I was driving through the neighborhood last week with a surprisingly significant number of family members riding along in the ol’ Family Truckster. I think maybe we’d just gone out for one of those rare, special occasion family meals for, say, a birthday, or “Look! It’s Sunday about brunch time and somehow as many as three of our four kids are actually still at home!“-day, but whatever. The key point here is that it wasn’t just the wife and I in the van, as is becoming more often the case these days.
As we were gliding along, just a few streets away from home, one of the kids — who, let’s be honest aren’t really children anymore — said, with an audible sneer, “Why do so many people have Halloween decorations up? The whole thing is stupid.”
I will not reveal which of my four progeny uttered such slander, and I am proud of myself for not allowing my Halloween-loving blood to boil nor for steam to blow out of my ears in a rage, like an old time cartoon. Instead, I decided to view this as an opportunity for a Teachable Moment ™, predominantly because ranting incoherently at people mostly considered adults by the law isn’t a very effective method of getting one’s point across, no matter what Twitter users suggest.
“You do know it’s my favorite holiday, right?” I replied. “Actually, it’s my single favorite day of the year, bar none.”
The kid seemed surprised when I said this, as if he hadn’t grown up in the same house that I’ve been living in for not quite two decades. He cocked his head and screwed his face up. “But why?”
Now, before I let any of you judge him, I’d ask that you please remember what it’s like to be a fledgling young adult in modern times. Between the years of high school and eventual mature adulthood, the average American male is a confused, wild thing, uncertain of the world or how to proceed within it. Not quite feral, but not far offer either. The only thing that is certain to this age group is that childish things are to be sneered at, unless you want to be accused of still being a child yourself.
This was even true of myself, who for a few years pretended I wasn’t secretly delighted by the idea of the dead reaching out into our world one night a year. In fact, I distinctly remember there being a year or two I sat alone in the dark in my apartment (ironically, probably watching some video with vampires at the fore) in the hopes that no trick-or-treaters would harass me for the candy I hadn’t bothered to acquire.
Yes, even I was once a Halloween denier.
Before I answered him as to the why for my rekindled devotion to All Hallows’ Eve, I took a second to make sure I knew what I wanted to say. It shouldn’t have been a difficult question for me, especially considering I’d previously penned a love letter to Halloween all the way back in 2010, at a time when said son challenging the holiday was still cheerfully walking around the neighborhood in a costume and collecting candy in a pillowcase. But even rereading that post today (thanks for remembering everything, forever Internet!), I realized that it talks more about my love of the trappings and the sense of Halloween, but doesn’t provide a motivation or explanation. Which makes sense, as before last week’s moment in the van, I don’t know that I’d ever really defined the why for my love of the day.
And then it came to me, as swiftly and as clearly as any epiphany I’ve ever had (which, to be fair, have been few and far between, but I digress).
“Halloween”, I said, “is about stories, about storytelling. It’s the one day of the year we give ourselves over to our imagination, and allow that the things we don’t think we should believe in, could maybe be real.”
“Huh,” was all he replied, before going on to admit he just didn’t like it because he’s usually out driving at night, and all the kids in the streets make him nervous. Which, I won’t lie, is an admirable concern. It’s good to know my kid isn’t out there gunning it, full throttle, through the neighborhood while children are scampering about. That said, is it, in my opinion, a good enough reason to dislike the entire proceeding? Well, no, not really, but then I could do without the trick or treating myself. The dark, delicious, fantastic morsels of my Halloween don’t even register until all the trick-or-treaters are at home, in bed, and trying to sleep despite the theoretical sugar high.
What’s my point in all this, then? Come on, now, you don’t come here for me to be making points do you? Surely you know better by now. My brand here is all about “rambling, with an occasional hint of insight.” Not surprisingly, then, I couldn’t help myself but to spend some time rambling about how much I still love Halloween, even if it’s not quite the same around La Casa de Puddin’ these days.
But the same or different, it’s still Halloween, and I still love it as much as I always have, even in those times I dared not admit it to myself. It’s a love that stems, apparently, from the same place that eventually made me into a writer.
Who’d have thunk it?