I arrived late on the morning of Halloween, 1972, and as I crossed the small courtyard between the primary building and the one in which the 5th grade was housed, I passed a classmate with the attendance slip in hand.
“I’m here!” I said, but he looked at me blankly.
“Who are you?” he asked.
And I remember my surprise, and how unsettled I felt–that I could feel so much myself on the inside, yet be so unrecognizable on the outside.
Most of the time, with adults, it’s the opposite–masked in normalcy, while inside something riotous or hopeless or desperate is going on, or even over-joyed and delighted, though those conditions are more easily rendered into places of connection.
~Age 9. Gypsy. Curly-haired, black wig. Virginia Court Elementary, Aurora, Colorado. (I think it snowed that year for Trick or Treat.)
“At Samhain (Halloween), we call the Goddess the Crone. The Crone is the Old One, the aspect of the Goddess that teaches us wisdom, that helps us let go when we need to change and grow.”
I’ve read those words from Starhawk’s, Circle Round to my children, myself, since becoming a mother, two decades ago; and now that Cronehood is on my horizon–23 days–this reading lands differently. Personally. With greater consequence. Understanding. Gravity. Truth.
I have an abiding affection for Halloween. Which confuses me. I don’t much like to dress up; and when I do, I prefer to be more of myself than in disguise.
It may be that I lost the ability to play.
It may be that the fear of masks is a companion of my work with memoir.
So what is it then that makes Halloween bubble up inside?
The children I suppose.
The companionship of their parents.
Especially the ones who arrive in costume!
I admire the theatrical families. The fantasy dwellers. The laughter. The delight. I regret my children were born to someone who spends so much time with non-fiction and so little time in silliness.
I suppose my affection for Halloween may be residue from childhood. The simplicity. Just a pumpkin, a costume & a bag. The generosity of neighbors & strangers. No lavish meals. No hours upon hours of shopping & wrapping. No house guests for which to imperfectly prepare. No way to be–but fast & gracious. I was good at both.
My mother served lunch fair on Halloween–tuna sandwiches & soup. The absence of formality (and my father) said: “Be at ease. Be quick. I understand your enthusiasm.”
Even now, it gets the better of me. In overdrive, I shift from the work of the day to making popcorn at the stove. My mother’s recipe. My grandmother’s bowl. My father’s favorite snack. When I was a kid, we gave out store bought candy because anything homemade was suspect–as cheap, as weird, as dangerous.
But not so the costumes.
My mother never let me buy a single one.
I was Princess, Gypsy, Hobo, Doctor.
I am still.
The older I get, the more I just want to be me.
I’ve worked so hard to find her.