Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ok. It's official. I love Halloween again.

Ok. I stopped loving Halloween about twenty years ago. I know, I know, I sound like an epic party pooper, an old biddy lady who has given up on her childhood and become boring and slightly bitter. But after I turned 30, I gradually stopped embracing the mystery and tingly fear of the night, and starting thinking instead about how expensive candy is, and how noisy twelve-year-olds are and how parents, although cute while doting over their panda toddlers and pumpkin babies, made me feel lonely and childless as they walk away holding those chubby baby hands in their own.

So since I passed thirty, I still handed candy out - well, most years. And I sort of decorated; I bought the pumpkin, and sometimes, I made it into an actual Jack-O-Lantern. I helped my brother pass out candy at his home when I didn't have the "oomph" to do it in my own. I went to an occasional party or two; I didn't exactly turn my back on the holiday - I just lost the magic of it.

Until tonight.

I live in a regular residential area, but since our house was here before the rest of the residential complex, we have a 700-foot long, heavily wooded driveway with gravel instead of asphalt, potholes the size of small lakes, and undergrowth of ferns, bracken and wild grasses that makes the driveway its own ecosystem. And it is dark. Very, very dark.

Which has made it a perfect blank slate for a Halloween Path of Doom.

With a few well-placed plastic spiders, candles, and styrofoam tombstones, the driveway gave itself wholly into the drama of imagination. A rustling leaf became a hidden ghoul. A shadow across the gravel became the shape of a grasping hand. Those branches over there? A skeleton! That rock? A troll's head bursting out from the ground! The driveway took my cue  - "be scary and fun!" -  and effortlessly magnified it into magnificent goosebumpiness.

So, who dared to walk through the 700 feet of danger, thrills, and chills to get to the cotton-webbed house for the sumptous reward of a mini-Kit Kat? A middle-school giant walking taco. A three-foot tall Darth Vader. Cleopatra. A fifth-grader, now the walking dead. A bean-skinny shadow, who remained perfectly silent as he (she?) shook a silk pillowcase in my general direction. Two clowns, a princess, and that kid who always wears a white tee shirt. Balding dads with achingly adorable first graders, so proud of their courage, so greedy for a sweet.

I can't tell you what happened to me this evening between six-thirty and eight-thirty. Something tickled my soul and reawakened the giggly kid. Maybe it was the generosity of the exclamations of delight over my small contribution to the magic. Maybe it was my stepdaughter, dressed in nurse's scrubs, with her lovely face painted like a horrific bloodsucking zombie, shouting "HAH!" and laughing as she handed out candy. Maybe it was the parents who told me that when their kids are just a year or two older, they want to come hide in the driveway and shout "boo" to others who dare to come down it. Maybe it was the sweet scary kindness of the wild grass, the ferns, the rabbits and mice who live in this lovely driveway and let me play with them for this one night. Maybe it was the candlelight, shining off the potholes, puddly from this afternoon's rain. Maybe it was the moment that the five year old shouted, "WOW!" I don't know.

But tonight, I got the magic back, in one big flood of joy. And I still don't like Halloween.

I LOVE Halloween.

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