"Auburn Nights" 20 x 16 Oil on canvas
Autumn’s color and crisp clear weather define my favorite season of the year. Pumpkin fields, apple orchards, and yellow cornstalks turned into scarecrows on doorsteps. The smells of bonfires, burning leaves, wieners and marshmallows roasting on sticks. The colors of yellow ochre, red orange, burnt sienna and raw umber capture the mood and the feeling.

When my children were still of trick-or-treating age, we’d pile into the car and drive out to a favorite farm where we’d purchase apples for making sauce and jack-o-lanterns for carving.

Ripe and delicious the wares tempted us to buy candied apples or sometimes stay for fresh apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Crunchy leaves underfoot accented the fun as we carried our finds back to the car.

Sometimes we’d buy a large jar of golden honey dripping with goodness to be used in cooked cereals and hot teas. Grandma would take some of the sticky stuff and make spun taffy rubbing her hands with butter and stretching the hot concoction until it was almost white. The sugar-sweet candy melted on our tongues.

On Halloween night at our house, I made a big pot of chili that the children were not too crazy about eating. But when they returned from “trick-or-treating” with their father in tow, they had to down a few bites before they were allowed to open their bags of candy.

At our house, Halloween costumes were hardly ever purchased. Every year, we scrounged the house for possible costume parts. After many Halloween celebrations, we ended up with a large costume box filled with various themes and sizes. The box was a big hit with neighborhood friends; and, for years, provided hours of entertainment for the children throughout the year.

The Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes my husband and I wore to an adult party were in the box plus the simple white pillowcase with cutout eyes and a cottontail glued to the rear.

Ears were tied with string and the white cotton case could become a rabbit or a sheep depending on how tall the toddler was and how long the ears.

One year I became a Geisha girl using a silk Japanese robe my son had given me. I wound pantyhose around a 1960’s fur hat and turned it into black towering hair.

After my face was painted white and makeup had been applied, I finished my “look” with white stockings and black platform thongs. My friend said that was either the ugliest costume she’d ever seen, or the best one there; she couldn’t decide which.

Many people go through life wearing disguises of one kind or another. They hide behind a false front and then take off their mask when in their own familiar surroundings.

We all try to make a good impression and put our “best foot forward.” We want people to like us. But there comes a time when the masks either come off willingly as people try to gain intimacy or the disguise is revealed painfully later on. The adage “better late than never” doesn’t work in this case. In relationships the “sooner the better” you find out the truth the better.

In your interactions with others watch for these red flags:
  • Outbursts of anger or temper tantrums. The person’s mask sometimes slips to reveal these important inconsistencies. They may apologize profusely and have convincing arguments for their behavior, but trust your own gut instincts. If the other person is covering up an uncontrollable temper, imagine the fireworks when the mask comes off permanently!

  • Irrational behavior. Tirades, spending or eating binges that come out of nowhere may be deep-seated and bubble to the surface when a hot button is pushed. This person may have emotional issues that are way out of their control and probably yours.

  • Public outbursts. If causing a public scene doesn’t bother them, then erratic loud behavior in private may be the “norm.” When their own actions don’t embarrass them, nothing you can say or do will make any difference. If you dislike public displays, make a fast exit from this person.

  • Treatment of other people. How they treat their mother or other close relatives may tell you a lot about their history and habits. If they treat strangers and outsiders better than those who are close, beware! This type is a performance artist always looking for applause and admiration. Around family they really let their hair down. Courtesy and thoughtfulness go right out the window.

  • Beliefs and values are out of step with actual behavior. Some people brag about being honest yet they look for every excuse to justify cheating, slipping into a second movie theater without paying, covering up a mistake or blaming it on someone else.

  • Possessiveness that requires an accounting.  “Why didn’t you call?” “Where were you when I called?” Who were you talking to just now?” You’re constantly bombarded with questions from this insecure type. They doubt your answers. They want to control your time, your friends, even your relatives. They smother you with affection, but it’s just another means of control. They want you all to themselves. Your life, your needs, your wants suddenly become smaller and smaller until you disappear altogether.

  • The green-eyed monster disguised as love. “Were you flirting with him?” “I saw you smile.” “Your line was busy for 30 minutes! Who were you talking to?” As the song goes: “Every move you make, every turn you take, I’ll be watching you.” When the mask finally comes off, it becomes obvious the only person they love is themselves. With this jealous man or woman you’ll feel guilty even when you’re not. You can’t do anything right. Being human is a sin.

  • A raised fist, a not-so-gentle jab may just be the beginning. Physical abuse is escalating behavior. In the beginning it may start with shouting and name-calling. Eventually the threats turn into action. If you see a glimpse of this when the mask is still on you’d better watch out! When they’re in their comfort zone they may take the velvet gloves off.

Watch out for those red flags, not only on Halloween, but every day of the year. When the smile and boasting phase is over and the disguises come off, be sure you don’t end up with a real goon or ghoul!