Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love the costumes, the silliness, and so much candy. What’s not to love? Plus, there’s no real expectation. Halloween is what you make of it. You can do it small. Large. Or not at all. Anything goes!
Unfortunately, my love affair with Halloween has been in a bit of a rough patch for the past few years. Four years ago, a very dear loved one was diagnosed with terminal cancer just before October. I was already in the midst of the annual traditions, including getting out the boxes of outdoor decorations, which at that time included a silly cemetery where everyone had been murdered for candy (I don’t do “realistic” horror). Suddenly, my homemade wooden tombstones and light-up skull and bones seemed not only inappropriate but macabre. Death was no joke. Death was knocking on the door.
That whole season as I went about life in the fog of grief and despair, all the funny little pumpkins and skulls and spooky goblins just served as an eery prelude. It was as if I could not outrun the pain of reality because even my favorite escape was tainted. And those tombstones, well, they’ve not made it off the shelf in the garage since then. And in the years since, whenever I have caught a glimpse of them up on the shelf, I have gotten a little chill. Maybe I should get rid of them, I always think. At least I didn’t burn them on the spot, which had been my first anger-laced feeling at the time. But whenever I think about getting rid of them, I always think about the fun I had with my husband when we built them in the garage of our then-new home. Sawing, hammer, painting — it was a full-on domestic project centered around my favorite holiday. It was the kind of project that gives you memories for a lifetime. And now, they were ruined. Tainted.
A couple of years ago I began to wonder if I would ever break free of this Halloween funk. Could I ever see jolliness in jack-o-lanterns again? Was it just the sad end of an era? Was it a kind of final loss of innocence? But that October I got the news that I was pregnant. There was no longer room in my heart or mind to dwell on the memory of those sad times. My heart was full of ecstatic joy! And with that, a renewed enthusiasm for the traditions of the past. I created a pumpkin patch in my yard (using various plastic pumpkin buckets and LED lights). It felt like it was time for fun. It felt like it was time for hope.
And last year I spent my first Halloween with my daughter. She will not be able to remember it, but for me it was a magical day. It was all the good things I remembered from my childhood, but now experienced in a new way. Now I get to be the mom! Now I get to help create the kind of good memories I have of this fun holiday. I don’t know if my daughter will like Halloween when she’s old enough to decide things for herself. But becoming her mother has given me the gift of enjoying my favorite holiday with fresh perspective and an unburdened heart.
Happy Halloween, Everyone!