I feel like there’s a part of my soul that doesn’t wake up until October. Ever since I was a kid, this was the month that sparked my imagination even as far away as July. This was the month that I anticipated, waited for impatiently, and meticulously planned for. This was the month my parents knew that I would fall off the cliff into full-fledge crazy mutant mode. Why? Because this was the month that held the best holiday in the whole entire universe: Halloween.
As a kid, I used to delve through the Halloween decorations like some little girls dove into their Barbie dream houses. My mother, God bless her, even bought me plush ornaments I could play with like little dolls and Halloween-themed felt boards. I lived for the community parties, the fall foods, the cool weather on walks home from school, and spotting all the neighbors’ decorations. This was also the glorious decade of the eighties, so Halloween specials were on All. Month. Long. A full, glorious month of sitcoms doing Halloween stuff, cartoons airing their spooky specials, and regular networks playing B movies. I struggled to outdo myself costume-wise every year, until my mother finally drew the line when I wanted to be a baby witch riding piggyback on a mama witch, and I had to figure it out for myself (I did, but I also half fell apart the entire evening). Costumes were an excuse for me to explore new and original ideas, whether it was the Invisible Man, different variations of witches, Gizmo from Gremlins, Darth Vader, and an elf sitting on a mushroom (I know, looking back I pity my mother, too).
It just isn’t the same these days. The store aisles aren’t as jam-packed, people aren’t encouraged to theme their lifestyles out to the gills with spooky accessories, and some neighborhoods don’t even trick or treat on the actual day of Halloween. Back in my day, we went out at night. And I just want to point out that I am still alive. There was something magical about wandering around the neighborhoods (I always had a parent with me), getting lost even though you knew where you were because things look different on Halloween night. It’s part of the safe spookiness, the magic of just not knowing what’s going to happen next. I can’t help but think that kids today have lost some of that, and not just with all of the new restrictions and limitations. I was lucky to have parents that encouraged me to be crazy imaginative. We told stories about what might be lurking around corners as we trick or treated, we made giant ghosts to hang from our trees and life-sized scarecrows to sit on our porches to protect our pumpkins. We didn’t just buy a sign to hang on the door or our costume in a bag – that was sacrilege! We even had a couple of long-time family friends who gave us (gasp) candy apples and cookies that weren’t store-bought. And we ate them!
Granted, my parents were very protective of my sibling and myself. We were never put in any danger – they would have never let us do anything particularly stupid or unsafe. Yet we were given permission to get lost in the holiday the way some people get lost in Christmas. We were allowed to go crazy wondering ‘what if’ about ghosts and goblins and witches and monsters. And you know what? I’m really thankful. It’s true that I didn’t discover horror and outright scary stuff until I was older, but I owe a lot of my writer instincts to the fact that I was given permission to imagine. I was allowed to make goofy costumes out of whatever was lying around the house, I was allowed to stick up hand-drawn pictures on the windows because in my mind they turned the place into a haunted house. I was encouraged to go nuts with festive accessories. I was enabled to tell stories with all the decorations as we put them up and I was fed spooky tales on audio tapes played in the dark. I was allowed to make magic and for that I’m forever grateful.
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