It all began with the pandemic mask, a black one with my husband’s university union symbols covering it. It was a print too busy for pandemic wear, but once we put Greg’s mask on our Halloween scarecrow, he came to life in the garden outside the living room window. Now he had a story to tell.

The idea for the scarecrow and even the mask came from our son and family living a half hour north of us. Their two little boys, Ollie and Charlie, love Halloween and in October, pumpkins, cobwebs, and ghouls are scattered in their yard, on their porch, and up the sides of their house. This year they added a spotlight on a scarecrow wearing a flannel shirt and mask for adult irony.

It was a great look and we were in. We threw our scarecrow together just before dusk Halloween night. The year needed fun and we wanted our eight grandchildren to know we could rise to the spooky occasion. A worn-out red flannel shirt and stretched-out sweatpants from the dustbin quickly gave our scarecrow substance. We stuffed him full of leaves on the front sidewalk.

Giving him bone structure and staying power was trickier. Greg located two old boards in the garage and screwed them together. We eased the red flannel onto outstretched wooden arms and guided another board down one pant leg. For a head, we stuffed leaves into a piece of fabric and tucked it in the shirt. Then we pinned on the mask and stood back to assess our work. He had life–and personality.

The scarecrow looked out over the frosty Halloween night. He faced the dark pond and hills. Our plan was to disassemble him a day or two later, but the dying gardens needed help. Once lush with well-tended annuals and perennials from the forced-quarantine summer, the zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, lilies, lavender, sunflowers, and more had grown higher than ever.

They tumbled out of pots and barrels. Now they were brown and fading. Our scarecrow gave us a spot of color in our has-been garden. He stayed a little longer.

Weeks went by and we rearranged the leaves in his legs and repositioned his head. He took some getting used to. His flannel shirt just outside the window caught our eyes as we walked by. We’d forget he was there when we turned the corner in the yard and would startle. It became another pandemic blurring thing, this forgetting and surprise, and in the spirit of quarantining, he felt like a replacement for all the friends we missed. Nick wore an American flag on Election Day and through the week when we couldn’t celebrate with friends (his candidate won).

The weather turned cold and we still weren’t quite ready to take him down. A knit hat and Scandinavian print scarf from the Dollar Store transitioned him to a winter scare-guy. Then the weather turned rainy—drenching—and we added our son’s rain parka, in early stages of decomposition. He now was one of us and needed weather protection and a name. Thanksgiving was upon us and Christmas was coming, so Nick it was.

In the following weeks, Nick carried a hand saw and some evergreens tied to him after we cut down our Christmas tree. When the two-foot snow arrived, we added a snow shovel to his side. When we put up our Christmas lights, Nick got a messy string of bulbs wrapped around him (Nick has trouble putting them up by himself). As the days got shorter we could see him through the window, covered with white sparkle lights and holding back the darkness in the front yard.

We sent photographs of Nick to our family. Our neighbors noticed him. Bonnie, an elementary school teacher, looked forward to his next exploits. Because of our small pond, we own plenty of old ice skates. A pair could get tossed over his boney shoulders. A former neighbor gave us a pair of wooden snowshoes that Nick might like to try out. I’m thinking about locating a plastic sled in the garage attic later today. And on Christmas Eve, well, I’ll have to think about that. Maybe we’ll add a Santa hat and some presents, possibly some snow pants. I think Nick is a Christmas believer. He’s experienced rebirth and renewal this pandemic year and has a story to tell about his journey.

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