(Heart warming music under. ADULT GRETCHEN, stage left is seated at her laptop, typing.)
ADULT GRETCHEN: When the leaves begin to turn and the air develops that frosty bite, I can't help but thinking of my Dad. Mom had died in a freak canning accident when I was just a baby, so it was just Dad, me and my Grandma living together in the old gray house on Elm Street.
(YOUNG GRETCHEN is seated on the floor with a coloring book. GRANNY is in a rocker, knitting, wearing a leather pilot cap)
ADULT GRETCHEN: Dad was emotionally distant, and as I approached my teen years, the gulf between my dad and I grew.
(DAD enters. Granny holds up her knitting, while Gretchen holds up the coloring book. Dad passes through with hardly a glance and exits.)
GRETCHEN: Granny! What is wrong with Dad? He won't acknowledge me! What's wrong? Is it resentment? Is it the lingering sadness over the loss of my mother?
GRANNY: No, honey. We're Nordic.
ADULT GRETCHEN: I could never be sure. Dad wasn't much for talk. Many a night he would attempt to relate some truths of growing up in pantomime.
(Dad comes out and acts out a rough day at work. Frustrated, he exits.)
GRETCHEN: Grandma? What was that?
GRANNY: It's just his way.
ADULT GRETCHEN: That's what Granny thought. Granny also used to think she was Amelia Earheart, so what are you going to do?
(Granny sticks a knitting needle in a ball of yarn and starts using it like a plane's rudder )control.
ADULT GRETCHEN: The holidays were especially hard on my dad.
(Granny exits. Gretchen is holding up a Christmas Wreath and a Valentine Heart. Dad enters, takes them both and throws them away. Gretchen exits.)
ADULT GRETCHEN: He forbade decorations of any kind, for any holiday. As a child, I just assumed other families were just disguising their houses for some reason and I saw no reason for us to do so. As I grew older and got a clue, I realized that this was part of my dad's innate fear of decorations.
(Granny takes a seat. Gretchen enters.)
GRETCHEN: I don't understand, Granny. Why is my dad so afraid of Halloween decorations? They're just symbols of fun and frolicking.
GRANNY: Well, dear, when you were just a baby, your mother was killed by a crazed jack-o'lantern. Needless to say, that drove your dad 'round the bend. Now excuse me while I warm up the biplane.
(Granny exits. Gretchen follows)
ADULT GRETCHEN: It was a Halloween, much like this one, when I was 12, that the issue finally came to a head. The school announced the big Halloween dance, and the town was decorated with ghosts and hob-goblins. But our house remained bare. I wanted to be part of the Halloween spirit, I wanted to belong but father refused to allow it. Finally, after being teased by my class mates for the hundredth time about my plain old house, I stormed home and confronted my dad:
(Dad enters, sits, taking out the newspaper. A door slams.)
DAD: Gretchen? Is that you?
GRETCHEN: Yes it is dad! And we have to talk!
DAD: Can't your grandma talk to you?
GRETCHEN: No! Grandma's not the one wasting away, afraid of life! Grandma's not the one who won't stop mourning! Grandma's out back trying to fly the lawn mower around the world!
Gretchen, mind your manners!
I won't, Dad, I won't!
Dad pulls out a hand puppet and puts it on.
Tell Mr. Floppy what's bothering you.
Dad, put away the sock puppet! We have to talk! Without the hosiery! I want to celebrate Halloween, dad! It's a fun thing to do! I want to go trick or treating, dad. I want candy corn and small versions of my favorite candy bars! I want to bob for apples, is that so much to ask for? I want to TP the neighbor's house! Dad, I want to get a pumpkin tree, dad. A big beautiful pumpkin tree that we can decorate. I want to take a picture in front of it and make it into a greeting card and send it to all my friends, Dad. All my life I've wanted a pumpkin tree and you never let me have one! Why, Dad, why can't we have a pumpkin tree?
Well, Gretchen, there's no such thing as a "pumpkin tree."
They hold their positions. Lights dim on scene. Heart warming music up.
He was right, you know. There's no such thing as a pumpkin tree. But that's when Dad realized how out of it I was. He was so busy wallowing in his own grief, that he never noticed I couldn't tell one holiday from another. After that talk, Dad sent me off to a boarding school; apparently I was a really precocious child and got on people's nerves. But with therapy and some damn fine prescriptions, I was soon able to find my own way. And was doing very well, until that fateful Arbor Day. But that's a tale for another time...
music up and out. Lights out.