'For sale' sign keeps Halloween decorations boxed up

Truth be told, I never met a holiday I didn't like.

Decorating for every change of season and holiday has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I baked gingerbread houses, made holiday wreaths with my mother at our Episcopal church, dyed Easter eggs, stuck toothpick flags into Fourth of July cupcakes and carved truly scary jack-o'-lanterns every October.

This year, I'm in the middle of trying to sell my condo and have no plans to decorate for Halloween, an annual ritual I usually kick off by mid September.

Somehow, my stuffed witch, gourd lamp, electric pumpkin, sea-shell-studded skeleton and perfectly adorable candy-corn twinkle lights don't go with the mantra of open houses:

Clean, airy, clutter-free.

For this reason the other day I paused over an electric window lamp that declared: "The Witch is in!" but ultimately passed it up, though now I'm a little sorry. Perhaps potential buyers might find it as hilarious as I do.

Taking time off from holiday decorating has given me a new perspective, especially in the Tampa area where autumn is really just a state of mind. Those of us who love the beauty of brilliant fall leaves either decorate with the silk variety or rely on friends from the north to send us an annual box full.

In the past, I used to enjoy shopping for holiday decorations because their appearance usually coincided with the actual calendar date of the holiday. In recent years, though, I've noticed the stores have begun stocking their shelves for Halloween in August, months before I could even get excited about the holiday. This year, I've already spotted Christmas decorations in some stores — especially the discount retailers. In fact, while shopping for garden gifts in early August for my father's 70th birthday, a clerk at one store told me that everything was on sale because they needed to make extra room for all the Christmas decorations.

In Florida, it takes a serious self pep-talk to get excited about a holiday because the seasons don't change dramatically. This is especially true at the beginning of fall as our neighbors up North blissfully plant pots of mums and arrange pumpkins by their front doors.

It's been so hot here lately that the lifespan of potted mums (at least by my front door) would be seriously shortened. Ditto for a real pumpkin, which no doubt, would turn to mush within a matter of days.

So, although I have to hold back from my beloved Halloween decorating this year, I do so with a glad heart.

Rather than clutter up my clean and airy open house events with my crazy Halloween collection, I'll just settle for a bowl of candy corn and maybe a decoration or two.

We'll see how long I last.

I'm already digging out my dangly skeleton earrings, silk pumpkin scarf and bright orange Halloween T-shirt.

At least it's holiday clutter I can wear.

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.

'For sale' sign keeps Halloween decorations boxed up 09/25/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 3:23pm]

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