Since I have already written one blog on all the things I dislike about Halloween, I think it only fair that I give equal attention to something that I actually do like: paper decorations.
But wait! I’m not talking just any old decoration . . . there is only one brand I’m referring to. For me, Halloween is synonymous with paper decorations made by the Beistle Company. Although the company was founded in the early 1900s, they were still going strong during my childhood in the Bronx. The paper stand-up honeycomb and cutout decorations could be found in every Kress, Woolworth, Mom & Pop shop or at Frank Bees. For just a little bit of money, you could decorate to the nines and be in the full spirit of the season. The cutouts were extremely popular in my neighborhood. Just about every house you’d walk by had those cutouts in their windows: The “meowing” black cat, the grinning jack ‘o lantern with the teeth, the half-moon and black cat combo, and an assortment of witches. Some people were “bold” and had the full-size jointed paper skeleton. That one―ridiculously juvenile by today’s macabre standards―gave me the willies. All of the pieces had that distinct vintage Beistle vibe, and that’s what made them so unique.
There was one piece in particular that graced our door every year, and it was one that wasn’t vintage looking at all. This piece screamed 1970s, but hey, what’s wrong with that? The jointed “patchwork” goblin looked like it belonged on the set of the Partridge Family—it had a pumpkin head adorned with a funky patchwork cap, heeled boots, vest and printed pants that were probably stolen from David Cassidy’s dressing room. My mother hung our patchwork goblin on the front door each year, its goofy face was there to greet me after school every day from October 1 to November 1. I don’t know what happened to it after we grew up and moved out. As a matter of fact, I didn’t give much thought to it until I had my own children and suddenly became hyper-nostalgic.
One October when my son was a toddler, we were at a local party store when suddenly, he was there! Staring at me from the display hanger on the wall was the elusive patchwork goblin. I was so excited, I had to stifle my gasp. My enthusiasm was lost on my son who just sat in the top of the shopping cart nibbling on goldfish crackers. I took the package home eager to give the goblin a place of honor on our front door. I don’t remember what happened, but somehow it never made it to the door that year or any year after it. At one point many years later, I waxed nostalgic about the patchwork goblin and was eager to show it to my children. I went to the basement to find him, but alas, he was gone. I mourned the loss of my old friend, and hunted around on eBay that year with no success. Last year, our family moved, and I got the surprise of a lifetime. There inside a Rubbermaid that hadn’t been opened in a long time, I found the patchwork goblin.
All at once, it came rushing back to me. I was six years old again, standing on my neighbor’s porch, little plastic pumpkin in hand poised and ready to accept donations. My mother stood a few steps behind using her laser vision to make sure we didn’t eat any candy she hadn’t inspected yet. I looked at the goblin’s goofy face through the cellophane package and couldn’t bear to hang him up. He was an heirloom now; a rare link to a time getting further and further away with each passing year. If something were to happen to him, I’d lose yet another tie to my past. What if I put him up and he fades from the sunlight? What if he gets damaged? I couldn’t risk it. I looked at my pumpkin and smiled warmly. Then I placed him back in the tote. Maybe next year.