Ghosts of Halloween

Greetings and Happy Halloween!  I’ve been thinking about getting back to my blog for some while now and have finally managed to find both the time and energy to do so.  After several attempts to remember and reset my blog password, I log in to find a draft post from the last time I attempted to restart the blog. Ironically and amazingly, the draft is from October 31, 2009 and it is the exact same subject matter that has been running through my head today, more or less.  I find I’ve only managed to procrastinate for the last 6 years or so.  Perhaps the post is even more appropriate now than it would’ve been 6 years ago.

I’ve been thinking of Halloween’s past and Halloween’s present. Since last I updated this blog, I have had the joy of becoming and being a father. Experiencing Halloween as a father is totally different from experiencing Halloween as a single person. You come close to experiencing the same sense of wonder you had as a child, seeing everything new again through the eyes of a child.

Since last updating this blog, I have also lost my own father. He passed earlier this year after years of suffering from Parkinson’s. Watching my own child experience Halloween, I am reminded of my own father and mother and the childhood rituals of the holiday.

I specifically remember a single Halloween, maybe the first one that I really remember. I have seen pictures of my brothers and I dressed up for Halloween but I don’t tend to remember those events much. The first I really remember was the Halloween my oldest brother dressed up in a circle of chicken wire overlaid with burlap.  On a platform on his head, he wore a plastic jack-o-lantern such as kids use to collect candy even now.  There was a flashlight inside the jack-o-lantern. I guess the costume was some kind of pumpkin-head.

I don’t remember my own costume though this may have been the Halloween that I dressed as Spiderman.  If so, the costume was nothing like the Spiderman costumes they have today. Mine was a short-sleeved plastic wrap-around that tied at the waist. It came with a plastic mask that had a little slit at the mouth and was kept on with a elastic band. Not nearly as realistic as the super-hero costumes of today. And don’t think I didn’t realize it.  Of course, this could’ve been the same Halloween that I dressed as a hobo. I don’t know. I just remember my brother’s costume.

I remember it because all the kids we passed were terrified of him. He got a great kick out of the sheer number of children that went away crying. Or maybe it was just one boy that was terrified. I remember one, at least.  He was not amused by Jack Pumpkinhead.  I remember wondering why the little boy was frightened. I cannot recall ever being frightened on Halloween. It was always a time of joy and wonder for me.

Halloween for me was always Dad “helping” us carve the pumpkins or Mom finding a costume for us to wear or Mom putting makeup on our faces to turn us into clowns or hobos or vampires or something similar. Halloween was freshly popped popcorn and lying on the floor watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” Halloween was the sense of magic in the stillness of the night under the humming streetlights. It was never scary for me.

Maybe because I knew my father was there with us. I remember that same Halloween that my father went out trick-or-treating with us. It struck me for some reason but I’m not exactly sure why. I remember him helping my brother into his terrifying costume. I remember my sense of…security? contentment? surprise? that my father was with us as we went from house to house. Maybe I was never scared by Halloween because Dad was always there with us. Maybe I just didn’t know any better.

I remember specifically going to Mrs…Edwards? house. We always went there first, I think. She has a special treat just for us every Halloween, homemade Divinity candy.  Maybe she gave it to everyone but I always assumed we were special because we went to her house first and she gave us homemade candy. I seem to recall her having to step away from the door to get the “other” candy when she figured out who we were.  I also remember not being particularly fond of her Divinity, even while acknowledging it as special.

That Halloween may be the last in which Dad ventured out with us. Maybe he continued to escort us for a few years but the other Halloween’s I remember tend to be ones where my friends and I left family at the corner and roamed all over town collecting candy until late in the evening.  We covered an amazing amount of ground, using pillow cases for our candy haul. I seem to recall finishing my Halloween candy somewhere around Easter at least one year.  We were so excited to be independent and free. If I had to do it over again, I’d take my father by the hand take him house to house, never leaving him behind.

Those Halloween memories are faded and thread-bare these days but I still cherish them and I like to pull them out this time of year. I’m glad that they will be supplemented by new memories of Halloween joy and wonder. I’ve introduced my daughter to Charlie Brown and jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating.  Whether or not she finds Halloween terrifying or magical remains to be seen.

There was one incident that might make Halloween more scary for her than it ever was for me. The second house we visited had a large, hairy, foot-pedal activated jumping spider. I made mistake of stepping on the foot pedal, clearly marked “Step Here”. I knew as soon as I stepped on it that I had made an error of judgement. The spider shrieked and jumped and my daughter’s instant reaction can only rightly be described as one of pant-sh*ting terror.  That might color her view of Halloween for a long time.  Maybe my own view of Halloween would’ve been different if they’d had motion-activated nightmares when I was a kid.

Anyway, she wouldn’t approach another house until we tore open a package of M&M’s and introduced her to candy for the first time. The promise of more M&M’s did get her to screw up enough courage to at least be carried to more doorsteps.  Good old M&M’s.

I hope future Halloween’s are more magical than frightening for her.  I know the number of Halloween’s I’ll get to escort her are limited. One day she’ll go out on her own and revel in her own freedom and independence.  Until then, I’ll bask in the warm glow of my own Halloween ghosts and cherish each and every magical moment.