Memories of Halloween
The author recalls childhood memories of the holiday
I have a friend, a guy I went to high school with some years ago, who argues every year with me about Halloween. For him (sort of a fundie Christian), it’s nothing more than a celebration of evil – an orgy of opportunity for Satan himself. He refuses to let his young daughter participate, lest her soul be forever tainted with the evil of the unholy.
I presume he stays inside, singing religious songs and praying for the lost souls of the unfortunate children dressed as bats and witches, monsters and Republicans, walking the streets in search of candy.
I try to decide what I’m going to dress as and watch to see which houses give out the best stuff. Different views, I suppose.
I love autumn. Always have, even as a child. Something about the cool, crisp air, the turning leaves, the winds sweeping through the bare tree limbs, twisted in the night… the soft crunch or dried leaves beneath my feet as I walk. And did I mention free candy?
I see Halloween as a rite of passage, a subject of many fond childhood memories (none of which involved Satanic worship or animal sacrifice). I see it as a time when children’s imaginations run wild, when they are set free to be whatever they want – pirate or witch, robot or vampire – and roam the streets of their darkened neighborhood, listening to the laughter of other children, comparing to see who got more candy, who got better candy… sharing and swapping with their friends.
I remember the school Halloween parties, with the construction paper bat and witch decorations taped to the classroom walls, the punch bowl of goodies on teacher’s desk. I remember going to after-school parties with my friends, playing games, turning out the lights, blind-folded, being led through dark rooms and encouraged to reach into various bowls of cold, icky-feeling things while a parent told scary stories. Was that really blood? Brains? Eyeballs? Ewwwwww!!! And then, after we all had a good laugh and the lights came back on, we dunked for apples in a galvanized tub (the kind you cant even FIND anymore) filled with water. Apple cider and caramel apples and Monster Mash for all!
Of course, this was all back when the world was a safer place, when kids could stay out till dark without their parents calling for an Amber alert. Back when we rode bikes without helmets and rode skateboards without kneepads. Back then, my mother would pick an old, plain white sheet from her linen closet, cut a couple of lop-sided eyeholes in it and toss it over my head. I was never really sure if she was reminiscent of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” or if she just lacked creativity and enthusiasm for the holiday in general, but whichever, I was nearly always a ghost for Halloween, and I would walk the streets with my friends in the darkness and feel the brisk autumn winds brushing the leaves, making them twirl and dance at our feet as we walked and laughed and collected more candy than we could shake a stick at, and no one ever got a razor blade in their apple.
When I think of those times, I feel sorry for my friend’s daughter, who will miss out on all of that fun, and I feel sorry for the passing of times like that – innocent times, safer times.
Enjoy the holiday and, if you happen to see a six-foot tall ghost with lopsided eyes, be sure to give him the GOOD candy!
© 2012 Daniel Petreikis