Friday, October 30, 2009
A protégé returns – one who loves Halloween as much as I
Some parents hope for their children to follow in their footsteps and become doctors, lawyers or at least graduate from the family alma mater. Not me. I set my sights on creating progeny who would love Halloween as much as I do. I worked fiercely at it, too. Long before Halloween became the trendy festival that it has morphed into these days, I was dipping pudgy little fingers into pumpkin guts and sticking glittery antennae on infant heads. Even more than Christmas, Halloween was the central holiday of the year in our house, and I encouraged my children to revel in the make-believe, dress as outrageously as they wished and shiver at the kind of scary stories that they loved.
My son Matt took to Halloween like the proverbial duck to water. His costumes were imaginative and homegrown offshoots of whatever his passion happened to be at the time – pirates, Ghostbusters or werewolves – and he threw himself wholeheartedly into the festivities. My daughter Sarah, on the other hand, trod the Halloween path a bit more skeptically. Ever the practical child, some of the nuances of All Hallow’s Eve eluded her, much to my chagrin. When she was first old enough to go trick-or-treating with her brother, she just couldn’t get the hang of the language. When homeowners opened their doors to my little goblins, before her more experienced brother could utter a sound, Sarah would shout her greeting “Happy Halloween!” This would be followed by an equally exuberant “trick or treat” bellowed as she descended their porch stairs, laden with candy. No amount of urgent whispered instructions on her brother’s part could convince her to go along with his script, and by the end of the evening, he was shaking his head in mortification.
In the years that followed, Sarah fared little better. There was the Halloween when no one seemed to understand that the pretty pink confection that she was wearing was not a tutu, but the garb of a fairy princess. By the end of that evening, she wound up yelling in complete frustration at one hapless homeowner, “I’m not a ballerina; I’m a fairy princess – CAN’T YOU SEE MY WAND?!”
Then came the Halloween when a sleepy little dragon returned to our car only to discover that her goody sack had given up the ghost a while back and she had been leaving a sizeable trail of treats behind her for several blocks. Her brother offered to share some of his treats with her, which would make for a true “awww” moment if it weren’t for the fact that, for years, he spent the day after Halloween convincing her to part with her best candy. “Why don’t you give me your peanut butter cups? Don’t you remember from last year? You hate peanut butter cups!” Which is how Matt ended up with all the chocolate and Sarah ended up with all the Necco Wafers year after year.
Years went by and my children left the nest, no longer coming home for our holiday. While Matt partied hardy every Halloween, Sarah definitely played it on the down low. Her most vivid memory of October 31 in college was the chemistry exam that some perverse professor scheduled for Halloween night. Here at home, I carried on our tradition of setting out the many little Jack-o-lanterns that had so thrilled my kids when they were small, but I have to admit that, even for a dyed-in-the-wool Halloween fanatic, the thrill was beginning to vanish.
Then, this past summer, Sarah moved back to town. My first surprise came when I was helping her unpack some trinkets and I found I was unwrapping Halloween decorations. “Oh,” I said, beginning to re-wrap them, “should we put these away for October?”
“No, they go on top of the bookcase. I leave them out all year long,” came the reply.
Whoo, all year long? This was promising. Next came the call on October 1. “Mom, let’s go get some pumpkins. I want to get the white ones, so when I carve them, they’ll look like ghosts.” She had plans for decorating her bit of lawn near the road, something along the lines of a spooky graveyard. When I asked her why go to all the effort, she uttered the words that warmed the dungeons of my heart, “Because I love Halloween.” She went on to explain what made Halloween so special to her: it was a sanctioned return to childhood that could be celebrated by everyone; no one group held claim to it, like Easter and Christmas. All you needed was to have once been a child. As I listened to my daughter’s philosophy of Halloween, I realized that, for her, it had taken reaching adulthood for her to fully appreciate the holiday. So I have already received my All Hallow’s Eve treat this year – the return home of a true Halloween protégé. ∆
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito