Growing up in the country, we couldn’t walk from house to house to go trick-or-treating. Mom or Dad had to drive us. At most houses, a parent would wait in the car while we children went up to the door for treats. But at Aunt Sornie and Uncle Earl’s house, always our last stop, everybody got out of the car. Though none of us were actually related to them, the elderly couple were “aunt” and “uncle” to many neighborhood children.
Beyond a driveway framed by brick posts topped with stone urns, the old house loomed huge in the night. On the way to the porch, we kicked through a carpet of crisp leaves. The porch door swung open with a satisfying creak. And nobody ever stopped at the door–we all trooped right into the dining room. The long table, covered in lace, was laden with a Halloween feast. Carnival glass dishes were filled with orange slices, candy corn, and chocolates. A tray of frosted cupcakes stood beside a tall metal pitcher of lemonade.
While the grown-ups sat at the table to catch up on neighborhood news, we children would often ask to go upstairs. The house had two staircases. We could choose the narrow back stairway or the wide front stairway, where a porcelain pitcher and basin decorated every other step. The large room upstairs had once been a ballroom, but now it looked more like a museum. The entire room was filled with antiques–tables with complete sets of china, any number of chairs and dressers and bookcases and cabinets crammed with knick-knacks. Once as my sister Hilda and I peeked around a corner, we saw ghost-white faces staring at us! What a relief to realize we were looking at a pair of antique dolls.
Aunt Sornie and Uncle Earl’s house had once been the Mather Inn along the Plank Road. In our book the Mather Inn was famous for its hospitality. Even 120 years later, my sister and I could attest to that fact.
By the way, Aunt Sornie’s real name was Florence.