The Halloween spirit has always been strong in me, and Halloween is my favorite day of the year. Yes, even as an adult. In high school one year, in the midst of that era when I tried so hard to blend into the surroundings (not an easy feat as one of the few Asian students), still I donned my homemade Fred Flintstone costume and walked around proudly all day. As an adult, as a writer, I celebrate it as the holy high day of creativity, a day when we reward the embracing of imagination. Yet this year, I’m struggling.
I used to have a sign at my door that said, “No costume, no creativity, no candy.” But I’d also have a basket with funny eyeball glasses or simple masks for those who arrived sans costume, or were too flustered on the spot to answer, when I asked what they were dressed up as, to say something like “an undercover spy.” But since moving around the corner, the twenty-odd kids that do stop by our house have all been costumed.
More than that, though, is the fact that Halloween isn’t just about creativity. It’s about escaping reality for a while. Our old street gets van-loads of kids stopping by from neighborhoods where perhaps their parents don’t feel quite safe sending their kids out trick-or-treating. We offer a couple hours of innocent childhood. Sugar-laden normalcy.
And yet, October kicked off with a heavy dose of harsh reality–of cruelty and hate normalized–that has made it impossible for me to shake off. Every day, I walk down my old street, conjuring memories of the crowds of costumed revelers, neighbors so busy they stand outside for two hours handing out candy to a thousand kids (yep, not a typo), generous and joyful…and costumed. The street’s custom Halloween banner will flap in the light breeze. Music will blare from the speakers at the house with the blow-up horse-drawn pumpkin hearse (led by skeleton, of course). Day after day, the magic builds as graveyards appear, spiders set, zombies lurk, skeletons sprawl, and witches pop in while the giant creepy clown watches on. The pumpkin patch on the corner has yet to appear, but slowly the landscape around me transforms into a creepy wonderland for a wondrous two-hour reunion that knows no age.
I’m not there yet, haven’t yet found my Halloween spirit. My kids haven’t picked their costumes yet. I’ll probably reuse one from my collection based on the weather forecast. I should be figuring out my NaNoWriMo novel project. I should be working. I should, should, should. I’m too busy to dwell on childish matters.
But for all the reasons I come up with not to let go–not to dress up, not to decorate, not to waste my time on preparing for one two-hour period where we’ll get few guests, not to push away the fear that I’m callously disrespecting death with the wooden gravestones and plastic skeletons–I also know that Halloween is just the remedy I need for what ails me.
When reality rears its ugly head, when we witness the potential for evil that the darkness in man can unleash, not just in the form of a terror attack but in the callous disregard many show for the suffering of others, there really is no better remedy than watching the neighborhood slowly and deliberately build a fantasy wonderland for kids of all ages to escape into for one evening.