The weather had turned cold very suddenly one day, as weather is likely to do in Central Texas when winter approaches. The days had become just a little cooler over the past week, but we were still enduring over eighty degree weather nearly every day and the calendar had reached October’s end.
October was the hallowed month of my childhood.
I spent most of my younger years in Northwest Washington where October meant brisk mornings and cool evenings. It meant the changing of the leaves as the days grew ever chillier, and the approach of one of my favorite holidays; Halloween!
While most children longed for Christmas, I thought that was a great holiday, but nothing beat Halloween.
I spent happy hours dreaming up costumes and deciding what part of my personality I would let loose that year. My mother was my willing conspirator in this task, and her crafty skills and imagination created wonderful, often prize-winning costumes for me to parade through our neighborhood.
One year I competed in the local skating rink costume contest as “Little Bo-Peep.” It took a wig and three falls to create my blonde masterpiece of a hairstyle, and my mother even crafted a shepherd’s crook out of paper towel rolls and a bonnet that was so perfect it took your breath away.
Those other kids never had a chance.
I kept my tradition of dressing up for Halloween even as an adult and after I moved to Texas, but it just wasn’t quite the same. Embodying “Glinda the Good Witch” or a Vegas Show Girl in the heat and humidity of downtown Austin’s 6th Street party just didn’t have that fall kick I was used to. But you adjust, and I must admit that Austin gave me one of the most frightening Halloween seasons of my life.
As I mentioned before, it had suddenly gotten cold that Halloween weekend and the weatherman even warned it might freeze that night. As I looked out on my little patio, I realized that I had better bring in my more vulnerable plants or risk losing them. I carefully rolled in the bigger pots and then started bringing in the hanging plants and placed them on their hangers in the kitchen.
My work was done, so I retreated to the front room and started watching TV.
Something flashed past my ear with a loud, threatening buzzing noise.
“What the heck?” I frantically searched around for a magazine or something to use to kill it. I didn’t know what it was yet, but it was bigger than a mosquito, buzzing like mad and therefore did not belong in my living room!
I finally cornered it on the window sill where it alerted me to its presence by banging futilely against the glass. It was a full-size, adult wasp.
“Well, that was certainly exciting,” I said aloud to the empty house. I sat back down to my program and was immersed once again in my procedural drama when, “Bzzz.” Something flew past me, and then another something joined it: More wasps!
I was really moving this time, going after them with vigor and getting progressively more freaked out. I realized that they were coming from down the hall, so I turned off the TV and cautiously started toward the kitchen.
The kitchen was swarming with wasps. They were on every surface and flying around in a panic, nearly hitting each other in their frenzy. That was it for me. This was a scene from some B-Grade fifties horror movie and it was in MY KITCHEN!
My adrenaline kicked in and I lunged for the patio door and threw it open, hoping that they would just fly out, but the cold air poured in and it seemed to keep them inside. I had no one to call and help me so I was just going to have to figure this out for myself.
I raced upstairs and pulled on a sweatshirt, a scarf and cleaning gloves. I then gingerly made my way down into the kitchen again and pulled out a can of Raid from the cabinet and a fly swatter. The wasps did not make this process easy, but I managed to avoid their stinging by moving very slowly.
I think the cold air pouring in helped to slow them down, because I was able to spray many of them in mid-air and then either swat or stomp them. The carnage and mess were becoming immense.
Suddenly I saw one come out of the Wandering Jew plant I had brought in earlier. It was a healthy and dense plant, and I realized it must have a nest in it!
“Oh crud,” I thought, “What do I do now? It has to go; even if I lose the plant.”
I was resolved and grabbed the top of the hanger with my Playtex pink, long-line gloved hands, heaved the plant off of its hook and then ran as fast as I could toward the open sliding glass door. My feet slipped on the Raid and smashed bodies of the wasps on the floor and I nearly lost my balance a couple of times. I lurched out into the patio area and just tossed my precious plant into a corner.
As I retreated to the kitchen and pulled the door closed with a slam, wasps by the score started to pour out of my broken Wandering Jew, looking in vain for a new home in the cold. I watched in fairly unsympathetic silence, I have to admit. I was still shaking!
After I regained my composure I called some friends and told them my Halloween horror story. They laughed hysterically.
“Oh Kali’,” one said, “I can just see you running around going ‘Rambo’ on wayward wasps! And what was that get-up you were wearing again?” The laughter finally tickled my funny bone, too, and I joined in the hilarity.
Was it a memorable Halloween weekend? You bet! Was it one I would like to experience again? Not a chance.