 8, 2012
October Loving
by Melissa Howell

Ahhhhh, October.

Settling in each year just like a visit with an old friend, October is a month with which I can pick up right where we left off last year. Has an entire year really slipped by since we last saw each other?

Ever the lover of the change of seasons, my mother was a master of bringing to life the joy of each season for her children. But she was particularly skilled at October, filling our senses so fully with all that this month has to offer. Even now the slightest smell or sight pricks my memory to such a full remembrance that I am barely cognizant of the division between the Octobers of my past and that of the present.

And so it is that in my own experience and time as a mother, I find this month dripping with opportunities to share such memories with my young children, build their own October memories, and fill their blossoming senses.

We see October. The harvest moon looks different than full moons from other seasons and casts a soft light under which we play, bundled up in freshly rediscovered sweatshirts and hats. We see leaves, the magic of their changing colors fluttering down to create a crunchy carpet of warm hues.

We watch the images of Halloween appearing all around — a ghost face here, a witch’s silhouette there. We can hardly wait for the perfect evening in which to turn off all the lights and light the candles in our tabletop haunted house, watching the eerie shadows dance on the ceiling and imaging what might be going on inside. Oh, how I remember my mother’s tabletop haunted house, into which I would peer every day after arriving home from school, my imagination creating stories that left me looking over my shoulder every few minutes.

We smell October. “Oh! Someone is burning a fire!” we exclaim. Pumpkin, cinnamon and apple scents drift through the air, carried by the faintest stream of smoke from a candle, or from a batch of apple cider warming on the stove.

We hear October. “Star light, Star bright! I hope I see a ghost tonight!” shrieks a young voice with excited laughter before its owner searches the darkened yard for anxious, hidden bodies. I have to pause and remind myself these are my children’s voices, because I can barely distinguish them from the voices from my past, and the girls in my Brownie troop that laughed and scattered to find the perfect hiding spot on the darkened grounds of the Old Town Hall on a fall evening.

A few years ago, we discovered the Kidz Bop Halloween Party CD, and it has fast become a favorite. Song after song of fun, festive Halloween-related songs sung by kids. Not creepy, just awesome. We listen to it over and over throughout the month; we each have a favorite track or two and take turns rocking out, making for some memorable dance parties.

We touch October. The crunch of the leaves casts a delightful kind of magic. We can feel the air, the hint of crispness in the mornings and evenings, and sometimes in the days, too. The things we wear bring some remembered textures — the soft warmth of sweaters and tights and fleece hats.

We taste October. A handful of candy corns and mallow pumpkins sprinkled into the children’s lunch boxes proves to be a delightful surprise in the middle of the school day. The cooler days bring the first warm sips of hot cocoa and hot apple cider. I scavenge for good soup and stew recipes, going back to tried-and-true recipes, as well as discovering new autumn culinary treasures. What a joy, to find the white chicken chili I served last year to a disgruntled reception now receives a warm welcome!

And because I believe in making new friends, but keeping the old — pumpkin delights us in the form of new treasures like pumpkin cookie vanilla bean ice cream sandwiches, and a favorite from my youth, mom’s amazing pumpkin bars. My kids prefer to lick off the cream cheese frosting, just as I did, and hopefully will come to remember them as a taste of October that will remain with them every year.

Mom’s Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs

1 cup oil

15 ounce can of pumpkin

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1. Mix eggs, oil, pumpkin and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined.

2. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes in a greased and floured jelly roll pan (or a 9x13 pan AND an 8x8 pan).

3. Let cool, frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting

6 ounces of cream cheese

6 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar

Beat everything but the sugar. Add sugar to desired consistency, frost bars. Frosting recipe may be halved for less frosting (but really, why would you?).

And so, in October we strive to really take time to stop and smell the pumpkins — and to see them, touch them, and taste them too. I hope that as they grow, my children will bring the memories from this month with them, and that perhaps they will remember me as a master of October, that I will be one link in a chain of moms making autumn memories for her children.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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